Spoilers below! Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is one of the most anticipated sequels in movie history. After the previous series ended over ten years ago, few thought there would be a follow-up to the six-part Star Wars dynasty. Even Director George Lucas said there wouldn’t be. (Unless you’re a diehard Star Wars fan who remembers an early-70’s interview with Mark Hamill where he mentioned Lucas mulling around the idea and potentially asking him to reprise his role.) The latest film will bring back iconic characters such as Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia, while adding a rockstar new cast that includes a possible female protagonist and Storm Trooper-turned-Jedi. Disney World already has some Star Wars-themed attractions at its parks but plans to expand the offerings with aspects from the new movie (and will likely change some based on the last two in this new trilogy, scheduled to come out sooner than you might think). If it’s been a while, there’s just enough time to re-watch the six original Star Wars movies to get caught up for the newest film’s release – or there are plenty of marathon watch parties the day before Episode VII opens in theaters. So pull out the VHS tapes and have a party, and check out these 25 Things To Keep In Mind Before You Watch Star Wars The Force Awakens.
Announcing the new film
In 2012, Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion and revived the Star Wars franchise, announcing the new movie (and trilogy) shortly afterwards. Star Wars: Episode VII will be known as The Force Awakens.
The time period
Episode VII will be set 30 years after the end of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Since Episode VI was released in 1983, this next film factors in the age of actors such as Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker.
Whereas previous films pitted the Galactic Empire against the Rebel Alliance, both groups were in shambles after the Battle of Endor. They’ve both reorganized as the First Order and Resistance, respectively.
Return of the droids
Only four characters have featured in all six previous movies and R2-D2 is one of them. The little droid will be back in action again, though it’s not sure what his role will be. Kenny Baker, the human actor boxed up in R2 for all six Star Wars films, will be hopping back in as pilot of the little droid. C3PO is also coming back, though even less is known about his role.
Harrison Ford's injury
Harrison Ford, playing Han Solo, was injured in June when a hydraulic door on the Millennium Falcon crashed on his ankle. The injury sent him to the hospital and postponed filming for two weeks. (The director was also injured while trying to pry the door off.)
Han Solo's updated role
Han Solo will fly the infamous Millennium Falcon at some point during the film, though previews appear to show it won’t be at the outset. He’s expected to help new characters Rey and Finn search for Luke Skywalker.
Chewbacca is bacca
Chewbacca, one of the most iconic and longest-starring Star Wars characters, will be back alongside his buddy Han Solo. The role will again be played by British actor Peter Mayhew, who at 7’3″ makes Chewie seem larger than life.
Most of the filming for Star Wars VII was done at Pinewood Studios outside of London. The studio has also been responsible for other famous films such as the Harry Potter series and Skyfall, the James Bond film.
On-location filming scenes
While much of the shooting for previous Star Wars films occurred in Tunisia, many desert scenes for The Force Awakens have been in deserts around Abu Dhabi. Other on-location filming includes shots at Skellig Michael, an island off Ireland’s western coast.
Spin-off films from the trilogy
Three spin-off films are planned besides the new trilogy, though little is known about these movies which should be released by 2020. What we do know is they will each focus on the origin of a different Star Wars character.
The musical composer
John Williams, the composer for the first six Star Wars movies and other legendary films such as Jaws and Indiana Jones, will be back again to compose the score and music for Star Wars VII.
A throwback to original Star Wars designs
BB-8, the spherical droid rolling along in the trailer, was based on unused designs from the original Star Wars films for R2-D2.
Luke's new look
Mark Hamill, the actor portraying Luke Skywalker, will have a beard in the film – though it’s unsure what role Luke will have in it.
The new director
Though George Lucas directed four of the previous Star Wars films, he will not be directing The Force Awakens. He announced the appointment of J.J. Abrams (famous “Star Trek” and and “Lost” director) as the director for Episode VII.
A reluctant director
Though he later accepted, J.J. Abrams declined the Episode VII director position when it was first offered to him, preferring to be in the audience.
Disney parks redesign
Disney plans to expand and redesign sections of its existing theme parks to feature new segments from The Force Awakens.
The Star Wars Expanded Universe
Beyond the original films, there has been loads of supplemental Star Wars material (e.g. comic books) published over the years, including what happened after Episode VI. Dubbed the “Expanded Universe”, this body of work will not form the primary storyline of the newest movie.
A special cast appearance
J.J. Abrams and the cast are slated to appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live! for a Star Wars-themed episode on November 23, 2015.
All new films in the third trilogy will be released in two-year intervals – Episode VIII will be released in 2017 and Episode IX in 2019.
The Force Awakens' protagonist
Insiders to the film have said this seventh movie will highly revolve around a young female protagonist and the plot will start from the discovery of a lightsaber with Luke’s hand.
Another new character
Rey, played by Daisy Ridley and possibly the female protagonist mentioned in #6, is a scavenger living in a ship graveyard. It’s been rumored her home is inside one of the destroyed, massive AT-AT walkers from The Empire Strikes Back.
A late opening
Due to extra time needed for production, Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in American theaters on December 18. This sets it apart from the previous six films which all opened in May.
The new dark side
Despite the explosion of the Death Star and the deaths of the two biggest leaders of the Empire, the remnants of the evil group have not taken defeat lying down. Organizing themselves into continued battle, they operate out of their new Starkiller Base led by leader General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson). (Bonus fact: Luke’s original name in early Star Wars script drafts was Luke Starkiller.)
Initial drafts of VII
In preparation to sell Lucasfilm to Disney, George Lucas began writing scripts for the new films. After purchase, Disney decided not to use any of Lucas’ scripts.
The new archvillain
Kylo Ren, the follow-up villain to Darth Vader, is from the Knights of Ren order which emerged after the Battle of Endor in the last film. He will wield the biggest redesign yet to the lightsaber with a crossguard-laser above his lightsaber handle.