What’s A Star War? An Expert Explains ‘Star Wars’ To A Novice
Andrew Wheeler doesn't know much about Star Wars, except for all the random trivia he's absorbed by being conscious in a culture saturated by Star Wars. He saw the original movies when he was a kid, but never since. His favorite character was a pencil-top eraser of a green pig in a hat. He once saw some of the pod-racing scene from The Phantom Menace because it was playing on a TV in a department store. But he's probably going to go see the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, because John Boyega rocks the heck out of a purple suit.
Dylan Todd knows possibly everything about Star Wars. He writers the All For The Wookiee recaps for ComicsAlliance, he actually liked the prequels, he knows what a bossk is, and he's one of those people marathoning all six of the original movies before seeing the new one.
Most people probably fall somewhere between the two of them in terms of knowledge and passion about Star Wars, so in order to help those with less-than-perfect knowledge of the franchise to prepare for The Force Awakens, Dylan has agreed to answer some of Andrew's probably stupid questions about the original trilogy, the prequels, and what to expect from the new movie.
This article does not contain spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (But a couple of rumors get a mention.)
Andrew: OK Dylan, here's what I remember from the original trilogy. The good guys won; the bad guys died; everyone got a medal. Is there anything else I need to know? Something about the Force awakening? Was the Force sleeping?
Dylan: That’s pretty much the gist of it. (Except Chewbacca --- the hairy space Bigfoot --- didn’t get a medal.) The only other thing I’d add in there is the concept of the hippy-dippy energy that binds all of creation together called The Force.
In olden times, people could use Force for good or evil ends. The Good Forcers were, for a time, called Jedi. The bad Force users were, again, for a time, called the Sith. The Sith Lord Darth Sidious, through subterfuge and outright deception, became Emperor of the galaxy until his apprentice, Darth Vader, teamed up with a plucky farm boy named Luke Skywalker who turned out to be, spoilers: his son, and they threw him down the ventilation shaft of the Empire’s super-weapon, a moon-sized battle-station called The Death Star. (Well, technically it was a second, smaller, Death Star.) Then there was a celebration with little man-eating teddy bears.
With the Sith eliminated (Darth Vader died shortly after throwing his evil Force-boss down the shaft), and Luke the only active Force user around, the Force was, in theory, balanced. As to when or why it was asleep enough to require an awakening, I guess we’ll have to wait and see when the movie premieres, though I have my theories. They’re scrawled on napkins that are pinned to a wall with string going from napkin to napkin. It’s very horrifying.
Andrew: OK; it's been 32 years since Return of the Jedi. Is this movie set 32 years after that one? Do we know what's been happening during that time?
Dylan: Yeah, it’s 32 years later and time has worn away at all of us as we march slowly to the grave. As far as what’s been going on, we know bits and pieces. Both the Greg Rucka/Marco Checchetto comics miniseries Shattered Empire and the Chuck Wendig-penned novel Aftermath told us that, while the Emperor’s death brought balance to the Force, the war with the Empire was far from over, with holdouts from the Empire wreaking havoc before retreating to a far corner of the galaxy to regroup and plot their next move. Also, the Force got sleepy and took a nap, apparently.
Andrew: I have literally never seen the Prequels, and I feel OK about that, but is there anything in there that I should know? Is Jar-Jar Binks going to be in this movie? He seems like fun.
Dylan: Jar-Jar is… there’s worse characters in fiction, I guess. Julie Taylor from Friday Night Lights comes to mind. I’m not one of those people who hates him, but I also would not necessarily throw myself in front of a moving landspeeder if it was about to hit him. Sorry, Jar-Jar.
I doubt the Prequels will have a whole lot of bearing on The Force Awakens, as Disney has distanced itself from that era as they lead up to the new movies. There are rumors floating around that Darth Sidious/The Emperor’s old Sith boss, Darth Plagueis, will play a part in the new films, but I think that’s just wishful thinking for pre-Disney Star Wars nerds.
Andrew: OK, quick aside; What’s a Darth?
Dylan: It's a title bestowed on a Sith. Like Sir for a knight.
I actually like the Prequels, even though I can admit that they have their fair share of glaring flaws. I’d also recommend the Cartoon Network Clone Wars animated series to anybody who wants to see a lot of the Prequel themes handled in a much more elegant way. Or if you’re looking for something more “Original Trilogy flavored,” a lot of the same creators are working on Star Wars: Rebels, an animated series showing the early days of the Rebellion.
But yeah, I’m not expecting a lot of Prequel love out of the new movies and I’m not exactly lamenting that fact.
Andrew: Your mention of pre- and post-Disney Star Wars brings me to my next question. What is the 'Expanded Universe', and do I in any way actually need to know the answer to that question?
Dylan: The Expanded Universe refers to the pre-Disney mountain of comics, novels, short stories, games and toys that formed an ad hoc continuity around the original movies. The EU mapped out the history of the Star Wars universe from thousands of years before the 1977 Star Wars film to a generation or two after Return of the Jedi.
Starting in 1991 with the publication of the first of Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy novels, the universe blossomed out from there, with new characters, planets, children, enemies and adventures bolted on as it went. Like any cobbled together universe, it contradicts itself, sets up things that are eventually rendered obsolete by more “official” canon, and was almost impossible to navigate without some sort of wiki. Also like any cobbled together universe, a lot of it is not very good. (I’m looking at you, Dash Rendar.)
By the time Disney had purchased the property, there were very few corners left unexplored, leaving very little room to let top shelf talent like JJ Abrams maneuver as Disney began crafting new films to fit alongside the Prequels, and, more importantly, the original Trilogy. So, they junked it, much to the chagrin of fans who had spent time and money and effort learning all this history for a fictional universe..
TL/DR: There’s some good stuff in the now-defunct Expanded Universe --- and most of it is still in print under the “Legends” banner --- but as far as anything that might clue you in to where the films might be going, it’s not "important," in that regard. Also, Dash Rendar sucks.
Andrew: The new movie looks promising, but I think people said that about the Prequels as well; even the third one, when they'd already been disappointed twice. Should we really be excited about this one?
Dylan: I am literally the worst person to ask about this, as I was/still am one of those people who enjoyed every Prequel even as I sat in the theater, knowing they were very, very flawed. I am, as the wrestling kids say, a mark for Star Wars. But the early reviews are overwhelmingly positive, JJ Abrams is a solid (if divisive) creator, and John Boyega rocks the heck out of a purple suit.
Andrew: Will this movie feature a Star War?
Dylan: I would bet good money that this movie will, in fact include at least two Star Wars.
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