Fans brought up on the first three Star Wars movies (Episodes I-III, since renumbered IV-VI) have the paraphernalia to prove it: bedsheets, board games, lunch boxes, action figures, books—you name it, they've got it. Enduring the release of the next three underwhelming prequels in the canon (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith), they've worked themselves into a frenzy since Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012 and their promise to produce an all-new Star Wars movie. While reaction was, at first, skeptical, there is cautious optimism in Episode VII director J.J. Abrams' (Alias, Star Trek, Mission Impossible III) insistence that he is keeping to traditional filmmaking and going back to basics. Not to mention the fact that the cast of the first movie, Star Wars: A New Hope (Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher), have signed on for another ride.
While little is known of the latest film's plot, magazine spreads, behind-the-scenes photos and movie trailers deliver scenes that promise a Star Wars universe fans know and love. What's been gleaned from the trailers and fan sites is that heroes Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron of the Resistance are aided by stalwarts Han Solo (Ford) and Princess Leia (Fisher) in the fight against new bad guys Kylo Ren, Captain Phasma and a legion of stormtroopers. And somewhere in the nether regions of the galaxy lurks the reclusive Luke Skywalker (Hamill), poised once again to bring balance to the Force.
We can only speculate as to what Abrams has in store for this franchise. But for the traditionalists, the diehards who long to experience the magic of Episodes IV through VI all over again, The Force Awakens is their new hope.
Freedom in the Galaxy
Why has Star Wars continued to garner such enduring popularity? Creator George Lucas wanted a return to the uncomplicated Saturday-matinee shoot-'em-ups of his youth, and in this he succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams.
But there's a deeper resonance at play in all of the movies. The balance between good and evil, dark and light, is central to the Star Wars saga. Follow the tale of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader and you'll see a flawed being trying to do right, falling and failing miserably, but in the end finding redemption. That's something shared by the greatest Bible heroes: Abraham, King David and the Apostle Peter, to give just some examples.
Even though God knows what's in store for us—our destiny—He has given humanity that most precious of gifts: free will, the freedom to choose as Anakin did. At its core, Star Wars is a redemption story that reminds us that we have the ability to return to the light, no matter how far we've strayed from the path of righteousness.
Original Trilogy Rundown
Episode IV: A New Hope
“Save Me, Obi-Wan.” A ragtag band of unlikely heroes save a princess, join a rebellion and blow up a Death Star. If you haven't yet seen a Star Wars film, start here.
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
“I Am Your Father.” Arguably the best film of the franchise, Darth Vader drops the biggest bombshell in cinematic history.
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
“It's a Trap!” Jedi Luke Skywalker executes a plan to save Han Solo from the clutches of slimy gangster Jabba the Hutt, and both sides face off in the ultimate battle between good and evil.
(Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios)