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Star Wars for dummies: What to know before seeing The Force Awakens

Julie Sprankles is a freelance writer living in the storied city of Charleston, SC. When she isn't slinging sass for SheKnows, she enjoys watching campy SyFy creature features (Pirahnaconda, anyone?), trolling the internet for dance work...

Everything Star Wars novices need to know about Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Die-hard Star Wars fans and new initiates of the Galaxy's glory alike have been anxiously awaiting what promises to be the biggest cinematic event of the year — the Dec. 18 release of the franchise's newest installment, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

But since the shroud of secrecy surrounding the film has been more mysterious than Darth Vader himself, teasers and plot revelations have been few and far between.

More: Star Wars: The Force Awakens international trailer has new footage

Still, that hasn't kept anyone from properly nerding out over the upcoming production. In fact, at a panel for the film back in the spring, fans waited in line more than 15 hours just to hear what writer/director J.J. Abrams and the cast had to say about Stars Wars: The Force Awakens.

Between the nuggets from that panel and other tidbits we managed to dig up about the top secret production, we created an infographic to brief you on everything you need to know before you file into the movie theater to enjoy an evening full of the Force (and heavily buttered popcorn, naturally).

MAJOR CHARACTERS — NEW

Everything Star Wars novices need to know about Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Image: Becci Burkhart/SheKnows

Rey

Newcomer Daisy Ridley describes her character as a "scavenger." Abandoned on the desert planet Jakku (pronounced "jock-coo") at the tender age of 5, she's extremely self-sufficient.

Kylo Ren

Based on the new trailers, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) appears to be a villain. However, writer Lawrence Kasdan revealed, "We tried not to think of him as bad or evil or as a villain, but more three-dimensional... having a justifiable reason for whatever he's doing."

Captain Phasma

Played by Game of Thrones actress Gwendoline Christie, Captain Phasma is a chrome-covered Stormtrooper leader. She serves the First Order about 30 years after the Battle of Endor. Little else is known, other than the fact that she will return in Episode VIII.

Poe Dameron

It has been revealed that Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Isaac, is a Resistance X-Wing pilot, and the leader of the Black Squadron sent on a mission by the resistance when he meets Finn and, in Isaac's words, "their fates are forever intertwined." Isaac also says Poe shares a special bond with the droid, BB-8.

Finn

Here's what we know: Finn is a Stormtrooper. His ensemble in the trailer isn't a disguise. However, says actor John Boyega of his character, "Whether or not he is a good guy or a bad guy," is still a bit of a question mark. It appears that at some point Finn crashes on Jakku, where he meets Rey.

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Supreme Leader Snoke

For starters, we know Snoke is being portrayed by the brilliant Andy Serkis. He also seems to be Kylo Ren's superior. There are no images of the final form Snoke will take in the film as he is a motion-captured character. Rumors suggest he isn't a Sith Lord, but is a dark side power.

Maz Kanata

Although it's not certain Maz Kanata will be a major player, the fact she is being portrayed by Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o certainly suggests so. Thanks to promotional pics, we know she is an alien pirate who lives in a castle and is surrounded by "travelers, smugglers and other assorted riff-raff."

BB-8

This adorable little rolling droid appears in the teaser trailers alongside Rey, but clearly also has a connection to Poe. "That's who's got his back in the X-Wing," Isaac said. "So if there's any romance for Poe, it's with those two little balls."

MAJOR CHARACTERS — ORIGINAL

Everything Star Wars novices need to know about Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Image: Becci Burkhart/SheKnows

Leia

In the original three Star Wars films, Princess Leia is the long-lost twin sister of Luke Skywalker and the daughter of Queen Padmé and Anakin Skywalker. She may have kissed her bro at one point, but her heart belongs to Han Solo. Carrie Fisher will reprise the role, teasing, "This time [Rey] is the physical power and I just yell at all the men until they pass out."

More: Carrie Fisher was forced to lose weight for new Star Wars movie

Luke

When we first met Luke (Mark Hamill) in the prequels, he was working on a farm with his aunt and uncle. Sure, he kind of crushed on his sister, at first, but cut the guy some slack — they grew up in different worlds. Besides, he wound up the big hero. As for Luke's role in The Force Awakens, your guess is as good as ours.

