Saturday 2 July 2016

Review: Plastic Galaxy

Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys
Cert: -- / 67 mins / Dir. Brian Stillman / Trailer

Well, on paper it sounds like this should be right up my street. A labour-of-love documentary focusing on the vintage-era of Star Wars figures. Not the planet-spanning merchandising agreements that saw everything from duvet-covers to tape-dispensers hitting shelves between 1977 and 1985, but the main focus of many a collector's passion: the figures themselves. Those gorgeous, coveted, articulated pieces of plastic which congregate in their hundreds in houses all over the world, including my own.

Which is why I'm as surprised as anyone that I didn't love this film.

It's not necessarily a badly made documentary, yet it occupies an unhelpful middle-ground whereby there's little to hook 'civilian' audiences*1, but there's also nothing new here for the vintage-collector, save a few anecdotes from the toy industry. Skipping over the time-period mentioned above, the film talks to various collectors and former Kenner employees, as they recall what made Star Wars so special to dote and to work on. And while the sculptors, model-makers and the presence of Mr Steve Sansweet certainly elevate this above 'fan-film' level, there's still the feeling that it's not made to inform, but just to have everyone in a room agreeing with each other while they compare double-telescoping lightsabers.

And as documentaries go, it feels more televisual than cinematic (also confirmed by the 67 minute runtime), with filtered shots, short-takes and crash-zooms rushing the viewer through things a little. We also get title-captions for the talking-heads appearing sporadically throughout the film for people who've had them several times already (which could be taken as an indication that the film hasn't introduced them properly to begin with. Although in its defence, the line-up consists almost entirely of middle-aged white men, so you'd be forgiven for losing track of who's who). By the time you include the incidental music and sound effects which seem to have been dropped in at the last minute (sometimes right over the dialogue), I was left wishing for a Special Edition that would slow the whole thing down.

Plastic Galaxy might be passable as a YouTube series made for fun, but projects like this are why I'm so wary of crowd-funding

Plastic Galaxy is available to buy on disc, or you can rent or buy it digitally.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
…standing in Forbidden Planet and eavesdropping on conversations held by people you don't know.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
To be fair, it's only really going to be playing conventions at this point, and if you're at one of those and interested in the subject matter, you'll have seen it anyway.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Sadly, not really.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Trying to keep things positive, it's a valiant effort, but there's room for improvement.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not at all.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: It's got clips of Star Wars in it and it's all about Star Wars.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 And even I know that the main purpose of a documentary is to educate the audience rather then entertain them. They should be able to sit down with little-to-no knowledge of the subject matter, and leave with some information and insight into the world they've glimpsed. Plastic Galaxy spends a lot of time preaching to the choir in that regard.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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