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Making Wookie

The MFA explores the fine arts of marketing and merchandising with its Star Wars exhibit

The exhibition, unintentionally, also provides an obvious lesson in prop construction: Really stupid-looking things can appear convincing on film. The interrogation droid seems to be made from a couple of cast-off medical tools -- forceps and a syringe -- over a hull composed of two plastic salad bowls. The circuitry of C-3PO's midsection is made from the gold braid you can find in the craft section at Michael's. It ends up being kind of inspiring.

Throughout the exhibition, storyboards and concept drawings are displayed, and they work well as artifacts. But organizers have made a fatal blunder by blowing up these small illustrations to the size of history paintings. They end up looking like bad paintings instead of conceptualizing tools.

The show concludes with relics from Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace, the crappiest film in the series. You notice things are better kept and the costumes better constructed. There is the slave-boy ensemble worn by the annoyingly winsome Anakin. It's only too bad organizers didn't throw in Jar Jar Binks, Lucas's most despised and racist character. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern described Binks as a "Rastafarian Stepin Fechit on platform hoofs, crossed annoyingly with Butterfly McQueen." I can just imagine the audio tour now as Lucas explains: "I always thought the colored folk in those 1930s movies were real funny, and I like Jamaica, so…"

Costumes, costumes and more costumes: They're the first things we think of when someone mentions Star Wars.
Lucasfilm Ltd.
Costumes, costumes and more costumes: They're the first things we think of when someone mentions Star Wars.

Having come to the end of the exhibition, you are encouraged to further explore the magic of myth in the museum's permanent collection, as you are dumped into the gift shop, where the real point of this show comes clearly into focus -- Star Wars: The Magic of Marketing.

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