A novice’s primer on the Force

It all still happens in a galaxy far, far away. Different planets with widely differing dress codes are represented in a galactic Parliament, though some are monarchs. And there are rebels. So there’s a war on, and there are good guys and bad guys. The general weapon of choice, among the elite warriors anyway, is the lightsaber: a sword made of some kind of laser. The good guys have blue beams and the bad guys have red ones.

You can safely skip the prequel trilogy (or find the 10-minute YouTube clip summary), which was made long after the first (1977 to 1983).

All you need to know is that in it a planetary queen and a young Jedi knight fall in love and engender a child who will be a young man by the start of the proper trilogy, which begins with Star Wars itself (later renamed Episode IV: A New Hope) and continues with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, in order of chronological appearance and declining interest as narrative entertainment.

It’s all about the war between a rapacious empire and the good guys, the Jedi, who control a mysterious Force. In the first trilogy the Force is weakened by the bad guys; in the second it’s starting to come back to life, and the good guys eventually destroy the baddies –  or most of them.

In the new episode, subtitled The Force Awakens, it’s 30 years since we last saw the world of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and space pilot Han Solo, but the war is still on. As Wookieepedia informs us: “A New Republic [good guys] has arisen, but the First Order [bad guys] has sprung from the ashes of the Galactic Empire.”


The old stars return: Mark Hamill (Luke), Carrie Fisher (Leia) and Harrison Ford (Solo) of the humans, plus Chewbacca the wookiee and the robots C-3PO and R2-D2 from the 1977 movie. We will also see a scene that recalls the famous Mos Eisley Cantina, where a gallimaufry of different species from different planets gather photogenically. Jar Jar Binks, a much-detested computer-generated character from the prequels, will not reappear.

Who’s the hero, you say? Well, there are a few. Apart from the oldies, who’ll mostly be back-up heroes, there’s fighter pilot Poe Dameron; Finn, a First Order stormtrooper who has changed sides; a female scavenger named Rey; and a “rolling droid”, BB-8. One or more of these may turn out to be children of the Leia-Han union (end of Episode VI), or perhaps a child of Luke’s whose origins have yet to be explained.

Villains? One Kylo Ren represents the “dark side”; Captain Phasma leads the First Order baddies. Kylo Ren has a new-design light-saber (red). Whatever else, we know that a Star Wars movie will have great special effects. Even the crap ones did.

Read more from Shaun de Waal or follow him on Twitter

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Author Shaun de Waal
Shaun De Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week.

Related stories

‘May the Fourth Be With You’ – fans celebrate Star Wars Day

May 4 is globally recognised as Star Wars day as a result of a pun between the popular phrase "May the force be with you" and May the fourth.

Forbes: Women actors are “best value”

From US actor Scarlett Johansson to Jennifer Lawrence, Forbes names the top five “best actors for the buck” 2015 list,

Jacob Zuma cancels Christmas

Star Wars as The Wrecker fires Santa

Star Wars film location back on Tunisia’s tourist map

Tunisia hopes the landscape that provided the backdrop to George Lucas's "Star Wars" films will again attract tourists as it inches towards democracy.

Disney to draw shutters on LucasArts

Walt Disney Co plans to shut the 30-year-old LucasArts studio it inherited with the acquisition of George Lucas' film company last year.

Carrie Fisher to play Prince Leia in Star Wars sequel

More than four decades after first playing Princess Leia, the actor confirms she will be returning for the seventh film in the blockbuster series.
Advertising

Western Cape warned not to be complacent about flat-lining Covid-19...

The Western Cape, which once had the highest number of Covid-19 cases in South Africa, is seeing a steady decline in active cases

Sisulu axes another water board

Umgeni Water’s board in KwaZulu-Natal was appointed irregularly by her predecessor, the water and sanitation minister claims
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday