The new era of Star Wars starts… now

Back in October 2012, we all read the news that Star Wars was continuing on without George Lucas, instead under the guidance of Kathleen Kennedy. Since then there have been many developments, but today marks the point where it all begins to materialise.

We’ve just had a great series of articles from Entertainment Weekly, and this weekend we’ll get even more tidbits from Disney’s D23 expo. In three weeks’ time, merchandise for The Force Awakens will hit stores, as will Aftermath, a new novel set in the wake of Return of the Jedi, as well as four junior novels, all with ties to the upcoming film. Shattered Empire, a comic miniseries set after Return of the Jedi, will debut shortly thereafter.

Later in the U.S. fall season, new episodes of Rebels, the animated prequel-of-sorts to both Rogue One and A New Hope will start airing. And we’ll get a trailer for The Force Awakens as well.

But let’s slow down for a moment. Just what is The Force Awakens about?

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It is roughly 30 years since the destruction of the second Death Star and the deaths of both Darth Vader and the Emperor. The Empire has morphed into a junta known as the First Order, while the Rebel Alliance transformed into the New Republic, with an associated splinter group called the Resistance.

The First Order assembles

The First Order assembles

The First Order is being led by the likes of General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson), Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Kylo Ren is particularly intriguing: he built his own makeshift  lightsaber, he is obsessed with Darth Vader and he is a member of a group known as the Knights of Ren. (Indeed, “Kylo Ren” is a pseudonym just as “Darth Vader” was.)

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In the Resistance we have X-wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), while in the First Order we have stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega). Finn, however is on the run.

Finn leaves the wreckage of a crashed TIE Fighter

Finn leaves the wreckage of a crashed TIE Fighter

Meanwhile, General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) has curiously come into possession of Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber—the one he lost on Cloud City, along with his hand. (Official sources won’t say how much screentime Luke and Leia have in the film, but it’s noteworthy that J.J. Abrams was drawn into directing the film with one question: Who is Luke Skywalker?)

Leia receives Luke's lightsaber

Leia receives Luke’s lightsaber

Somehow scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) gets involved in the story, possibly by helping Finn on the desert planet Jakku. And then there’s Han Solo (Harrison Ford), who is one of the main characters in this new adventure, along with his Wookiee pal Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).

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The rest… is a mystery. But it’s a good mystery—the sort you can mull over during the next 18 weeks. We’re on the home stretch now, with plenty to keep us busy in the meantime.

And if you want a preview of the merchandise coming in September…

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