Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Your Guide to a Galaxy Far, Far Away [Contributor: Melanie]

And here come the part where I show just how big of a Star Wars nerd I am. It’s almost time, kids. The Force Awakens is upon us and I’m here to be your guru through the vast world and mythology of Star Wars. As someone who just had to introduce two friends to the films in the past few weeks (and, for one, the extent of the Skywalker family tree was — apparently — a spoiler, so I’m not sure how she got free of the rock she’s been living under), I’m quite equipped to help you navigate the story, characters, and vocabulary just in time to convince your friends you’re not a band wagon jumper.

So, let us dive right into your crash course. While I can’t really condense 13 hours of film into a few paragraphs, we can at least start with some basics:

The Basics (So You Don’t Look Like a Noob):

Star Wars spans about 40 years or so of story centered around Anakin Skywalker and his family. Anakin was a highly skilled Jedi and the supposed stuff of prophecy before he fell in love (that’s a no-no for Jedi) and feared the loss of his wife. He gave in to some unfortunate temptation and became Darth Vader — a Sith Lord (they’re like the Jedi’s spiritual opposites) — and did a lot of evil things.

Enter: Luke and Leia, Anakin’s twin children who were essentially orphaned after their mother died in childbirth and were adopted in secret. They separately join a rebellion against the ruling government, the Galactic Empire. While Luke’s a proficient Jedi, Leia’s more attuned to political climates and battle strategy. Together, they — with their smuggler friend Han Solo and loyal droids R2-D2 and C-3P0 — play an integral part in overthrowing the Empire and restoring the once heroic Anakin before his death.

It’s a little complicated considering familial ties and dynamics intertwine with political climate, but that’s the gist of the first six movies.

Words to Know (In Alphabetical Order): 

The Clone Wars: 
A galactic civil war between the Army of the Republic and the Separatists who wished to leave the Republic. It is commonly referred to as the Clone Wars due to the Republic use of a clone army that, eventually, became the Storm Troopers of the Empire.

Dark Side: 
A school of thought and method of teaching within Force sensitives that utilizes emotions such as anger, fear, and aggression for the user’s personal gain. Often affiliated with the Sith.

Death Star/Death Star II: 
The Death Star was a large space station built by the Empire, armed with the ability to destroy entire planets. It was destroyed by Luke Skywalker on behalf of the Rebellion. The Death Star II was an incomplete attempt to replace the first one.

The Force:
A spiritual power that permeates all of creation. It is a power harnessed by Force sensitives, who often split into the schools of either Jedi or Sith.

Force Sensitive: 
A person who is highly attuned to the Force and able to manipulate it. During the time of the Galactic Senate, a Force sensitive would be trained as a Jedi from an early age. During the rule of the Galactic Empire, Jedi and untrained Force sensitives were hunted down and killed to prevent possible rivals to the Sith emperor (known as the Jedi Purge).

Galactic Empire: 
A galaxy-wide government founded and ruled over by Emperor Palpatine, a trained Sith Lord disguised as a senator, that replaced the Galactic Republic after the Clone Wars.

Galactic Republic: 
A galaxy-wide government founded thousands of years before the beginning of the story. It was ruled by the Galactic Senate and the elected Supreme Chancellor. It was disbanded after the conclusion of the Clone Wars and the Jedi Purge.

A Jedi is a Force sensitive trained by the monastic Jedi Order from a young age to harness the power of the Force for meditation, physical movement, and lightsaber combat. They are affiliated with the Light side of the Force. One begins as a Padawan learner, before facing the Trials and rising to the rank of Jedi Knight. If one is particularly skilled, they become a Jedi Master. The majority of Jedi were killed during and shortly after the Jedi Purge after the fall of the Republic.

Traditionally the weapon of a Jedi — though Sith utilize them too. It is a glowing sword powered by unique crystals in the hilt.

