Star Wars fans, this is the exhibition you’re looking for. Just a kyber crystal’s throw from South Kensington tube station lies a portal to a galaxy far, far away, where you’ll come across foreboding cloaked figures, giant shaggy-haired humanoids, a lone gunslinger with his adorable green pointy-eared foundling, a fearless blaster-wielding princess and a laser brain scoundrel. All your favourites can be found at The Fans Strike Back, an exhibition created by fans for fans, filled with everything from R2-D2 flip flops to tiny sets of iconic scenes that will have you peering down in avid fascination like Gulliver on his travels.
What can you expect inside The Fans Strike Back Exhibition?…
The life-size sculptures are out in full force (see what I did there) at this exhibition and you’ll be greeted by one as soon as you stroll around the first corner. Any guesses for which moody, wheezing fella you think it might be…? Once you’ve crept past his ominous gaze you’ll soon come across many more familiar figures, each one having been impressively recreated with every last detail thought of – there’s Tusken Raiders with their shudder-worthy masks and lethal-looking gear, Boba Fett with his battered armour and the poor, controversy-inducing Jar Jar Binks with his yellow eyes and squiggle-covered skin (is that the technical term?). Clearly, I can’t call myself a diehard fan but I enjoyed seeing all the classic characters in the sort-of flesh.
It’s not just figurines and glass cabinets brimming with merchandise at play here. One thing that quickly comes apparent with each step inside is the amount of love fans have for the franchise and how much of it has been poured into every nook and cranny of The Fans Strike Back. There are characters that barely had lines or were on screen only for fleeting moments that have been created as sculptures or pocket-sized models, there’s a towering hand-crafted Wookiee, mouth agape (cue Chewie noises) and covered head-to-toe in shaggy fur, there’s even signature edition Star Wars Barbies – and let me tell you, this Darth Vader Barbie could give Anna Wintour a run for her money with her sleek bob and bold black sunnies.
A particular favourite for me were the disembodied heads of creatures from the cantina. I always enjoy seeing the array of aliens and humanoids that mill about in those scenes; the cantina setting was the perfect playground for the creators to unleash their imagination and show all kinds of curious species. Fans will no doubt recognise the scaly face and bulbous eyes of bounty hunter Greedo staring back at them through one of the glass cabinets.
Over the course of your exploration you’ll stroll past the setting suns of Tatooine, providing a scorched-orange backdrop to a collection of rusty droids that have seen better days and will likely have you saying wait, was that C3P0? Then, you’ll wander into the untamed wilderness of the Forest Moon of Endor, complete with Ewoks and a speeder bike just waiting to be clambered on for a photo. Plus, a trip into George Lucas’ galaxy wouldn’t be complete without a stop on the goosebump-inducing Planet Hoth (I still get a pang of sadness every time I see Solo’s Tauntaun keel over in the bitter night). The nod to the frosty planet is evident in a corner of the exhibition with a snowy backdrop, sculptures of the headstrong trio of Leia, Han Solo and Chewie and icy props creeping across the ceiling. They’ve truly thought of everything here, you get the feeling that if the venue had been even bigger every planet would have its own special space.
As well as classic exhibition staples like collectables and merchandise, the exhibition has a few tricks up its sleeve. One of which is the epic Star Destroyer deck – can’t lie, my compulsive thoughts nearly won with the many, many tempting buttons and switches – where you can channel your inner villain as you glare out at the Millennium Falcon in your crosshairs. Another is the VR experience, where, for an extra fee, you can get a taste of what it might be like to rocket through space – shuddering seat and all. The price tag might feel a little hefty for some, but if you’re looking to indulge in a childhood dream and dodge meteors a la Han and Chewie it’s worth a go.
Our videographer, a big fan himself, said one of his favourite aspects was the fun of seeing other people enjoying it; some dressed to the nines as characters from the Star Wars universe (Princess Leia and Bo Katan were both in attendance when I went). Who knows, you might even make some new like-minded friends while you’re there. So, whether you fancy grabbing a photo sitting in the Emperor’s Throne, are there to admire the fantastic costumes or simply want to see how you measure up to Darth Vader, this Star Wars fan exhibition ticks the boxes for a great day out. Plus, this could be the closest you get to Harrison Ford (some of the sculptures are pretty uncanny).
The Fans Strike Back cleverly appeals to a fan’s nostalgia for the franchise, soundtracking your visit with iconic Star Wars music, providing opportunities to live out scenes and basically giving you a front-row seat to an extensive collection of Star Wars fan items that reminds you why you loved it in the first place. You’ll walk out the doors eager to watch the whole franchise all over again. Come to think of it, I’ve got a Mandalorian episode I need to catch up on – no spoilers, please.