Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Hoplites in Space: The Style of Star Wars

Work on the current hoplite animation continues well, and all this staring at close-ups of hoplite helmets has prompted me to reflect on a) how stylish they are, and b) how stylish the hoplite style helmets in the Star Wars universe are.
You’ve probably noticed the influence yourself. Let’s have close-up look at it now. The influence of the classic Corinthian style hoplite helmet is most clearly seen in the helmet worn by legendary bounty-hunter Boba Fett:

The bounty-hunter’s helmet shares the hoplite helmet’s full-face design, with the distinctive horizontal eye-strip and narrow vertical gap between cheek pieces. This offers extensive protection, while the anonymity of the piece is also appropriately intimidating. The space helmet adds to this effect by including blacked-out sections where the hoplite helmet would have gaps – a difference no doubt influenced by the different atmospheres of space and planet.

Boba Fett inherited his kit from his bounty-hunter ‘father’, Jango Fett. While the two bounty-hunters made the armour famous, the Clone Wars animated series revealed that the distinctive panoply was actually a customised version of the typical traditional military wear worn on the planet Mandalore. We can see the helmets of Mandalorian soldiers here:

Unlike ancient Greeks, the Mandalorians include female soldiers in their ranks. This Mandalorian (right) demonstrates the female form of body armour. There’s a subtle difference in the helmet too – the female helmet includes a nose piece coming down vertically from between the eyes – a feature that makes it even closer to the hoplite helmet. Greeks often wore plumes on their helmets; senior Mandalorians have the option of attaching plumes too.
Female Mandalorian

In another difference from the Greek panoply, the Mandalorians sport armoured trouser legs rather than the re-enforced kilts of the hoplites. Consideration for the demands of space rather than the heat of Greece probably made the trouser leg style more appealing.

Like classical hoplites, Mandalorian soldiers have a sense of their own individuality despite working in groups. This makes them different from the specially bred clone troopers who were created to serve the Republic. As such, it’s appropriate that they look different. The helmets of the clone troopers also owe something to the hoplite helmet; the full face with eye holes style is there, but there is a mouth-shaped ventilation point that is very un-hoplite. Clone troopers wear trousers rather than kilts, but nonetheless, we sometimes see an over-kilt for ceremonial occasions – a welcome nod to hoplite style.
Late Republican Clone Trooper's Helmet

As Republic turns to Empire, the clone troopers are re-equipped. The new helmets are much more rounded – much less like hoplite kit. Dark times indeed. Darth Vadar had to look different from both Mandalorians and clones. His helmet is truly individual; with its wide flare curving out at the base, it owes more to Samurai style than Greek.

For a little something on the classical themes in Star Wars, have a look at Edith Hall’s blog post on the Return of the Jedi and Greek tragedy: http://edithorial.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/may-force-of-greek-storytelling-be-with.html

Thursday, 9 January 2014

New Year, New Animation

Happy New Year!

2014 looks to be an interesting year for us at Panoply. Work has begun on the animation we’re making for the ‘Communicating Ancient Greece and Rome’ project (CAGR) run by the University of Oxford’s Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama: http://www.apgrd.ox.ac.uk/.

The animation is being made in collaboration with the Ure Museum, using their superb Euboean lekanis. The protagonist is one of the vase’s hoplites. As he’s originally shown with his helmet pulled down over his face, we’ve been experimenting with facial reconstruction for the few scenes that will show him helmet-free. The vase shows wisps of beard poking out from beneath the helmet, so we knew he had to be bearded. A beard from a contemporary vase acted as a template to build the new one – you can see the steps below. We hope you’ll agree that he looks very dashing!

This image of the vase shows strands of hair and beard poking out

Here he is sporting a beard from a different vase

And here with new beard and hair in place!
We'll keep you posted on his progress as the animation develops.