Four decades, 10 films, one live-action series, several animated series and countless comics: Pop culture fans across the world have been enamoured by George Lucas’ space opera and its First Family for a very long time now. And it’s all coming to a head this weekend, as the Skywalker saga comes to an end with ‘Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker’.
To help you recalibrate, Gulf News tabloid! is here to quickly recap the story so far, more specifically the three trilogies, in narrative order. This means we’ll go with the widely-panned prequel series first, followed by the original trilogy that kicked off in 1977, and finally, coming to the current crop of films, starting with JJ Abrams’ ‘Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens’ (2015).
THE PREQUEL TRILOGY
Star Wars Episode I: Phantom Menace (1999)
The Skywalker saga begins with this complicated and convoluted tale of trade blockades and midi-chlorians. Set 32 years before ‘A New Hope’, ‘The Phantom Menace’ jets off with Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi on a mission to convince the Trade Federation to end their blockade on the peaceful planet Naboo.
Talks quickly fall through and the flabbergasted Jedis find themselves having to flee Naboo with its 14-year-old Queen Padme Amidala and their new Gungan friend Jar Jar Binks, and after sustaining some damage to their spaceship, they end up on Tatooine, where they meet with young Anakin Skywalker, a slave with dreams of leaving the harsh desert planet to become a pilot. Anakin helps the rag-tag crew earn some money by winning a pod-race, which is enough to help them repair their ship. Along the way, Qui-Gon senses the Force is strong within Anakin (because of his off-the-charts ‘Midi-chlorian’ count) and decides to whisk him along for the ride, leaving behind Anakin’s poor mother, Shmi.
The team then head to Coruscant, where Jedi Master Yoda declines Qui-Gon’s request to train Anakin, sensing dark forces in the youngling. Amidala pleads with the Galactic Senate to help Naboo’s cause and frustrated with the Chancellor’s ineptitude, places Senator Palpatine as the new Chancellor. If all the diplomacy and negotiations haven’t put you in deep slumber yet, you’ll be glad to know the Jedis finally end up facing off with a mysterious Sith apprentice, Darth Maul. A lightsaber duel sees Qui-Gon get murdered, but not before he makes Obi-Wan promise to train Anakin, despite Yoda’s misgivings. Darth Maul’s surprise attack, especially since Siths have been thought to have gone extinct for at least a millennia, leads our heroes to figure out that there are more sinister forces at play than just greedy politicians.
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
Ten years later, Obi-Wan and Anakin, now master and apprentice, are tasked with helping Padme, now senator not queen, after she narrowly escapes an assassination attempt. While escorting her back to Naboo, a now grown-up Anakin discovers he has feelings for Padme, and vice versa. Qui-Gon’s investigations of the assassination attempt lead him to find the Republic’s secret clone army, based on the blueprint of the Mandalorian bounty hunter, Jango Fett. He also finds the sinister Separatist movement’s leader, Count Dooku, a former Jedi Master turned to the dark side. The two duel.
Meanwhile, Anakin goes to Tatooine only to discover that his mother was kidnapped by Tusken Raiders and in his rage, he murders an entire colony. Padme, blind to all the red flags, convinces him to leave the planet and they head to Genosis to rescue Obi-Wan, only for Jedi Masters Mace Windu and Yoda swoop in for a real rescue. In the ensuing brouhaha, Jango dies, watched by his clone son Boba Fett, and Anakin loses an arm.
To give the audience a relatively happy ending, we see Anakin and Padme secretly tie the knot, even if it’s literally the worst decision they could make at the time.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
This is it. The movie that laid to rest all the fan theories and questions fans had since 1977 about how sweet Anakin turned into the feared Sith Lord Darth Vader.
Three years have passed since the beginning of the Clone Wars, and Anakin and Obi-Wan are now on a mission to save Palpatine from the Separatists, where Anakin decapitates Count Dooku. Padme tells Anakin she is pregnant, and although mighty chuffed, Anakin is plagued by visions of Padme’s death in childbirth. Vowing to protect her at all costs, Anakin heads to the Jedi Council and pleads with them to give him the Jedi Master title. Yoda and gang once again turn him down.
Seizing on the opportunity, Palpatine reveals himself to be Sith Master Darth Sidious. Anakin’s formal training as his apprentice, Darth Vader, begins when he helps Palpatine kill Mace Windu. Palpatine also immediately executes Order 66, which forces the clone troopers to turn on the Jedis, effectively wiping out almost the entire Jedi clan.
