Star Wars 101: a beginners guide

by Glenn Maxwell

Since 1977, Star Wars has captivated audiences around the globe. George Lucas’ iconic creation has spawned follow-on films, several TV series, and innumerable memorabilia and toys.

Every now and then, you’ll hear about someone who bagged a bargain on their Star Wars trinket only to sell it on for a fortune. And some have watched the recent Mandalorian series and have since invested in a Mandalorian helmet so that they too can be like the bounty hunter.

But what is it about this franchise that makes it a collector’s dream? Why do popular films and TV shows continue to make references to the original films all these years on?

If you’re a Star Wars novice but you want to join the fandom, read on for a whistle-stop tour of this galaxy far, far away.

What is Star Wars about?

Star Wars is a space opera – a melodrama in space. We’re told from the beginning that we’re not in our galaxy anymore, setting the scene for alien landscapes and unusual creatures.

We follow Luke Skywalker, a man who is caught up in a war between Rebel forces and the dictatorial empire when he has to save Princess Leia. She’s being kept prisoner by the intimidating Darth Vader, a Supreme Commander of the Empire. Luke teams up with Han Solo, a smuggler, to rescue the princess.

Luke wants to become a Jedi. The Jedi are a group that uses the Force, a metaphysical, spiritual, power that binds the galaxy together. It is used by both the Jedi knights and the Sith – the group that used the dark side of the Force for their evil activities.

This is the basic premise. From there, different parts of the story have been told. In more recent films, we jump around time to discover what led to the events of the first film.

The characters

Key characters that feature across the different films are:

  • Luke Skywalker – the hero of the original trilogy who wants to be a Jedi and battles the Dark Side
  • Princess Leia – more than a damsel in distress, Leia is the smart-talking Princess of Alderaan
  • Han Solo – the smuggler-turned leader of the Rebel
  • Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith with a link to Luke
  • Yoda – a benevolent mentor and master to members of the Jedi
  • R2-D2 and C3PO – the robotic duo that bring a touch of light relief to the films
  • Chewbacca – Wookie and Han’s loyal sidekick

The movies

There are different films in the franchise to be aware of. When you watch in order of their release, you’ll soon see that they aren’t in order. The first three sit in the middle of the story so far. The films are:

  • Original trilogy

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

  • Prequel trilogy

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

  • Sequel trilogy

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

Altogether, these are known as the Skywalker Saga. There are the anthology films, too, which fall across the timeline. There is also the TV series to delve into but start with the films before you dip into these.

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