So you have to go see the new Star Wars this weekend, and you’re in way over your head. Maybe you’ve recently clarified to your friends, ‘oh, this is the one with Chris Pine as Spock, right?’ or confidently declared that you love that little ball-robot guy PB8*.
*This one courtesy of my daughter, Lucy. I cannot get her to stop calling him PB8. She also calls R2D2 ‘Toby’
Worry no more, you beautiful non-nerd. You’ve got the help of this nerd to break down the basics of the Star Wars universe and nutshell the last movie so you’re not completely lost watching this one. Yes, I know – doing the Lord’s work. You can send thanks in the forms of aggressive retweets and maybe some nudes.
Setting the Groundwork
If you already have a solid grip on what happened in the Star Wars ‘verse before the new installments, skip this, save yourself some time. Go right on to the next segment. Otherwise, welcome. Allow me to indoctrinate you.
Alright, so as is evident by the title, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was the seventh installment of the Star Wars series. (I recognize there are other movies, like Rogue One, but for the sake of simplification we’re not gonna get into that. Please refrain from emailing us about it.) Don’t worry; you’re not about to read seven movies’ worth of recap. All you really need to know here is that there is something called the Force that runs through the entire universe. The Force is balanced by the Dark Side and the Light Side, which can be broken down into evil (dark) and good (light). There are a select few people who can commune with and, to some degree, control the Force. In the earlier films, those with this capability on the Light Side were called Jedi, and those with this capability on the Dark Side were called Sith.
Now. There was this guy, Anakin Skywalker, who began as a Jedi (Light Side) but was seduced to the dark side by a bad hombre (Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine). He took on the nomer Darth Vader, officially became a Sith Lord, and proceeded to fuck shit up. He even killed younglings.
Before going all naughty, however, Darth Vader manages to knock up his kinda-secret wife, Padme Amidala, with twins. She promptly dies because sure, okay, and the twins are separated. They turn out to be Luke and Leia Skywalker, and after a whole bunch of other stuff, including a brief moment of light incest, they figure out their familial ties and are reunited. Luke is a Jedi and Leia is a badass and while all this is going on Vader is still out there fucking shit up and carrying out Sidious’ plan to destroy the galaxy, at least until Luke kills him.
Incest, patricide, and kind of matricide – the movies have it all!
This messes up all of Sidious’ plans and basically Luke saves the galaxy with the help of resident hottie Han Solo, who winds up with Leia, and a whole host of other characters that are awesome but I’m not gonna name. If you don’t know who Chewbacca is, there’s really not much I can do for you anyway.
Now I’ve broken down the recap for the most chronologically recent movie, Star Wars VII, into two versions: short and long. The long one got… really really long, so if you’re pressed for time/have a short attention span, go to the short. If you actually like this stuff and wanna read more, skip to the long and also slide into my DM’s cuz you’re my kinda person.
SW VII: Short Recap
Essentially, Han Solo and Leia made a baby together. This baby turned out to be Kylo Ren, the Dark Sider who turned on Luke Skywalker and caused him to abdicate his ‘wise Jedi master’ title and go into hiding. Now Kylo Ren works for Snoke, the leader of the evil First Order, and intends to find Luke Skywalker at all costs using a map missing one piece. The missing piece is hidden in a droid, BB8, and both the Resistance and the First Order want to find it.
Rey is a scavenger from the middle of nowhere and she runs into BB8. BB8 shows her the missing map piece. Kylo Ren and Rey have a run-in on a different planet, where Kylo Ren uses his abilities to see into her mind and discover she’s seen the map piece. He takes her with him, attempts to pull the map piece straight from her mind, and fails. During this, Rey discovers she, too, can control the Force.
Meanwhile, the Resistance is hard at work mobilizing to destroy the First Order’s weapon, Starkiller Base. They send a crack team comprised of Han Solo, Chewy, and Finn to go upset the power source on Starkiller Base. This trio runs into Rey. They separate to fulfill the objective, and Han Solo ends up facing off with Kylo Ren, his son. It’s a tender moment, but ultimately Ren murders the heck out of him and it’s devastating. Karma is swift, however, and a lightsaber fight between Rey and Kylo Ren ensues, with Rey besting Kylo Ren. Before she can kill him, the Resistance pilots succeed in destroying Starkiller Base’s power source, and the planet itself begins to crumble. An ensuing rift in the earth separates Rey and Kylo Ren, and he lives.
