There are inherent problems with attempting to do a public event based on Star Wars when you clearly don’t have authorization to use any intellectual property related to Star Wars. But you’ll probably still sucker me in anyway.
When the internet lit up about a pop-up bar in L.A. modeled after the Mos Eisley Cantina from Star Wars: A New Hope, I scrambled to get tickets. For $50 we were promised a “fully immersive” experience with “special surprises.” The hype built for several months, but I did my best to keep my expectations in check. Still, I couldn’t help but ponder what “special surprises” awaited us. Would we see Walrusman’s arm get lightsabered off in person? Would we get to watch Greedo explode as HAN SHOOTS FIRST? Would Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes be appearing live??
Nope. Just a bar with neon drinks, really.
There was a semi-noble attempt at creating the interior of the Mos Eisley Cantina, with booths and a bar that vaguely resembles the one in A New Hope, albeit with a lot of missing minor details. The layout wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t expect it to be. What was more disorienting was the use of laser lights and smoke machines. There were no laser lights and smoke machines in Mos Eisley! And the color scheme was off, with greens and pinks and blues, as opposed to the subdued beige and subtle red of the original Cantina.
The Cantina Band would not be making an appearance; instead we’d be treated to a laptop DJ bumping a set of undanceable tunes, including the discordant orchestral theme to Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
I was hoping to spot some of the Cantina regulars in the crowd, either in costume or mannequin form, but there was no Hammerhead, no Wolf Man, no Devil Guy, no Snake Head… And criminally: no Walrusman and no Greedo. Not even a Han Solo or a Chewbacca, let alone an Obi-Wan Kenobi or a Luke Skywalker. I brought my Official Han Solo blaster to the event, but I would not be able to threaten Greedo on this particular evening, nor would Cornelius Evazan be announcing how much he doesn’t like me.
The people in charge of the pop-up must have expected the patrons to pick up the slack by encouraging guests to wear costumes. And predictably the bar was populated by fellow nerds dressed for the occasion. We saw stormtroopers, a clone trooper, imperial officers, Princess Leia, Oola (the dancer from Jabba’s palace), TIE fighter pilots, Kylo Ren, a young girl dressed as Rey, and even one guy dressed as Indiana Jones.
(Not a single one of those characters appears in the Mos Eisley Cantina.)
That said, it was fun to hang out and get pictures with people, but it fell far short of a “fully immersive” experience. It felt more like a random Comic Con afterparty than a painstaking re-creation of an iconic cinematic setting. If you’re going to promise immersion, maybe serve drinks in opaque frosted white glasses instead of standard pint glasses with glow sticks stuck in them? If you’re not going to hire actors to dress as Cantina characters, maybe at least dress your bartenders in Tatooine-ish brown and white robes rather than putting them in black t-shirts and jeans like every other bar on our current home planet?
Failing all that…CAN YOU AT LEAST PLAY THE CANTINA BAND SONG???
The famous song that is inextricably linked to the famous scene was only heard once during the evening—partially. After about an hour of waiting, a weird cover version of the Cantina Band song finally came over the speakers and the crowd cheered in response. It seemed like the party was really about to get going as everyone started to dance. Then the song was interrupted by some ominous noise…and in walked Darth Vader!
This must be the “special surprise” we were promised. Vader slowly made his way through the space, lightsaber blazing. A few people dared to stop him for selfies. And that was pretty much it.
While it’s always fun to see Darth Vader in person, should I point out again that Darth Vader never appears in the Cantina scene? Accuracy aside, I must admit I did get a chuckle out of watching Vader and Kylo Ren dancing together to the sounds of Daft Punk as the evening wound down.
Two hours and two drinks and two souvenir pint glasses later, we exited into the alley behind the bar. The next group of fans were waiting for their timed entry. There was a Chewbacca and a Han Solo (and a Leia) standing in line, so I grabbed a picture with them, since I wasn’t able to get any Han or Chewy pics inside.
“How was it?” they asked.
I was tempted to respond with, “Have you ever been to a birthday party at a laser tag arena where they legally can’t say ‘Star Wars’ so instead they call it ‘Space Battle’ or something and they give you a ‘laser sword’ and a cake with a nondescript green alien on it? It’s basically the adult version of that.”
But instead I just smiled and said, “It was fun!” and hoped they weren’t as nitpicky about immersive Star Wars experiences as I am.