Before you head out to see the new movie, here’s a recap of where the saga left off with ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens.’
So you’ve heard that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is coming out this week, but you somehow managed to go your whole life without watching any Star Wars movies? We can’t explain the entire saga to you in 2,000 words, but these extremely basic Star Wars details will help you sound less clueless of the ways of the Force:
1. There are three “original” movies which came out before the three “prequel” movies. Rogue One takes place between them. The other new movies take place after them.
The first Star Wars (later subtitled A New Hope) made its debut in 1977. Two sequels followed: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). Those three movies, which followed protagonists Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford), are also referred to as Episodes IV, V and VI, respectively.
Then there was a 16-year gap before the next Star Wars film, The Phantom Menace (1999), the first of three prequels. Two more films (both depicting events before A New Hope) followed: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005). The prequels are Episodes I, II and III, and they focus on Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd and then Hayden Christensen), Padmé Amadala (Natalie Portman), Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor, who’s also in the original films played by Alec Guinness) and Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson).
Chronologically, 2015’s The Force Awakens, aka Episode VII, is set about 30 years after Return of the Jedi. That movie centers on Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and an older Han and Leia. Rogue One immediately precedes the story of A New Hope and mostly focuses on new players including Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna).
The Last Jedi, also referred to as Episode VIII, is set immediately after The Force Awakens and continues to follow Rey and Finn, along with Leia (by now a general), Luke (he’s been hiding away on an island), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, more on him in No. 10), Poe Dameron (who was also in The Force Awakens) and new character Rose (Kelly Marie Tran).
2. The title crawl is the signature way Star Wars films open.
Every movie in the Star Wars saga, aside from Rogue One, begins with scrolling text that explains what happens right before the movie begins. In Star Wars: A New Hope, the opening crawl starts like this:
“It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.”
Those “Rebel spies”? They’re good guys Jyn and Cassian. Rogue One is about them stealing secret plans to the Death Star. That brings us to another thing …
3. That big spherical thing? That’s the Death Star. That round, flat ship? That’s the Millennium Falcon.
That sphere? That’s the Death Star, pictured here in ‘Star Wars: Episode IV.’ (Photo: Lucasfilm)
The Death Star is a giant space station constructed by the Galactic Empire, aka Darth Vader and the bad guys. The Death Star is famously destroyed in A New Hope. But the villains have more battle stations after that: Death Star II and Starkiller Base.
The Millennium Falcon is a ship beloved by Han Solo and Chewbacca (more on them later). Though it has been described as a “piece of junk” (by Luke), the Falcon has been able to handle incredible speeds and make plenty of nail-biting escapes. The ship does indeed appear in The Last Jedi.
4. Luke and Leia, in the original films, are the children of Padmé and Anakin, from the prequels. This makes for awkwardness.
Leia, who’s a princess when we meet her in A New Hope, is related to Luke, who works on a farm with his aunt and uncle at the start of the movie. The characters don’t find out until Return of the Jedi that they are actually long-lost twins who were adopted by different families. This is a very surprising revelation, considering that Luke crushed on Leia when he first saw her, and Leia planted a kiss on Luke’s lips in The Empire Strikes Back (though it was mostly to make Han Solo jealous). Their parents are Padmé, a queen and senator who died (of something like a broken heart) after giving birth to them, and Anakin, who wasn’t fit to take care of them because he turned to the dark side. More on that …
5. Anakin becomes Darth Vader. These are the basics, people.
Darth Vader is the bad guy in the original movies — the killer in the black mask who breathes loudly. He used to look like the blond-haired Christensen and was a Jedi, which is a good knight who uses the metaphysical power of the Force to guard justice in the galaxy, but eventually he turned to the dark side. Before doing that, Anakin married and had babies with Padmé, whom he met when he was only a child in The Phantom Menace. (Don’t worry: They didn’t fall in love until he was legal.)
In the original movies, the full-on baddie Darth Vader eventually tells Luke, in a battle in Empire Strikes Back, that he is Luke’s father. (If you know one thing, you probably know this.) In the same fight, Luke’s right hand gets chopped off by a lightsaber (those laser swords). Eventually, Luke gets a fantastic prosthetic hand and has a rematch with Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi, where Vader redeems himself by saving Luke from the even more evil Emperor, and then dies shortly after.