The movie ends with Rey ascending a remote mountain in the middle of nowhere to find Luke Skywalker, old and robed. She extends the lightsaber towards him and it ends. Badabing badaboom, you gotta badass sci-fi movie. You’re welcome. Go forth and prosper.
SW VII: Long Recap
Okay, so the last time we saw the Skywalkers, they were young and the universe was at peace. Fast forward. Like, a bunch. It’s 2015 and Disney owns Star Wars and shit is going down; if you’ve ever watched the TV show Girls you’re about to be in for a really wild, weird ride.
Remember this face. This is the face of angsty evil.
So this movie opens with Luke having disappeared from the galaxy. There’s a new evil government called the First Order desperately searching for him so they can kill him and put an end to the Jedi once and for all. On the flip side of this, you’ve got Leia, Luke’s sister, who is a General now and spearheading the Resistance, a rebellion against the First Order. She also wants to find Luke but for the opposite reason: to restore the Jedi and maybe get another lil incesty kiss, I dunno, I don’t judge.
Anyway, she sends her top pilot, new resident hottie Poe (Oscar Isaacs, if you needed a reason beyond this half-assed synopsis to actually see the movie) to a planet called Jakku. His mission is to retrieve a piece of a map – a map that leads to Luke Skywalker. He and his droid, BB8, set off in his cool plane and succeed in the mission, getting the map piece from a mysterious old guy and then attempting to set off. Before he can, the First Order lands on the planet and Storm Troopers pour out, shooting at everyone – I mean just everyone, it’s a bloodbath. Poe makes a run for it but they shoot his plane before he can escape; his solution is to hide the map piece inside BB8, who goes rolling away into the dark sand dunes.
It’s all bad enough already, but still we see a dark, masked figure with major ‘Evil Villain’ vibes step out of a ship – this is Kylo Ren, who’s a modern twist on a Sith lord. There are no more Sith lords; instead there are the Knights of Ren, Dark Siders who work for First Order Supreme Leader Snoke.
Kylo Ren makes his entrance and Poe seizes the opportunity, attempting to pick him off with a sniper shot. Kylo Ren easily parries the shot using the Force (which is cool as heck) and Poe is taken hostage aboard Kylo Ren’s shuttle. Bummer.
I so would.
Kylo Ren uses the Force to read Poe’s mind and finds out that he’s given the map piece to BB8. He’s got a new objective : find the droid. This shifted focus has him leaving Poe unattended, which means he’s primed for being rescued. Finn is a Storm Trooper with a heart of gold who comes to his rescue. His motivation for helping Poe is solely to get away from the First Order. They steal a ship and Poe, obviously the pilot, takes it right back to Jakku, which gives Finn an metaphorical ulcer. Unfortunately they’re shot out of the sky and we see Finn emerging from his parachute relatively unscathed, whereas the sand swallows the ship up and presumably Poe along with it.
Meanwhile, we meet Rey. She’s just living her life as an impoverished scavenger on the ‘junkyard’ planet of Jakku. She’s rescued BB8 from a fellow scavenger and has taken him into town with her, where a First Order informant spots him and relays their whereabouts. This slaps a target on Rey’s back, too. She ends up besting a handful of randos in combat and saving BB8 again, which is where Finn first finds her. They team up to escape the First Order’s reach and enact a hasty plot to steal a ship and flee the planet altogether. The ship they wind up stealing is the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo’s old freighter, a reveal that had dorks everywhere creaming their pants.
Unfortunately for one of the First Order’s lackeys, BB8’s escape means that he’s got to tell Kylo Ren they failed at their mission. Kylo Ren’s response to this is to have a lightsaber hissy fit, which seems way more cathartic than binge drinking an entire bottle of Cupcake wine as you hate-watch A Christmas Prince for the third time.
“What royal family would hire a tutor without a goddamned background check?!“
The Millennium Falcon gets swallowed up by a bigger, badder cargo ship that turns out to be piloted by the man, the myth, the legend himself, Han Solo. He and Chewy, his wookie PIC, wind up enlisting Rey, Finn, and BB8’s help to escape some intergalactic debt collectors and they all escape on the Falcon. Through casual conversation we learn that Luke Skywalker disappeared after his attempt to train a new crop of Jedi failed: one Jedi student turned to the Dark Side and turned against him, Luke blamed himself, said ‘FUCK IT,’ and went into hiding. We also learn that Rey refuses to leave Jakku for good since she’s waiting on her family to come back – the family that abandoned her when she was a child. She does not know their names.
