What is ‘Star Wars’?

Star Wars for Padawans


One of many pieces of Star Wars replica lightsabers that have been created for the worldwide phenomenon series.

Patrick Deliz, Writer

For those who don’t know, Star Wars is an epic space franchise created by filmmaker George Lucas. It is set “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”, and its stories involve the struggle between good freedom fighters (either the Galactic Republic, the Rebellion or the Resistance, depending on the time era) and an evil military dictatorship (either the Galactic Empire or the First Order, depending on the time era). 

Central to the stories is the Force, a mystical energy field created by all living things throughout the Galaxy. Mastery of the Force can give superhuman powers like telepathy and telekinesis to the good Jedi Knights (protectors of the old Galactic Republic for thousands of years who use the light side of the Force for defense and knowledge) and the evil Sith Lords (warriors and power hungry tyrants seeking galactic domination by using the dark side of the Force for aggression and tyranny). 

The first Star Wars film, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), was a standalone hero’s journey story about a farm boy named Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill) from a remote desert planet who finds a message hidden inside one of two recently purchased “droids” (robots). The droids were made by a kidnapped Princess Leia  (formerly played by Carrie Fisher, CGI played by Billie Lourd) where the droid contains valuable military information needed by the Rebellion for its fight against the Empire. Luke, aided by former Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (played by Ewan McGregor E.I and Alec Guiness E.IV), smuggler Han Solo (played by Harrison Ford), and his alien companion, Chewbacca, seek to deliver the message to the Rebellion, but their ship, the Millennium Falcon, is captured and brought aboard a giant space station called the Death Star. It turns out that Princess Leia is also held aboard the space station by its commander, Governor Tarkin, and his fearsome henchman, Darth Vader, a Sith Lord. Our heroes manage to rescue the Princess and return her to Rebellion headquarters, where she shares the news that the Death Star is a weapon capable of destroying entire planets. The Rebels send an attack force of starfighters against the Death Star, and it is Luke who, using the ways of the Force (taught to him by Obi-Wan Kenobi, killed fighting Darth Vader during Princess Leia’s rescue), fires the one-in-a-million shot that destroys the Death Star.

The movie became a cultural phenomenon, and so creator George Lucas created two sequel films. In the next Star Wars film, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Luke learns more about the Force from the Jedi Master Yoda, and he also finds out that Darth Vader is his father. 

In the following film, Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi (1983), Luke also learns that he and Princess Leia are siblings, separated at birth, and he manages to get their father, Darth Vader, to turn from the Dark Side of the Force to the Light and kill his master, the Emperor, ending the struggle between the Galactic Empire and the Rebellion. 

Sixteen   years later, George Lucas created a “prequel” Star Wars trilogy comprised of the film Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) chronicling how the Sith Lord Darth Sidious became the Galactic Emperor and transformed Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader.

After George Lucas sold his company Lucasfilm to The Walt Disney Company in 2012, Disney had Lucasfilm create a “sequel” Star Wars trilogy comprised of the film Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015), Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017), and Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019). These films tell the story of how Luke went into exile after his nephew, Ben Solo –son of smuggler Han Solo and Princess Leia (played by Adam Driver), turned to the Dark Side while under Luke’s training and became Kylo Ren of the New Order. An orphan scavenger named Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) joins the Resistance in the fight against the New Order, finds Luke, learns to use the Force, and starts a new Jedi Order. 

Two stand-alone Star Wars films have also been produced, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), telling the story of how the Rebels stole the plans for the Death Star, and Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), telling the story of how Han Solo acquired the Millennium Falcon and became a smuggler. There have also been many Star Wars comic books, novels, radio adaptations, animated series, and video games, some of which are canonical with the films, and some of which are not.

‘Star Wars’ is a continuously growing franchise, with its movies and spinoff series, video games (such as ‘Battlefront’ and ‘Fallen Order’), as well as its role in Disney’s Hollywood Studios as it is more prominent with the opening of ‘Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’.