6. There’s a debate about whether ‘Han Solo shot first.’
Han, a smuggler-turned-good guy worthy of Leia’s affections in the original films, is introduced about halfway through A New Hope in a cantina. While in the cantina, he’s approached by a bounty hunter called Greedo and the two have a confrontation. In the 1977 theatrical version of Star Wars, Han fires before Greedo gets the chance to shoot at Han. In later versions of the movie, the scene is changed to show the two shooting at the same time, or Greedo firing a split-second before Han. This edited scene has spurred much debate among Star Wars fans, because many think that it’s important for Han to have shot first, in order for his character arc (going from not-so-nice guy to hero) to be better. Creator George Lucas disagrees.
7. Droids R2-D2 and C-3PO are BFFs. BB-8 is in Episodes VII and VIII. K-2SO is the droid in Rogue One.
R2-D2 (the late Kenny Baker) is a spunky and loyal little robot who fights, decodes, fixes and makes adorable sounds. His counterpart C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) is a humanlike protocol droid fluent in many languages. He often worries about (and pokes fun at) R-2, in his fancy butler-like voice. Both droids are in all of the live-action Star Wars movies. K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) is the giant, sarcastic droid star of Rogue One. BB-8 is a clever droid that makes his first appearance in The Force Awakens and looks like a beach ball, while also being treated like man’s (specifically Poe’s) best friend.
One more thing: When people say the line “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” they are quoting Obi-Wan in the first Star Wars, who, via Force, convinces Stormtroopers (bad guys in white helmets) not to take R2-D2 and C-3PO.
8. Chewbacca and Han Solo are BFFs.
Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) are still best pals in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens.’ (Photo: Lucasfilm)
Han flies his Falcon with co-pilot Chewbacca, nicknamed “Chewie.” Chewie is a 7-foot-tall Wookiee, a hairy, bipedal mammal who speaks in growls. The two encounter Luke and Obi-Wan, a Jedi master, in a cantina in A New Hope (the same one Han shot Greedo in), and go on to join them, and later Leia, in Rebel attacks against the evil Empire.
9. Leia loves Han. He knows.
After being too shy to admit their love for one another, Leia does eventually tell the “scoundrel” (as she calls him) Han that she loves him, before he gets frozen in carbonite in Empire Strikes Back. His memorable response? “I know.” Leia gets to say the “I know” line back to Han in Return of the Jedi.
10. Han and Leia had a child: Kylo Ren. Not a nice guy.
Kylo Ren has his lightsaber ready against Finn and Rey in ‘The Force Awakens.’ (Photo: Lucasfilm)
In the time between Episode VI and Episode VII, Han and Leia had a child, Kylo Ren (Driver). Kylo is a big fan of his maternal grandfather, Darth Vader, and wants to finish what Vader started. Unlike his mom and uncle (Luke, who tried to give him Jedi training), Kylo has embraced the dark side of the Force, and winds up killing his father. Note: Children watching their parents die is a theme in Star Wars.
11. Jar Jar Binks: Not a fan favorite.
OK, now back to the prequel films: We encounter the good-hearted, amphibious Jar Jar Binks, a Gungan, in The Phantom Menace. People actively dislike this guy. Though apparently meant to be a funny sidekick, Jar Jar is more often perceived as the worst character of the franchise, whose clumsiness gets him and his crew (Padmé and Jedis Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn) into trouble. Jar Jar is naive, sounds Jamaican, has a unique dialect (saying “Meesa” instead of “I”) and is the subject of conspiracy theories. Fans saw less of the CGI character in subsequent films.
12. When people purposefully sound dyslexic, they are likely quoting Yoda.
Have you heard people say things like, “Patience you must have, my young Padawan,” or “Powerful you have become”? Those are Yoda quotes. (By the way, “Padawan” basically means a Jedi-in-training.) The wise Yoda, though elderly and small, is one of the most powerful Jedi masters in the universe. He appears in both prequel and original Star Wars films (he’s hundreds of years old), most notably teaching Luke, the franchise hero, how to harness the Force.
13. ‘May the Force be with you.’
This is a Star Wars phrase often used as a way to say “goodbye and good luck.” On fan holiday Star Wars Day, which takes place on May 4, Jedi faithful say “May the 4th be with you.” Get it?
More: What you need to know about ‘The Last Jedi’ and the franchise’s future
Also: The definitive ranking of all 9 ‘Star Wars’ movies, including ‘The Last Jedi’
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