When the Falcon lands it’s on a verdant planet with a castle/pub thing. They have a meeting with Maz, an Edna Mode-esque orange alien, and Rey has her first real taste of the Force: a lightsaber kept in the bowels of the building calls to her, and she ‘sees’ Kylo Ren in some sort of Force-manifest vision. She doesn’t have to wait too long to see him in person, since within moments the First Order is landing on the planet – someone in the bar had seen BB8 and tipped them off.
We get to see Finn fight another Storm Trooper, which is pretty cool, and Rey shoot a blaster-type gun, which is also cool, but then she’s promptly found and captured by Kylo Ren who uses the Force to knock her out and carries her, bridal style, onto his sinister and awesome ship. The Resistance shows up in a quick, dirty airstrike led by none other than Poe, who survived the crash, but they’re too late to save Rey. They do manage to recover BB8 and with him, the piece of the map.
A modern romance
Major exposition happens when Leia and Han Solo are reunited: Kylo Ren’s proper name is Ben Solo, and he is their son. He was the Jedi-in-training who was seduced by the dark, and his betrayal is the reason Luke packed off and said ‘screw all yall, I’m done.’ Leia believes that there is good in him yet: she implores Han to go bring him home. She also tasks them with destroying the powersource for Starkiller Base, which by the way is also a thing. Starkiller is the Death Star 2.0, and it is wielded by the First Order and can annihilate everything. It is powered by the freaking sun. If the First Order can’t find Luke Skywalker, their plan is to just use Starkiller Base on the Resistance and squish the whole rebellion. Han, Finn, and Chewy are sent to knock it out of commission.
Despite Leia’s beliefs, Kylo Ren is proving he is not good as he interrogates Rey. He’s attempting to use his sick Dark Side powers to simply pluck the map out of her mind, but guess what, sucker: Rey’s got the Force, too. She uses it to keep him out of her mind, meaning he has to go awkwardly confess to Supreme Leader Snoke that he can’t get the map from the girl’s mind and oh, he also let the droid get away, right into Resistance hands. Bummer.
While he’s giving this tense confession, Rey tests out her ‘powers’ by forcing the guard watching over her to set her free, drop his weapon, and give her the chance to escape. It works; she escapes and by the time Kylo Ren returns to finish what he’d started, he finds her gone. Another tantrum ensues. I lowkey love his tantrums.
Rey’s escape sends her running right into Han and crew, and they split up to handle the whole disabling-Starkiller thing. Unfortunately ,the next time they all lay eyes on each other again is to witness the Han Solo and Kylo Ren reunion, which doesn’t go as well as the Han Solo and Leia reunion, mainly because Kylo Ren kills the absolute eff out of Han Solo. It’s freaking devastating, and oh, also, Starkiller Base is all charged up now and ready to wreck some planets.
Knock knock, it’s me, here to wreck ur planet
The Resistance’s only hope now is to essentially shoot the crap out of Starkiller Base so it can’t do it’s destructo-magic, and we see Poe leading a squadron of ships in to pew-pew-pew where it counts. While this is going on, Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren are sparring in the snow outside, though it quickly becomes a one-on-one when Kylo Ren incapacitates Finn. It’s a pretty sick lightsaber battle but the end result is that Rey bests Kylo Ren, slashing him harshly across the face and dealing a few other injuries, leaving him bleeding in the snow. Before she can finish the job, the Resistance succeeds in utterly wrecking Starkiller Base and the ground begins to split open into rivers of lava. One of these rifts rips open in between Rey and Kylo Ren, separating them, but you can tell by the intensity of the glares and also the close-up shots that it is far from over.
The movie ends with Rey finally accepting her fate. She returns to the Resistance base, hugs Leia for a long time in a silent heartbreaking moment of understanding, and then they finally boot up Luke Skywalker’s old droid, R2D2… Who had the rest of the map the whole time. BB8 adds in the missing piece, and Rey and Chewy set off to find the lost Jedi.
The final scene of the film is Rey, standing atop a remote mountain, handing Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber back to him.
You’re ready now. Go watch and enjoy. May the Force be with you.