A Beginners Guide to 'Star Wars' to Help Non-Fans Get Excited for 'The Force Awakens'

by John Boone 2:15 PM PST, December 15, 2015
Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd

Can you believe a new Star Wars movie is landing in theaters this week?

We don’t think it will hit us until we’re sitting in our seat and that iconic text starts scrolling up the screen. But we're Star Wars fans! Maybe you want to see The Force Awakens too, but know nothing about the previous six films. Maybe you’re Emily Blunt. Either way, we have answers to all the questions you didn’t even know you needed to ask.

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What is Star Wars? A sci-fi series about a galaxy far, far away made up of the original trilogy from the late ‘70s to early ‘80s (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi) and three prequel films (Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith), released from 1999 to 2005. That is: Even though they were made later, Episode I to III come first in the story’s chronology. All six sprung from the genius mind of George Lucas, who is only credited as a “creative consultant” on Force Awakens, while J.J. Abrams takes over the directing duties.

Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd

What is The Force? What is The Dark Side? Here is where things could get complicated, but you'll be fine if you know the broad strokes. Basically, The Force is an energy that connects all living things. Also, it’s a metaphysical power that can be tapped into for good or for evil.

The noble warriors who use The Force for good are called Jedis. Jedi train to achieve heightened senses and abilities and eventually fight alongside the Rebels. (Trick of the trade: Jedis usually have lightsabers with blue or green beams.)

Those who tap into The Dark Side -- the side of The Force that feeds off negative emotions -- are called Sith. The Sith work for the evil Galactic Empire, and use The Dark Side for personal gain and to conquer the galaxy. (The Sith lightsabers are generally red, or similar.)

Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd

Who is Luke Skywalker? The protagonist of the original trilogy. Luke (played by Mark Hamill) was raised by his aunt and uncle on the desert planet Tatooine, thinking his parents had been killed. Eventually, he is lured into the intergalactic war by Master Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi, who trains Luke in the Jedi ways. Luke leads the Rebels to victory over the Galactic Empire in Return of the Jedi.

MORE: Every Famous Person Ever Reveals Favorite 'Star Wars' Character

Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd

Who is Darth Vader? In his own words to Luke, “I am your father.” Once a promising Jedi named Anakin Skywalker (as played by Hayden Christensen in the prequel films) who was prophesied to bring balance to The Force, Anakin succumbs to The Dark Side and works for the Galactic Empire. He meets his demise in Return of the Jedi, saving Luke's life in the process and proving that there was still some Light left in him, after all.

Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd

Who is Princess Leia? Luke’s twin sister, though neither knew it until later in life. Daughter of Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala, Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan (Carrie Fisher), as she’s formally known, is adopted into royalty. At various points in the trilogy, she is a spy, a soldier, and a diplomat, but is always generally badass. We already know that she’s dropping the princess moniker for Force Awakens and is now General Leia.

Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd

Who is Han Solo? Only one of the best movie characters of all time. But here are the the specifics: Han Solo (made iconic by Harrison Ford) is a smuggler who pilots the infamous Millennium Falcon. He has a best friend, a Wookiee co-pilot named Chewbacca (“Chewie”), and eventually falls in love with Leia. Oh, and his aim with a blaster is not bad, to say the least.

Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd

What About the Rest? R2-D2? C-3PO? As far as the droids are concerned, just know that the bumbling duo helped Luke, Leia, and Han throughout the original trilogy. (Now C-3PO has a red arm, though!) Other characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, you’ll be fine not knowing about. That’s about it. You DEFINITELY don’t need to know anything about Jar Jar Binks.

Now, if you’re worried about Star Wars: The Force Awakens spoilers, don’t worry. J.J. Abrams tells ET, “You haven’t seen anything!”