The Star Wars universe is a vast playground for adventure and impossible characters, but even geekier fans find it exciting just for its impossible antiquities – and its oddball restaurants. In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, the most famous and successful of those restaurants is Dex’s Diner, a scene in which a fast-food worker pines for customers he should never have, in a place that’s veritably impossible. Dex’s is a scene that’s mundane and epic at the exact same time. It’s a place that’s familiar and alien. It’s a scene, in short, that possesses a juxtaposition I’ve always found impossible to reconcile, but impossible to stop trying. Perhaps that’s all we can ask from Star Wars: that it keeps us guessing, like a sure-bet casino with an impossible outcome. Throughout history, mythic kingdoms live on when men and women find their way to the magic.


In Dex’s Diner, a 1950s Earth-style diner is melded with the otherworldly high-tech of the Star Wars universe: the familiar made alien, the alien made familiar. It is both setting for and bridge between the mundane world of Earth and the galaxy far, far away.


San Diego's own Elliot Garnett did it under the moniker Centerpoint Studios, and it was the ‘genre mishmash’ that attracted him: a bridge between the dinersky’s retro-Earth aesthetic and open embrace of Sci-Fi elements into an entirely different mix. The project speaks to what we might think of as an echo of active imagination, as the modding (to add one potential definition) far outlasted the original inspiration. It’s a mode of Star Wars fandom that’s all about admiring and appreciating the original not as a text or a spectacle, but as a nearly limitless playground of creative possibilities.


Garnett spent more than two years trying to build a replica of Dex’s Diner as faithfully as possible – an effort that was, in its own way, an argument for the value of fusion. The set designers of Star Wars were not working with lasers, but their techniques were also a combination of traditional techniques and fuzzy-logic shortcuts. Garnett’s process was spectacular because it involved everything from foam core to silicone drawer lining to styrene sheeting, and a lengthy odyssey through different adhesives. His wood glue and crushed eggshells never quite worked the way he wanted them to, and he had to find different solutions. Garnett’s process had a certain amount of wizardry to it, but it wasn’t magic. It was actually pretty mundane. His project was an argument for fusion, not a romance. But this brings us back to where we started. To enjoy Star Wars is to endorse a professional objectivism that posits mundane technologies as the source of our enchantment, and imaginative labour – which is very real labour – as something that can almost but not quite be replaced by the computer inside the cereal box.


Building Dex’s Diner was an ambitious project: ‘This was the largest build I’d attempted,’ says Garnett. He captures the spirit of Star Wars and creativity itself in that glorious moment of challenge and adventure – the trial and error of figuring out which glue is best, or which path to take with a design. The spirit of the Jedi is one of persistence and adapting.


The outcome is awe-inspiring – a material remnant of the Star Wars universe that fans can behold in intimate detail – an ode to the aesthetic integration and the cultural and cognitive consequences of Star Wars on its fans. Garnett’s reconstruction of Dex’s Diner invites audiences to enter a world where the past, the present, and the future can cease to be so distinct and separate from each other in the best ways possible.


To those lucky enough to witness this melding of art and geekery, Garnett’s masterpiece will go on display at San Diego Comic-Con. There, one can bask in the beauty of the work, be blown away by the detail so far down the chain of impossibility that Dex’s Diner is rendered to a physical reality, and revel in Star Wars fandom as a communal activity.


Even the notion of fusion – and the phrase ‘form follows function’ might have been spun one morning over breakfast – go far beyond the diner’s interior décor or the building materials from which it is made. Fusion, after all, underpinned the very Star Wars aesthetic: the melding of mythologies and cultures in the combination of elements from ancient times with futuristic settings, or the combination of elements of this world with elements of that world (for example, the xenosubs in Attack of the Clones [2002] share elements of both our world and that of the Star Wars universe). Fusion, with its blend of the familiar into the extraordinary, was as central to Star Wars as to its fanbase.

And Elliot Garnett’s recreation of Dex’s Diner isn’t just the latest fan-created reimagining of one of the many details of Star Wars; it is an expression of the very essence of how Star Wars has become such a powerful engine of ideological transcendence. The magic of the galaxy, long deemed far, far away, is located, at least in part, in the very places that Garnett has often recreated, where different worlds and ideas collide. It is a reminder for all fans that neither the battles or the heroes themselves are always easily recognisable – not just for us, but for them too. Instead, what endures is the very same intellectual space of transcendence that finds new ways to see and understand the galactic far, far away, not necessarily located in a galaxy very far, far away at all.

Jun 15, 2024
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