This week, moviegoers will return to that magical galaxy far, far away when Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theaters on Friday, December 15.
For Star Wars fanatics, the two-year wait between The Last Jedi and 2015’s The Force Awakens has been excruciating. Star Wars fans’ fealty to the franchise is well-documented, and they’ve been analyzing every single second of every interview and trailer, positing theories as to what’s going to happen in director Rian Johnson’s new installment and trying to uncover the movie’s biggest mysteries.
But not all of us have the encyclopedic knowledge of Star Wars stans, and two years is plenty of time in which to forget some, or many, of the details of The Force Awakens. So for those who haven’t been obsessively revisiting the film in preparation for The Last Jedi, here’s a crash course in what the major players were up to when we last saw them.
The First Order is preparing to strike back
Star Wars is, of course, about individual journeys, awakenings, and growing up. But those all happen in the context of a bigger galactic struggle.
In The Force Awakens, we learned that after the galactic civil war some 30 years ago — which served as the basis for the first Star Wars trilogy — the villainous First Order has risen up and wants to get rid of the democratic state currently known as the New Republic. Wary of an all-out war and not fully aware of the threat that the First Order presents, the New Republic is discreetly supporting the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher).
In The Force Awakens, the First Order uses its Starkiller Base to wipe out Hosnian Prime, the capital of the New Republic. Now aware of the immense power of the Starkiller base, the Resistance figures out a way to destroy it and, for the moment, save themselves.
The question going into The Last Jedi isn’t whether the First Order will strike back but what the scope of its vengeance will be. The villains are smarting from defeat, but they, led by the sinister Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), will certainly have a plan to strike back with a fury. Everyone — including the Resistance and Organa — knows that this is coming, regardless of whether they’re prepared.
Rey went around the galaxy to find Luke Skywalker
The Force Awakens presented us with two giant mysteries: the current location of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and the origin of new protagonist Rey (Daisy Ridley). Sensing the danger that the First Order presents, Organa is looking for her Jedi brother for some help. Thanks to a map assembled by helpful droids BB-8 and R2-D2, Rey finds him on a mountain island called Ahch-To and presents him with a lightsaber.
But from what we see in the Last Jedi trailer, this likely isn’t going to be a sunny meeting, with Skywalker telling Rey, “It’s time for the Jedi to end.”
That’s probably not the way anyone saw this meeting happening, but it’s understandable: Skywalker is still haunted by the betrayal of his apprentice and nephew Ben Solo, a.k.a. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the son of Leia and Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Skywalker created a Jedi Academy, trained Solo, and then saw Kylo Ren slaughter all his trainees. Consequently, seeing a future apprentice on his doorstep while dealing with the trauma Solo/Ren inflicted isn’t going to be easy for Skywalker.
With Skywalker meeting Rey, fans are hoping this will give us some insight into Rey’s parentage or origin, and why she’s such a powerful wielder of the Force. The Force Awakens ultimately didn’t tell us all that much about Rey other than that a lot of people, both good and bad, believe she’s powerful and important to the universe — but no one has told us precisely why. Skywalker, a powerful Jedi himself, might know something about her, or perhaps lead her to realize the power she wields. But odds are she’s going to have to save him from his own darkness first.
The Solo family is broken, and so is Chewie
The Force Awakens wasn’t a good chapter for the Solos.
After the end of Return of the Jedi and the galactic civil war, Han Solo and Leia Organa officially acted upon the romance brewing throughout the first Star Wars trilogy. They got married and had Ben, but unfortunately they didn’t live happily ever after.
Their son’s turn to the dark side drove a wedge between the two, with Leia leading the Resistance and Han zipping through space with his trusted wingman Chewbacca. And though The Force Awakens gave us reunions between both Leia and Han and Han and Kylo, it ended with Kylo being the absolute worst and killing his dad while Chewie watched.
Kylo, after killing Han and being bested in combat by Rey, has to report back to Snoke in Last Jedi. That in itself will give us more insight into his character and perhaps some background as to how Snoke rose to power and asserted himself as leader of the First Order.
Leia still has to be the brave face of the Resistance, but also deal with her villainous son and the loss of the love of her life. Complicating that is the question of how the franchise will deal with the death of the irreplaceable Fisher, who died around this time last year. According to interviews, Laura Dern’s character Admiral Holdo will, at least temporarily, lead the Resistance, providing our first glimpse of how Star Wars might proceed without Fisher.
The galaxy’s premier bromance returns
The couple with the most chemistry in The Force Awakens was John Boyega’s Finn, a.k.a. former Stormtrooper FN-2187, and Resistance pilot and BFF to BB-8 Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Finn, having a change of heart and existential crisis, saves Poe and crashes on the planet Jakku, where they’re separated. They later reunite in GIF-worthy fashion for the Resistance’s big attempt to destroy the First Order’s Starkiller.
In the middle of that fight, Finn takes on Kylo Ren and is beaten pretty badly. But his sacrifice wakes up something in Rey, who avenges her friend’s defeat.
Finn is currently healing from his injuries in the medical ward. Meanwhile, his bro-friend Poe is a hero after hitting the shot that destroyed the Starkiller. But this victory is probably short-lived, with a bigger battle on the horizon.
When it comes to whether Finn and Poe are going to take their obvious bromance to the next level (assuming Finn wakes up), Isaac himself gave a pretty positive “no” during the promotional tour for The Last Jedi. He told Collider:
What it means to me is that people can see themselves in a hero like this, in a movie like this. Which I love. Not only LGBT but Latinos ... that there's a representation out there for that.
As to actually seeing how that manifests itself in Poe, in this film, that isn't necessarily going to be a clear story point. But as an actor, and for me, I'm very open to those possibly storylines and I don't think it needs to be nailed down in any kind of traditional way.
Essentially, Isaac is happy that his character is a figure of representation for people who don’t necessarily often see themselves on the silver screen, but don’t expect to see any confirmation of those Poe-Finn fan theories in The Last Jedi.
That said, whether or not Poe and Finn find romance or Luke reveals Rey’s past or Leia mourns the love of her life while fighting the First Order, fans will want to see it for themselves. When the movie hits theaters on Friday, December 15, we’ll find out for sure what happens to all of these beloved characters — and can start speculating about their fate in Episode IX.