Light Side: 
A school of thought and method of teaching within Force sensitives that utilizes order and compassion for the common good and self defense. Often affiliated with the Jedi Order.

The Rebel Alliance: 
An alliance of planets dedicated to the cause of overthrowing the Empire. Key members included Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo, among others.

A Sith is a Force sensitive trained to utilize the Force by means of aggression for personal gain. Affiliated with the Dark side, Sith adhere to the Rule of Two — one master and one apprentice — and exist only in one pair at a time.

Storm Trooper: 
The foot soldiers of the Empire, formally clones secretly grown for the Republic as an army before the Empire was born.

People to Know (Who Knows, Some of Them Might Be Showing Up in the Movie):

Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader (Jake Lloyd, Hayden Christensen, Sebastian Shaw, James Earl Jones):
A gifted Jedi who becomes corrupted by the Dark side of the Force. While Anakin and Darth Vader inhabit the same body — thanks to some need to retcon in Empire Strikes Back — Vader and Anakin are considered two separate people and not interchangeable names (if it’s Hayden Christensen and smiling, it’s Anakin; if it’s a mouth breather in black armor, it’s Vader). Just before his death in an effort to save his son, Anakin was restored and Darth Vader destroyed.

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill): 
The elder twin and an equally proficient Jedi Knight. He was adopted by his step-uncle and raised in obscurity as a farmer in the desert before being sucked into the conflict of the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. He resists the same temptation his father succumbed to and restores the spirit of Anakin Skywalker before his father dies protecting him from his the emperor.

Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher): 
The younger twin — a Force sensitive, a former senator, and a commanding officer of the Rebel Alliance. Leia was adopted by the royal family of Alderaan where she was trained in politics by her father. She’s a founding member of the Rebel Alliance and a budding Jedi in training by the end of Return of the Jedi. She is the less forgiving of the two when it comes to Anakin and, as of The Force Awakens, is known as General Organa.

Han Solo (Harrison Ford): 
A smuggler for hire who becomes entangled in the conflict when he helps get Luke off his home planet while pursued by the Empire. He reluctantly joins the Rebellion as a captain and then general. He’s a gifted pilot and sharpshooter, though skeptical about the Force and often gets in bar fights.

Chewie (Peter Mayhew):
Chewbacca is a big old furry teddy bear. Actually he’s a Wookie and Han’s best friend and co-pilot. He also served as a soldier in the Clone Wars under the command of Jedi Grand Master Yoda.

C-3P0 and R2-D2 (Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker): 
Two droids who are unwittingly always together and dragged along into various conflicts throughout all six films. Threepeo was, unknowingly, the creation of a young Anakin while R2-D2 was a mechanic assistant on a ship that was carrying the future mother of Luke and Leia.

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor, Alec Guinness): 
The Jedi who trained Anakin and is responsible for his severe wounds requiring that hunking black armor and life support. He mentors Luke for a time as well before he faces Vader again and allows himself to be killed so Luke may move forward in his training.

Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious (Ian McDiramid): 
A former senator and skilled Sith Lord who effortlessly took over the senate when he was elected Supreme Chancellor. He initiated the Clone Wars in secret, carefully laid the framework for the Empire, disbanded the senate, and had the Jedi murdered. He was a friend and mentor to Anakin Skywalker before becoming the master to Darth Vader.


Star Wars Legends:
Originally known as the Star Wars Expanded Universe, this is a line of books, graphic novels, and film novelizations that began back in the late 70s as supplementary content to the films. It was deemed canon by Lucas and considered the true extension of the story by fans for decades. With Disney’s acquisition of the franchise and now parallel film content, this has been rebranded as Star Wars Legends. For the sake of story comparisons, it might be something interesting to check out and to make sure you don’t confuse the movie-verse with the traditional one.

As far as I can tell, that’s all you need to know to go in to The Force Awakens this week. Though I would suggest you find some time to suck it up and binge in the first six films (or at least V-VI). May the Force be with you all!


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