Hi everyone! So today is the day. The day that the Force has awakened once more – in North America that is. Some of you (especially those in Singapore which had an early release) have probably already caught the premiere, are going to watch it tonight or are simply waiting for the weekend to come before doing so. For me, I’ve to wait a tad longer, but I have already gotten my ticket to watch Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens with a huge group of friends next Monday.
And while I noticed that most of them, or rather all of them are very excited for the film, I also noticed that a small group of them know absolutely nothing about Star Wars. Like nothing, literally. I bet they are thinking it’s a movie with a lot of Hollywood celebrities & violence, and involves one of them being woken up forcefully from their sleep. 😆
So I figured, for the sake of them (and all of you Star Wars newbies), to come up with this sort of beginner’s guide that will let you have a better trip to the cinema and to the galaxy far far away. Prevents a load of awkwardness too when interacting with the pros. Can’t you see? I love you guys. LOL.
But before I begin, I must WARN you that there are SPOILERS ahead for Star Wars Episodes 1-6, which basically means EVERY single Star Wars film so far before The Force Awakens. So if you’re looking to watch the entire Star Wars saga for yourself first before going to see Episode 7, then this post isn’t for you. In fact, I recommend you to do so and watch all 6 episodes for yourself to get the full intergalactic experience. I mean, that’s what I’ve been trying to do over the past week. Haha!
But if you’re like some of my friends, who don’t care about spoilers, but instead needs them and just want a brief introduction and quick background to what has been happening so far in the Star Wars cinematic universe, then this post is for you. I must say however, that many details have been left out, especially those provided by the backstories of Episodes 1-3. I’m not a hardcore fan of Star Wars, but I’m also trying to make it as simple & relevant as possible for the average moviegoer to understand what’s going on when they see The Force Awakens. So most of the information you are about to see are the more essential ones from Episodes 4-6. And of course, my knowledge is limited and I have only had time to re-watch Episodes 4-6 so far! But what you’re about to read SHOULD be sufficient. Let’s begin.
1) The Timeline
The very first thing that I feel needs to be addressed for any Star Wars newbie is its sometimes confusing timeline. And this timeline does not so much refer to the events in the movies but more of the order in which the movies were released. Let me explain.
Here are the Star Wars movies arranged in chronological order. Basically, “what happened first” to “what happened last”.
It’s pretty simple, the events of Episode 1 happened first, followed by 2, 3, 4, 5 and eventually 6. Easy to understand, right? But here’s the “confusing” part.
The following was how the Episodes were released in cinema over the years, starting from A New Hope in 1977 and ending with Revenge of the Sith in 2005.
As you can see, Episodes 4-6 were released before Episodes 1-3. Also, there was a distinct gap of time between the release of Episode 6 and the release of Episode 1. And obviously, there is a change of cast too. This separates the Star Wars saga into 2 parts we all know today as the Original Trilogy and Prequel Trilogy.
Here’s what happened. Back in the day, Star Wars creator George Lucas had no plans on returning to the series after Return of the Jedi, the last film in the Original Trilogy. It’s not only until years later did he gain interest in creating a prequel series due to technological advancements in CGI. This trilogy would eventually tell of the stories of events that happened before the first 3 films.
So actually, the films in the Original Trilogy were re-titled. At first, they were just called Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. But to accommodate the 3 new prequel films into the overall saga, all of them were renamed episodically.
Now do you get why a lot of people are so excited for the new Episode 7? Because it will kick off a new Sequel Trilogy that many people have been waiting for since 30 years ago! It will continue the story from where the Original Trilogy last left off.
So it’s really up to you in which order you would like to watch the films in. For me, I am watching it by order of release, starting with A New Hope and ending with Revenge of the Sith. My reason is pretty simple – the graphics get better that way. LOL. But there are others who also prefer watching it chronologically or even mixing it up here and there! As long as you watch & understand everything, it’s your choice!
2) The War
Alright, with the timeline out of the way, it’s time to talk about the more important stuff. Now obviously just by the movie title, you can tell that there is some sort of war going on here. In actual fact, the whole of the Original Trilogy centers around a galactic civil war. The question is – who are the parties involved and what are they fighting for?
There are 2 main sides -the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance. As to which side you’re on, I have no say about; but generally, people consider the Empire to be the bad guys and the Rebels to be the good guys that are trying to overthrow them. Let’s talk about the Empire first.