Obi-Wan enlists the help of Padme to try and turn Anakin to the good side one last time. Anakin, in turn, force chokes his pregnant wife into unconsciousness and duels Obi-Wan, who amputates him and chops his body in half, leaving Anakin to die by a flowing river of lava. Padme gives birth to twins, Luke and Leia, and dies. But not before she tells Obi-Wan that there’s still good in Anakin.
Palpatine salvages what’s left of Anakin’s body and we finally get to see him in a very familiar black metal suit. Anakin hears about Padme’s death but is unaware his children have been born and are healthy.
To prevent the Sith from tracking the babies down, Obi-Wan separates the twins, and hands Leia to the Organa family, who are sympathetic to the Jedi cause; and Luke is handed off to Anakin’s stepbrother Lars’ home on old, dusty Tatooine.
Darth Sidious and Darth Vader join forces, turning the Republic into the Galactic Empire, and begin work on the planet-killing machine, Death Star. Luke and Lea begin their exile, unaware of their shared Skywalker legacy.
THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
Nineteen-year-old Princess Leia puts the Death Star’s plans in R2-D2 and sends them off with C-3PO in an escape pod to Tatooine, right before she’s captured by Darth Vader himself. The message is meant for none other than Obi-Wan Kenobi, but R2 and C-3PO are captured by Jawas and ultimately sold to Owen Lars, Luke’s uncle.
Luke, also all grown up, decides to return the droids to their rightful owner and heads to find the reclusive Obi-Wan, only to be given Anakin’s lightsaber. Luke finds himself orphaned again when his aunt and uncle are killed by Stormtroopers, so Luke joins Obi-Wan in his journey to destroy the Death Star by bringing the plans to Alderaan, Leia’s home world, and also learn some Jedi tricks. Smuggler Han Solo and his trusty Wookie co-pilot Chewbacca get picked up along the way, along with their space ship, the Millennium Falcon. But they don’t make it in time, and Alderaan is blown to smithereens.
The Millennium Falcon also gets captured, and while Han and Luke set about rescuing the princess, Obi-Wan goes back to square off against his old friend, Vader, and ultimately sacrifices himself so Luke, Leia and Han can escape.
The trio decides that the only way to get back at the Imperial forces is to bring down the Death Star. Luke joins the rebel X-Wing pilots, along with a reluctant Han. But when nothing seems to be working Luke is guided by Obi-Wan’s ghost to use the force within him to guide the torpedoes straight into the heart of the Death Star.
The rebels win this round.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The Rebel Alliance, under Princess Leia’s guidance, has set up a new base at the planet Hoth. While Vader is hot on their heels, Luke is once again visited by Obi-Wan’s force ghost and is instructed to visit Dagobah to receive Jedi training from Yoda, which he promptly does, and sees a pretty scary vision about Darth Vader in the process. Han and Leia head to the floating Cloud City on the planet Bespin to get the aid of one of Han’s old friends, Lado Calrissian.
But Vader and his Stormtroopers are already waiting for them there. Sensing his friends are in danger, Luke ditches Jedi training, against the wishes of Yoda, and heads to Cloud City to help them. Vader and Luke face off for the first time officially, causing Luke to lose his arm in the battle. “Luke, I am your father,” says Vader. Obviously, Luke doesn’t take the news too well, and decides he’d rather fall down an air shaft. Hanging by just an antenna, he telepathically reaches out to Leia to come get him.
Han has been captured by bounty hunter Boba Fett, who is delivering him to Jabba the Hutt. Lando and Chewie go off to rescue him. Leia and Luke return, defeatedly, to rebel base.
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Soon after the events of the last movie, Luke and Leia hatch an elaborate plan to save Han from the clutches of Jabba the Hutt, which ends in Leia being captured for a short while and being forced to wear THE golden bikini. But in the end, our heroes prevail, and Boba Fett gets eaten by the Sarlacc Pitt and Jabba gets choked to death.
There’s a new Death Star being made, and the trio and Chewie head to the planet of Endor, where if they turn off the shield generators, they can take down the new planet-killer. They team up with the native cuties, the Ewoks, and fight back against Imperial Forces.
