An event that feels like it was decades in the making is finally here, the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” While audiences all around the world are about as excited as movie fans can get, for a large portion of the population the release of another “Star Wars” movie means absolutely nothing.

Despite being one of the largest movie franchises ever made, you’re not a villain for having never caught up with the world of “Star Wars” before now. With family members coming home for the holidays and almost every social circle in America drafting plans to see “The Force Awakens” the minute it comes out, it could be really easy for the people that aren’t savvy to “Star Wars” to get left in the dark. Fortunately, to ensure everyone has fun with the release of the new movie, below is everything a novice needs to know in order to pass as a “Star Wars” fan when the movie hits theaters on Dec. 18.

Why Is This New Movie A Big Deal?

Yes, another trilogy of “Star Wars” movies was made between 1999 and 2005. So this isn’t the first time that people who loved the original trilogy, which came out between 1977 and 1983, were treated to more of what they love. However, there is one very important thing that sets this movie apart from the most recently made movies -- “The Force Awakens” isn’t a prequel. That’s right, movies: “The Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenger of the Sith” all took place before the first ever “Star Wars” movie in 1977. While they were made afterwards, the chronology of the “Star Wars” universe goes as follows:

  • “The Phantom Menace” (1999)
  • “Attack of the Clones” (2001)
  • “Revenge of the Sith” (2005)
  • “A New Hope” (1977)
  • “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)
  • “Return of the Jedi” (1983)
  • “The Force Awakens” (2015)

While this may be confusing, it’s actually good news for the reluctant “The Force Awakens” viewer. Because the prequel trilogy took place long before the events of the new movie, and was not received well by either critics of fans, you can pretty much ignore the first three movies on the above list. The new movie will be much more tied into, what fans call, the “holy trilogy” of “Hope,” “Empire” and, specifically, “Jedi.”

What Even Is A Jedi? Or ‘The Force’ For That Matter?

Admittedly this is a very complicated question with a few different answers. But, since you’re trying to pass as a fan and not write a book on “Star Wars” the simple version will do. A Jedi is very closely related to the idea of a medieval knight. He or she is a well-trained warrior and peace keeper who agrees to use his or her powers for the general good of the galaxy rather than personal gain. It’s very important that all Jedi know how to communicate with the mystical energy that runs throughout the world of “Star Wars” known as The Force. It was explained in the first prequel that a person is either more or less in tune with the Force based on how many of the fictional cells known as midi-chlorians are in their body. But, you can forget about that nonsense because no one liked it. The bottom line is that other Jedi often tell characters when they do or do not have what it takes to be one.

Meanwhile, there is another faction using the Force in the same way as the Jedi. Often referred to as the Sith, these people discovered the Force and actively decided they’d be bad guys with the power. As a result, Jedi are often locked in a timeless battle for peace against the Sith, who mean only to establish as much personal power as possible. Each have similar powers (kind of like a wizard), but when the time comes to fight, it usually comes down to a lightsaber battle with the Sith wielding red and the Jedi wielding any other color (typically green or blue).

So The Movie Is The Sith Versus The Jedi?

Not quite. While the Sith and Jedi are warring factions, they’re mere cogs in a larger machine. The holy trilogy featured a war between the evil Galactic Empire; which sought to conquer the entire galaxy through fear and intimidation, and the Rebels; who were more interested in making sure all lifeforms in the universe are free to not be choked to death based on a villain’s bad mood. The main battle between the Rebels and the Empire was the key conflict in the old movies, with the Jedi on the good guy’s side and the Sith fighting for the Empire. According to information released about “The Force Awakens” a similar conflict will develop between the Empire’s replacement (The First Order) and the Rebels’ replacement (The Resistance). So, when you see a bad guy with a red lightsaber attacking someone with a blue one, just know that at the heart of what they’re cross about is the concept of freedom.

So Will I Not Know Any Of The Characters?

The good news is that only a handful of characters from the original movies are returning for “The Force Awakens.” The main three being Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford), who are all reprising the roles they left behind in 1983. For the most part, “The Force Awakens” will establish new characters to continue yet another trilogy in the future. However, it’s important to know these three characters because, after all this time away, everything they say and do in the upcoming movie will be drastically more important to fans than the newcomers. The broad strokes of what you need to know about them are as follows:

  • Luke and Leia are brother and sister, but they didn’t grow up together. They discovered their relation much later in life while they were battling the Empire.
  • Han Solo and Leia were dating throughout the first trilogy. They were clearly in love when the last movie in the chronology ended, but so many years have passed that there’s no telling who they are in relation to each other now.
  • Luke is a Jedi but Leia is not. Meanwhile, Han Solo used to not even believe in the Force until he saw Luke use it firsthand.
  • Han Solo’s best friend is Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), who is also reprising his role from the original trilogy.
  • Han Solo pilots the iconic ship, the Millennium Falcon. It’s biggest claim to fame is that no other ship is faster. However, it’s real appeal is simply that it looks cool and has become nothing short of a legendary vehicle amongst fans.
  • BONUS INFO: Droids R2-D2 and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) are reprising their roles as well, but they were featured in the prequels, so it’s a bit less impressive.

What If My Friends Start Talking About The Books, Video Games or TV Shows?

OK, because “Star Wars” is so popular, there have been many expanded universe tie-ins over the years across many different forms of media. While some are within the same canon as the movies, they literally never have new information that a fan would need to know before watching any of the films. In fact, some “Star Wars” purists actively avoid the expanded universe because it can often be an unregulated mess. So, while you’re not going to hold your own in a conversation about the expanded source material, you should know that your friends aren’t allowed to shame you for not being familiar with them. After all, you just read through this article so that you wouldn’t look like a newbie at the theater, you’ve done your part!

OK, But Should I Just Go Ahead And Watch The Movies?