The Galactic Empire
There are many bad things that you can know about the Empire, but in short, they were basically the galaxy’s main governing body during the events of the Original Trilogy. It was however, never always the case.
Before the Empire’s reign, it was the Galactic Republic who ruled the galaxy for thousands of years. They believed in democracy, and managed to keep the worlds in peace with the help of the Jedi Order (we’ll come to this in a minute).
Then came a man who conspired great conflicts in order to supplant himself as the Galactic Emperor. His name was Palpatine and he managed to rise to power, establishing the Empire and at the same time, replacing the Republic. Under the Empire’s rule, the galaxy have since been oppressed by the dictatorship of Emperor Palpatine, who enforced his authority through intimidation and fear.
Notable characters of the Empire include: The Emperor, Darth Vader, and of course our “favorite” Stormtroopers.
The Rebel Alliance
Thankfully, the Empire did not reign forever, and were eventually defeated by the combined efforts of brave individuals in the Rebel Alliance. Also known as the Rebellion, this resistance movement was formed as a direct reaction to the Empire’s tyranny.
Never backing down despite overwhelming odds, the Rebels eventually managed to stand up against the evil Emperor and his army, restoring democracy, but also peace to the galaxy.
Notable allies in the Rebellion include: Princess Leia, Han Solo, Lando Calrissian and Luke Skywalker.
3) The Force
Let’s talk about the Force now. Even if you have never watched Star Wars before in your entire life, you would have definitely heard the phrase – “May the Force be with you”. And you may be wondering what exactly the Force is. Is it luck? Maybe magic? Or a superpower? Well, not really.
In the world of Star Wars, the Force is an energy field that can be harnessed by an individual. When trained in the Force, a person can achieve superhuman feats, such as jumping a few storeys high, moving objects (& people) with just their will and even “influence the weak-minded” to do as they say. But where is the Force found? Everywhere.
According to Obi-Wan Kenobi (don’t worry you’ll meet him soon), “It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” From this, we can tell that the Force exists everywhere in the fictional galaxy. So does that mean everyone in the galaxy has the ability to use its power? Not exactly. There are people who are more sensitive to the Force and people who are not. The people who are not usually doubt its existence until experiencing it for themselves. But for those who are sensitive, they are more inclined to learning its ways and tapping into it.
However, even the Force has 2 sides to it – the Light Side and the Dark Side. Throughout the films, you would realize that there are 2 main groups of people who are Force-sensitive – The Jedi and The Sith. They are archenemies and have a conflict that can be compared to that of the The Empire and Rebel Alliance. But their main differences are not just found in ideology, but in the side of the Force that they have chosen to adopt.
The Jedi are on the Light Side, using the Force for peace, wisdom and protection of others. But The Sith are on the Dark Side, using the Force for destruction, power and personal desires. Let’s talk about these practitioners of the Force a little bit.
The Jedi Order
Told you I would talk about these guys. These knights of the Old Republic were guardians of peace and justice until the rise of the Galactic Empire, when the evil Emperor enacted the infamous Order 66, that wiped out almost every single one of them. The Jedi practiced the Light Side of the Force, where their source of power comes from calmness in the mind and peace at the heart. They depend solely on the flow of the Force and usually do not kill unless absolutely necessary.
Notable Jedi Knights & Masters include: Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Anakin Skywalker and of course, Luke Skywalker.
The Sith Order
Ancient enemies of the Jedi Order, these sons of darkness utilize the Dark Side of the Force for their personal interests, mainly to gain control of the galaxy over time. Fueled by anger, fear and aggression, The Sith will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, even if it meant sacrificing countless lives. One of their signature traits is the ability to use Force lightning in battle.
The Emperor Palpatine for example, was actually a Sith Lord in secret. This is why you would usually notice The Jedi fighting alongside the Republic/Rebels (good guys), and The Sith on the other hand with the Empire (bad guys). The good attracts the good, the bad attracts the bad!
Notable Sith Lords include: Darth Sidious (a.k.a The Emperor), Darth Vader, Count Dooku and Darth Maul.
4) The Weapons
Now, it’s time to introduce to you the iconic weapons of the Star Wars universe.
A.K.A the guns: Coming in many different shapes, forms & sizes, these guns are the standard ranged weapons you will find on screen this Christmas. They are also one of the main sources of laser bolts dominating an entire action sequence.
