The embroiderer strikes back. Meet Ukraine’s Darth Vader

11 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A 10-point guide to Star Wars evangelism.

Beyond the usual action figures and apparel, the seventh installment in the space franchise (and the first from merchandise-driven Disney) boasts a broader array of branded products than ever before: from Chewbacca Coffee-Mate creamer (Wookiees drink coffee?) and “Star Wars” mascara to $400 designer Death Star shoes and a $4,000 Millennium Falcon bed. “It’s wider and broader and deeper and covers more age ranges and is less gender- specific than anything I have ever seen for ‘Star Wars,’ ” said Steve Sansweet, Lucasfilm’s former director of fan relations and Guinness world record holder for the largest collection of “Star Wars” memorabilia.A video making the rounds on social media takes a classic “Star Wars” scene and dubs in actual Donald Trump recorded quotes for the villainous Darth Vader. Not because ANA is a bad airline—it is perfectly respectable and has some of the best food in the skies—but because I can almost never find a film on a plane that I actually want to watch. These spectacular ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ products will continue that tradition.” The result is an amazingly diverse range of branded items, from the unexpected (light-up lightsaber chopsticks) to the unbelievable (haute couture Stormtrooper wear).

Most of the 100% authentic soundbites used in the 7-minute video are quotes from the Republican Presidential candidate, necktie salesman, and reality star attempting to convince reporters of his general awesomeness. But lo and behold, thanks to a new marketing or branding or whatever-it-is partnership linked to the new films, ANA had the complete original trilogy available on the in-flight entertainment system. International offerings have grown in scope and distinction, too, with local licensees and artisans interpreting the iconic characters for their cultures. The result of adding Trump’s voice to the Vader scenes is that suddenly, all of Vader’s classic henchmen seem to be looking at the warlord like he’s nuts. “Darth Trump” is the work of Auralnauts, whose other internet offerings include Bane from “The Dark Knight Rises” doing a freestyle rap, and a parody trailer of the Biblical film, “Noah.”

Sansweet recently added some Japanese items to his collection, including soy-sauce plates and “little kokeshi dolls, which are typical of a small community in Japan,” he said. “They’re usually carved in traditional format of samurai or geisha or something like that, and now there’s a whole series of ‘Star Wars’ (characters).” Retired from Lucasfilm, Sansweet now shares his “Star Wars” collection with the public through his nonprofit Rancho Obi-Wan museum in Petaluma, Calif., where he offers educational tours and hosts private events, including two weddings. I saw all of A New Hope and half of The Empire Strikes Back on one flight, and the rest of The Empire Strikes Back and The Return Of The Jedi on the other. Darth Vader, C-3PO, R2-D2 and Boba Fett also got the creamer treatment, and each is a different flavor. (Chewie is spiced latte.) New York’s Ample Hills Creamery introduced two new flavors in “Star Wars” packaging: The Light Side is marshmallow ice cream with crispy clusters, and The Dark Side is dark chocolate with espresso fudge brownies. CLOTHING:Beyond the typical T-shirts and PJs, there are one-of-a-kind designer outfits based on “The Force Awakens” characters, such as Halston’s gown inspired by villain Kylo Ren, up for auction this month (www.charitybuzz.com) to benefit the Child Mind Institute.

In fact it is, by now, a well-worn trope for media outlets to ask someone who has never seen a Star Wars film to watch the entire original trilogy with a fresh pair of eyes and then lampoon it at great length and malicious relish. (The newer films are not nearly iconic or canonical enough to be treated in this manner. There’s a Darth Vader toaster that brands your breakfast bread with the “Star Wars” logo and the aforementioned light-up lightsaber chopsticks, plus an X-Wing knife block and many other household items.

It is also one of the few really lucrative examples of a genre that generally achieves little success at the box office and even less success with critics. Sure, there is the legendary theme tune that is instantly recognizable, and the spine-chilling Imperial March that is better known as Darth Vader’s theme. In sequences, and there are many, where the visual story takes ungainly leaps, it is the John Williams score that maintains a semblance of gravitas and plausibility. Like William’s music, Jones’ voice has the instant effect of making you take the films, and Darth Vader, all the more seriously (perhaps Hugo Weaving’s exaggerated speech in the Matrix films is a more modern example of how a lynchpin role’s enunciation itself can become a leitmotif). In a recent interview, George Lucas said that his favourite character from the Star Wars films is Jar Jar Binks, the universally reviled, computer-generated, racist caricature.

There are throwaway references to people and incidents in the films that point to a universe that is as dense with detail as it is distant in space and time. Imagine a world without Star Wars and you have to imagine a world without lightsabers, the Force, Jedi Knights, Darth Vader, the Death Star, Yoda-speech, that episode of Friends with Princess Leia’s bikini, that cute ad with the kid and the car… Much of this must be down to the way in which the original trilogy brought in so many concepts and devices that were new or radically rethought, but without unnecessary complication.

In many ways Star Wars pits two voices against each other: the goodness of Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan Kenobi versus the cold, remorseless evil of Darth Vader.

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