Monday, July 16, 2007

Going to Star Wars Celebration Europe

On Saturday, I went to the Star Wars Celebration Europe, held at London's ExCel Centre. Upon arrival, I got in the queue (line) for tickets. It moved pretty fast and I was put ahead because I was paying cash. Although I had seen the price listed as £21 before I went, when I got to the cashier, it was £23. In addition, if you wanted a lanyard to hang your ticket around your neck, it was another £3. A pack of six autograph tokens was £30. An official program was £6. Sod all that, I just bought one adult ticket.
After buying my ticket, I had to join another queue (line) to get into the exhibition hall. This queue was so long, it started at the other end of the ExCel Centre, outside in the parking lot. Once I was safely in the queue, I started observing the other attendees. Geeks were all over the place. Loads of people were wearing various sorts of Star Wars T shirts. It struck me that I have a Star Wars T shirt, somewhere in my closet, but I didn't dig it out to wear. I guess I am just not enough of a geek. Nerds in T shirts were only the tip of the galactic iceberg. There were loads of people wearing Star Wars costumes. It was like being in freak central. Surely only guys would be wacky enough to dress up as someone in Star Wars. Then I spotted women. Not only unattractive, geeky women either. In front of me in the queue, there was a quite good looking young woman dressed as Senator Amidala, from "Episode II: Attack of the Clones." As had many of the others, she'd made her costume herself. Some parts were fashioned from paper and cardboard. What a find! A pretty woman who is so into "Star Wars," that she would make her own costume. And she was alone. At first, I thought she was with this family in front of her. They looked quite similar. This family had two young boys and one teenaged girl. I thought the costumed woman was their oldest daughter, as she looked like she was in her early twenties, which would have made her their first of four children. I noticed that none of the family were speaking to the costumed one. None of the family members had costumes on, so I thought they might be ignoring her, as she was the geeky child, who's eccentricities are tolerated.
The queue moved steadily and, eventually, we gained admittance to the exhibition hall. I would estimate that I waited in queue for about an hour. At the entrance, I noticed that costumed woman went in a different direction as the family. They weren't together! She didn't even have a date. Here we were, two single Star Wars lovers, passing like two starships in the night. Oh well. Inside the hall, the place was packed. There were people from all over Europe...Germans, Spanish, Poles...and, of course, loads of British. Some were dressed as Jedi, while others were dressed in Stormtrooper uniforms. Wandering around, I noticed that the majority of space in the exhibition hall was taken up by vendor stalls. So it seemed that one paid £23 ($46) for the privilege of being able to shop vendors and spend even more money. And it wasn't as if these vendors were offering bargains. A lightsabre replica was £75 ($150). I wasn't about to pay prices like that. After a couple of hours, I was starting to have my fill of the place. I regretted paying so much for so little. Still, I tried to find more to do, to make up for the admission price. I had the foresight to bring some food with me and was thus able to avoid the long queues for food, as well as the exorbitant prices.
In the afternoon, I joined a long queue for a show that was billed as having celebrity guests. Having heard that Mark Hamill was making an appearance, I hoped this would make it all worthwhile. After being seated, the show began with an announcer doing an impression of Obi-Wan Kenobi. He came across as sounding like a drunk Alec Guiness. The host of the show was announced and out walked Warwick Davis, the dwarf who played Wicket in "Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi." He was to interview a celebrity guest. When the guest was announced, it was Rick McCallum, producer of the newer, first three episodes. Oh joy! Not even one of the stars of the films. When Warrick finished interviewing McCallum, the show ended. What? That was it? I queued for over an hour for that?
As it got late in the day, the crowd thinned out. Checking out the autograph area, I didn't want to pay to get some actor's autograph, but I wanted to see what stars were there. Most of the actors present were unknowns who played this or that alien, or a bush in one episode or another. There was no way I was going to pay for another actor's autograph. Mark Hamill, the biggest star there, refused to accept "tokens" for his autograph. For an autographed photo with him, you had to cough up £85 ($170!). There was a long queue for Mark, while most of the others sat there, idle. I managed to keep myself occupied till 5:45 PM, then I'd had as much as I could take and left. I was extremely disappointed in the Celebration. It seemed like it was mostly about separating cash from the customers. Although I love the Star Wars films, this "celebration" was a let-down. The most interesting thing I noticed there was that some of the German attendees seemed a little too enthusiastic about dressing up as members of the Empire's military. Empire military uniforms are modeled on World War II Nazi uniforms, so there seemed a slightly worrying trend going on. Also, the British Royal Navy and Royal Army had displays there, trying to recruit people. They had posters comparing British military equipment with craft from Star Wars. There seemed to be something a little perverse about trying to lure young fans of Star Wars to join the military, so they can be shipped off to places like Iraq and Afghanistan. The next time I see a Star Wars Celebration advertised, I shall avoid it. I recommend you do the same.

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