A.K.A the planes: Star Wars is known for its sky/space battles. And in case you get confused as to which planes belong to the Empire, and which to the Alliance, the above are some examples of how they might look like. The TIE fighters belong to the Imperial fleet, while the X-wings belong to the Rebel forces.
“This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
A.K.A the famous glowing swords: The Lightsaber is the symbol of the Jedi Order and its weapon of choice. They also come in a few finishes. You’ve seen the single-bladed & double-bladed ones, but soon, you’ll see one with a cross guard. These swords can cut through virtually anything except of course, another lightsaber (and this thing called the electrostaff). With years of practice, they can even be used to deflect blaster shots.
Though this iconic weapons are like a symbol of The Jedi, most of you would know that The Sith uses them too. How can you tell then again, who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? Well usually, The Jedi carry blue or green bladed lightsabers while The Sith carry red bladed ones. Usually.
5) The Characters
Alright, you must have been waiting for this. I know I have been mentioning many names over this entire post, so let’s revisit some of the main characters in the Original Trilogy. What’s exciting is that some of them are going to make an appearance once more in The Force Awakens as their older selves (they have aged both on & off screen)! Can’t wait to see what they will be up to.
“The Force is strong with this one.”
Raised as a farmboy by his uncle & aunt, Luke Skywalker lived in humble environments and had no idea about his true parentage. All this changed one day when his uncle purchased 2 droids that led him on the greatest adventure of his life. This adventure, though filled with moments of victory and joy, was also littered with pain and struggle. He met friends, such as Leia and Han, but also lost some on the way. The most significant event on this journey undoubtedly would be him finding out that the Sith Lord Darth Vader was his biological father. Nevertheless, all this brought him onto the path to becoming one of the greatest Jedi that ever lived. By the end of the Original Trilogy, he was the last remaining Jedi.
R2-D2 and C-3PO
The 2 droids that turned Luke’s life upside down. Both of them have their individual mechanisms and feelings, making them one of the most dynamic duos in the history of cinema. For example, R2 can be very optimistic while C-3PO – very pessimistic. But no matter what, they are the best of friends and have together served their Master Luke pretty well. Both of them will return in The Force Awakens.
One of the greatest leaders of the Rebellion, Princess Leia was both tough physically in battle and mentally in dire situations. Her resilience in overcoming the Empire made her one of the greatest heroes in the galaxy. But beyond that, she’s also the love interest of Han Solo and the twin sister of Luke Skywalker. A Jedi she may not be, but sensitive she is to the Force. After so many years, she will make an appearance again in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
Initially just a sarcastic and proud smuggler, Han Solo came to know Luke Skywalker & Obi-Wan Kenobi as they were looking for a starship to travel to the planet Alderaan. He agreed to help them as he would be paid. But eventually he came to believe in the cause for galactic freedom, stayed on and joined the fight against the Empire. His legendary starship – the Millennium Falcon has seen many battles since and played a part in some of the Rebellion’s greatest victories. Han Solo will also be back in The Force Awakens.
Our favorite hairy friend who is more affectionately known as “Chewie”, is Han’s co-pilot on the Millennium Falcon. A loyal Wookiee friend who would do anything for his comrades, Chewie is big and strong both on the outside and inside. We will see him once again in Episode VII.
Probably my favorite Star Wars character of all time, Obi-Wan Kenobi was a wise, noble and powerful Jedi Master. He trained Anakin Skywalker and mentored his son Luke in the ways of the Force. Facing all likeness of the Dark Side throughout his lifetime, he never wavered and emerged victorious numerous times. In his final days, he was a constant voice in Luke’s life, and even after being struck down by Darth Vader on the Death Star, he continued to provide guidance to him as a Living Force spirit.
Probably the wisest, oldest and most Force-attuned Jedi of them all, Grand Master Yoda trained up Jedi Knights and Masters over the course of more than 800 years. He may be small in stature, but his power was greater than most. He oversaw the Jedi Order, instructed Obi-Wan Kenobi at some points and was personally responsible for training Luke Skywalker to becoming the Jedi that he is today. Due to old age, he eventually passed away and became one with the Force in his hut on Dagobah, with Luke by his side. With his last words, he also informed Luke that “there is another Skywalker.”