Han Solo

An unlikely ally from the original films, Han Solo is a smuggler-turned-good-guy who eventually won Leia's affections. This "scoundrel," as Leia calls him, owns and pilots the Millennium Falcon. The role will come back to life in the capable hands of Harrison Ford.

Chewbacca

Han Solo co-pilots the Millennium Falcon with his Wookiee BFF, Chewbacca. Also known as "Chewie," this lovable and extremely hairy biped is roughly 7 feet tall and communicates via a distinctive phonetic system of growls and howls.

R2-D2 and C-3PO

It simply wouldn't be a Star Wars film without these droids, now would it? R2-D2 is a feisty little robot who long ago beeped and booped his way into everyone's hearts. C-3PO is a humanlike droid who speaks like a butler and worries like a mother hen.

Admiral Ackbar

Part of the Rebel Alliance, Admiral Ackbar was involved in the Clone Wars — he fought on the side of the Republic. He also helped evacuate Yavin IV following the first Death Star's destruction. Ackbar is a Mon Calamari, a squidlike (calamari, get it?) species that have eyes on the sides of their heads.

Yoda

Faith you must have, young Padawan. Wise Yoda we shall surely see. A Force Ghost, he could be.

WHO YOU WON'T SEE

Everything Star Wars novices need to know about Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Image: Becci Burkhart/SheKnows

Jar Jar Binks

The first lead computer generated character of the Star Wars franchise, Jar Jar Binks was not well-received by critics or fans when he made his debut in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. In fact, he is widely considered the worst character in the Star Wars saga.

The Ewoks

Sigh. Who wouldn't want to see these adorable hunter-gatherer teddy bears come to life once more? Despite the general public falling in love with them during 1983's Return of the Jedi, at least one influential person wasn't a fan — "Ewoks are not in the movie. That's because Harrison [Ford] insisted upon it," revealed producer Kathleen Kennedy.

Darth Vader

Duh, he's dead. But teaser trailers for The Force Awakens do show his marred mask being addressed in homage, so he's still an icon of the dark side.

More: 7 Easter eggs in the Star Wars trailer that gave us all the feels

PLOT HINTS

Everything Star Wars novices need to know about Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Image: Becci Burkhart/SheKnows

The Galaxy is still at war

It's been 30 years since the Rebel Alliance defeated the second Death Star, but the Galaxy remains embattled. The First Order has risen from the ashes, and our heroes are still staving off this group.

There are new, deadlier dangers

According to sources close to the film, the First Order has a new superweapon — something even more lethal than the Death Star's superlaser.

The lightsaber got a makeover

Glimpses of what appears to be a villainous Kylo Ren wielding a Medieval-style cross-hilt saber brought up many questions for Galaxy fans. Does it have new capabilities? Is it the new standard?

Rey fights a major battle

When Harrison Ford referenced a skirmish between Rey and Kylo Ren, fans jumped on the fact that this was a huge spoiler — generally, lightsabers are wielded by those with whom the force is strong.

NEED-TO-KNOW INFO

Everything Star Wars novices need to know about Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Image: Lucasfilm

This is not a remake

Abrams has been very clear that it is his goal to move the Star Wars saga forward, insisting, "This is not a nostalgia trip."

There's no need to linger

If you're waiting for a juicy morsel to play after the credits, don't bother. During a press conference, Abrams confirmed there's no special teaser clip following the film.

FUN FACTS

Everything Star Wars novices need to know about Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Image: Lucasfilm

The first word of the movie is...

"This." Abrams revealed that The Force Awakens begins with this unassuming four-letter word.

Wookiees can live to be 400 years old

There's a reason Han Solo is looking a bit weathered and gray while Chewbacca seemingly hasn't aged a day, and the reason is that this guy is probably still in his prime.

J.J. Abrams originally turned it down

When Abrams was first approached about directing the film, he said no. He rationalized this decision by saying he'd rather be in the audience along with everyone else before having a change of heart.

Episode VII has been a long time coming

During an interview in 1983, Mark Hamill (who plays Luke Skywalker) revealed that George Lucas asked him about reprising the role of Luke Skywalker for an Episode VII. According to Hamill, Lucas described it as an "Obe-Wan type character handing Excalibur down to the next generation."

The timing breaks tradition

The Force Awakens will be the first Star Wars film not released in May.

Keep your IQ as sharp as a Jedi master's by having our full Star Wars infographic at the ready!

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