With the release of the first new “Star Wars” movie in more than a decade finally upon us, fans everywhere are reminding each other of what made the original movies great. However, with so many years passing since the most recent installment in the story’s canon, some may need a refresher on where everyone was at the conclusion of the original “Star Wars” trilogy.

For those that aren’t familiar with the franchise, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” will be the first direct follow up to the plot since “Return of the Jedi” premiered in 1983. While a series of prequel movies came out between 1999 and 2005, they were set before the events of the very first “Star Wars” movie, which premiered in 1977. As a result, the J.J. Abrams-directed film is more closely related to the events of “Return of the Jedi” than any other movie within the “Star Wars” canon -- from a timeline point of view that is. 

However, with decades passing since the film was in theaters and viewing it at home being a slightly difficult task, some may want a crash course in where the George Lucas-created universe left off before diving back into it after all these years. 

The third movie in the trilogy ended [SPOILER ALERT] with the good guys winning. The movie opens with the war between the evil Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance in full swing. As Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) and the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) are hard at work constructing another Death Star, the Rebels learn their time is running out. For those that don’t know, the iconic Death Star is a planet-sized spaceship that’s capable of wiping out entire planets in mere seconds. The Rebels destroyed the original in “A New Hope,” but if the new one became operational, then the forces of good would have stood no chance against the Emperor’s tyranny. 

“The Force Awakens” returning characters Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Leia (Carrie Fisher) hatched a plan to destroy the shield surrounding the Death Star by destroying its power source on the nearby planet of Endor. That would allow the Rebels to attack the ship to destroy it and the Emperor in one fell swoop. 

Meanwhile, Skywalker has personal demons to conquer as he learned one year earlier that he is the son of Darth Vader. Where once it was a simple mission of killing the enemy, Luke now believes that the way of the Jedi is to try and bring his father back from the dark side of the Force. To do this, he allows himself to be captured by the Empire to get a conversation with Vader. He unsuccessfully tries to convince his estranged father to forget his past indiscretions with the dark side and join him in the fight against the Emperor. Instead, Vader brings him to the principal bad guy who informs Luke that he’s led his Rebels into a trap. 

Not only are they aware of the army’s plan to destroy the Death Star, but they’ve managed to get it fully operational without them knowing. As his evil plan is revealed, Han Solo is attacked by Stormtroopers on Endor, stopping him from shutting down the shield. The planet’s population of Ewoks rescues him and a battle ensues. Eventually, the rogue hero gets the shield down and the Rebel forces are able to move against the Death Star anyway. With his plan crumbling around him, Darth Vader baits Luke into a lightsaber duel. After defeating him in “The Empire Strikes Back” the villain thinks that it will be easy to vanquish the Jedi apprentice once again. However, driven by the desire to protect his friends and newly-discovered sister Leia, Luke bests his opponent and cuts off his artificial hand. Realizing that he can’t do anything right, the Emperor gets mad and tortures Luke. He begs for his father to help him, and the sight of his son writhing in agony makes Vader turn on his master. 

He kills the Emperor but is mortally wounded in the process. The film ends with Luke escaping the Death Star just before the rebels blow it up. They return to Endor to celebrate the final Rebel victory over the Empire. Luke notices that the spirits of his previous mentors, and his father, are watching over him as the Rebel leaders look ahead to a bright future. 

However, it appears that the future didn’t end up being so bright after all. Based on what we know of “The Force Awakens” thus far, it seems that the new galactic leaders failed to establish freedom in the galaxy as the villainous First Order appears to be rebuilding the Empire from its ashes. With Leia, Han and Luke returning, odds are good they’ll need to finish what they started in the original movies and remove this new threat so that peace may reign supreme.

Fans will just have to visit their local movie theater as early as Dec. 18 to find out how the most recent movie will tie into what came before.