Chancellor Palpatine a.k.a The Emperor
Light only shines the brightest in darkness. For the galaxy, the darkness of The Empire looming over them is caused mainly by this one man – Palpatine. Scheming and evil, he slowly manipulated the political systems to his favor with his position as Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic. Eventually, his plans succeeded and he declared himself as The Emperor of his newly formed Galactic Empire. When his true identity of Darth Sidious was revealed, he called for a major purge of the Jedi Order, killing almost every single one of them in an instant. His rule however, was not for eternity. His own apprentice Darth Vader was eventually turned back to the Light Side and killed him, putting an apparent end to The Sith.
Anakin Skywalker a.k.a Darth Vader
“You were the Chosen One! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! Bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness!”
Also known as The Chosen One, Anakin Skywalker was a boy who was discovered by the Jedi Order and came under the apprenticeship of Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Jedi believed that he was the one who would fulfill the prophecy of The Chosen One, which was a Jedi legend that described the coming of a being who would destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force.
The prophecy would come to pass however, in a way The Jedi never expected. In the final days of the Galactic Republic, Anakin fell in love and secretly married Padmé Amidala, an influential figure of those times. She soon became pregnant with twins, and though Skywalker was happy, he began to have visions of his love dying in childbirth. Due to the fear of losing her, and with the influence of Chancellor Palpatine, he was seduced by the Dark Side and eventually gave in to it.
He pledged to serve Palpatine under a new alias – “Darth Vader” and together, they wiped out the entire Jedi Order with the exception of a few individuals. Most shocking of all, he also slaughtered Jedi younglings who stood no chance. This eventually led to a showdown between Anakin Skywalker and his former Master Obi-Wan Kenobi after he had the horrible revelation of Anakin’s deeds.
This would become one of the most intense lightsaber duels in the history of Star Wars, as much as it is heart-wrenching. At the end of the duel, Anakin overestimated his powers and lost his limbs by Obi-Wan’s saber. Obi-Wan Kenobi remorsefully left him to die, until The Emperor came to retrieve him and put him in his life-supporting armor we all recognize today.
6) The Story
So as you can see, the entire Star Wars story centers around the Skywalkers. It tells the story of how one man, due to the fear of losing his loved ones, was driven to the Dark Side. But it also tells the story of this same man, who due to the same love for his family, turned back to the Light Side. As most of you would know, at the end of Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader could not stand watching as his son Luke was slowly being tortured by The Emperor. He was slowly but surely dying.
With whatever was left of his strength, Vader lifted the Emperor and hurled him down a reactor shaft, sustaining damage to his armor at the same time. The redeemed Anakin Skywalker would then reconcile with his son before dying in his arms, putting an end to The Sith and restoring balance to the Force as he was destined to.
Here’s the question of the day. Where does that bring us to right now? At the end of Episode 6, The Empire was heavily crippled and celebrations could be seen across the galaxy. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and all of their surviving friends would also be seen reuniting joyfully before the credits rolled. That was 30 years ago. Nobody expected a sequel after that, so it was a happy ending.
But here we are on the day when Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is about to be released. I know nothing about it other than the fact that this is a movie set approximately 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. I love being clueless but many questions are popping up in my head, especially after watching all the trailers! For example, what has happened to Luke Skywalker? Has he trained up a new generation of Jedi as Yoda had instructed him to? Also, wasn’t The Empire and The Sith defeated? Not a 100% apparently. And why is there still an ongoing war between the Rebels (now known as The Resistance) and The Empire (now known as The First Order)? WHY IS THERE A SITH LORD WIELDING A CROSS-GUARD LIGHTSABER?
I can’t wait for all these questions to be answered when I watch the movie on Monday (please don’t spoil it for me). I can’t wait to meet the new characters and find out how they are related to the returning characters! And last but not least, I can’t wait to find out why they all seem to have forgotten about the Force, the Jedi and the Dark Side. I guess after 30 years, all those things have merely become distant memories and myths.
So there you have it. The basics of basics of the Star Wars universe. Like I said, many details in this long episodic story have been left out & summarized. But hopefully with just this post alone, you were able to get a quicker idea of the story, characters, and world of Star Wars so far without being bombarded with extra information. Check out the latest trailer for The Force Awakens if you haven’t. Until I see the film for myself, off I go to the Prequel Trilogy!
All images from: starwars.com