Luke and Vader confront each other again, and as Vader again attempts to turn him to the dark side, he realised Luke has a sister, Leia, and passes on this information to Luke. A suggestion is made that even Leia can be turned to the dark side, and Luke is positively enraged. The fight escalates but ends in Luke convincing Darth Vader to turn to the light, who in turn kills Palpatine by throwing him down a shaft. Vader, now Anakin again, has one last father-son moment with Luke before he dies, and Luke gives him a quiet funeral.
As the Rebels celebrate the fall of the Empire, and Han and Leia confess their love for each other and kiss, Luke sees the force ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin Skywalker watching over him.
The light wins.
THE FINAL TRILOGY
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
Almost three decades after the events of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, Leia and Han Solo’s son, Ben Solo, is now Kylo Ren after he defected to the dark side and took up tutelage under Supreme Leader Snoke. The Empire is now called the First Order. There’s also a new Death Star called Starkiller Base, and instead of killing one planet at a time, this thing can smoke entire systems in one go.
Meanwhile, orphan scavenger Rey runs into former stormtrooper Finn and one thing leads to another and they salvage the Millennium Falcon, find Han Solo and Chewbacca and join Leia’s Resistance forces. Han and Leia have been separated for years but Leia asks him to bring their son back home.
The Resistance hatches a plan to infiltrate Starkiller Base. Finn, Rey and resistance ace pilot Poe Dameron head there, and Hand and Chewie accompany to see if they can get through to Kylo.
Kylo and Han have a showdown on a Starkiller bridge, and Kylo begins to show cracks but finally decides to kill his own father, further sealing his commitment to the dark side. Having seen him commit the terrible act, Rey lashes out and the two have a lightsaber duel where Rey finally realises she’s Force sensitive as well, and a powerful user too.
Having pushed a surprised Kylo back, Rey, Finn and Poe escape back to their base with a piece of a map that will lead them to the in-exile Jedi Master, Luke Skywalker. Leia picks up his old lightsaber and jets off on the Millennium Falcon to find him, and train under him.
Star Wars Episode VII: The Last Jedi (2017)
The penultimate episode of the final Skywalker trilogy picks up seconds after the events of ‘The Force Awakens’, with Rey finally handing over the lightsaber to its rightful owner, Luke Skywalker, only to have him chuck it over the cliffs. After some heckling on Rey’s part and a disturbing interlude where Luke milks a docile thala-siren for a bottle of blue milk, he reluctantly agrees to tutor her in the ways of the Force.
As she begins to explore her powers, Luke also tells her about the confrontation he had with his nephew Kylo Ren, which sealed his move to the dark side. As the story goes, Luke sensed the darkness within young Ben Solo, and in a fit of fear and desperation, decides to kill him while he sleeps, but the moment passes, and he comes back to his senses. But not before Ben catches him in the act, and turns on him, killing everyone in the Jedi temple and escaping to a new Sith Master, Snoke, and taking on the Kylo Ren moniker.
Meanwhile, the Resistance fleet is being kept on its toes by the First Order armada. Hot-headed resistance pilot Poe Dameron is finding it hard to toe the line and he and General Leia have a falling out, right before Kylo blows their ship up. Leia, adrift in space, seemingly dead, finally displays her own Force powers, when she suddenly comes back to life and floats back to a ship to safety. With Leia out cold, Admiral Amilyn Holdo takes control of the fleet, sacrificing herself, so the Resistance can escape from the First Order forces. Finn and mechanic Rose Tico go on their own mission to a casino on Canto Bight that doesn’t go too well.
While all this is going on, Leia abandons her Jedi training to go to Kylo because they’ve been communicating using the Force, and she feels like he can turn him to the light, just like Luke turned Vader many years ago. The two team up and take down Snoke and just when Rey thinks Kylo is finally Ben Solo again, Ren asks her to join the dark side, and rule the galaxies with him Betrayed and upset, Rey escapes.
The First Order and the Resistance have one final battle on Crait, where Luke fights Kylo, so he can buy time for the Resistance to escape one last time, eventually sacrificing himself as well.
Kylo and Rey part ways as enemies once again.
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
The final movie of the final trilogy will see the might of the First Order clash against what’s left of the Resistance. Will Rey finally find out who her parents are? Will Kylo turn to the light? Does Emperor Palpatine really return from the dead? How will the Force show itself in new ways? These are some of the bigger questions the movie will attempt to answer, and along the way some new allies and baddies will come and go.
This weekend, the Skywalker family goes to war again one last time.
Don’t miss it!
‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ releases in the UAE on December 18.