Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Steve's Geek Primer #1: Star Wars (Original Trilogy)

A quick note: I decided to do some Geek Primers after talking to a buddy of mine in one of my game groups who really has little-to-no grasp on geek culture, terms, references and in-jokes. So, this is for you, Ryan! Oh, and anyone else it can help. Please keep in mind that these entries are by no means exhaustive; and if you need more information, please look up stuff in the Wikipedia and the Wookieepedia, where you will find a mind-boggling array of data regarding these things. Enjoy!

File:Star Wars Logo.svg

What You Need To Know...

Star Wars is one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, Fantasy / Science Fiction franchises ever to exist. In fact, one could argue that after Star Wars showed up in theaters in 1977, the kids brought up around those times were the first generation to be exposed to massive cross-marketing involving toys, books, comic books, bed-sheets, knick-knacks and a wild assortment of other things. Basically not much tops Star Wars with most geeks. Unless it’s Star Trek, but that’s another story.

There are six films, three of which were released between 1977 and 1983. Those three, in order, are Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Later, much later, three prequels were made… but we don’t really need to get into all that.


The gist of Star Wars is simple: Farm Boy Luke Skywalker discovers he has a destiny and does good by changing the Galaxy, making lots of awesome friends and becoming a bad-ass Jedi Knight along the way. Keep in mind that this all takes place long ago in a far, faraway place, so it’s not exactly futuristic or whatever. But if it helps, you can think of it as futuristic since there’re space ships, faster-than-light travel, laser guns, jet-packs, aliens and all sorts of other cool stuff. It’s also very pulpy—if you know what “pulp” is.

File:Ben Kenobi.jpg

Anyways, Luke teams up with two robots (called droids) named C-3PO and R2-D2 on a quest to save Princess Leia, along with an old mentor dude named Obiwan Kenobi. This old dude is a Jedi, a near-extinct form of mystical space knight who fight with these laser swords called “lightsabers”. Before they jet off to the cosmos they are joined by a shifty-but-likable smuggler, Han Solo, and Han’s large, furry pal and co-pilot, Chewbacca. Eventually they find Princess Leia on a large planet-like space station called the Death Star, save her, leave, come back with the Rebel Alliance (who are fighting the evil Empire) and destroy said Death Star. Kenobi is killed at some point and his spirit remains to guide Luke through the young man’s trials and travails. All of this leads to the two other films in the Original Trilogy which leads to all kinds of adventure, Luke becoming a Jedi, and shocking Skywalker family revelations.

While nearly all Star Wars fans will think the above is quite a crappy summation, people who have never seen Star Wars before and know nothing about it should get a good idea of what’s going on. I won't even go into the Expanded Universe, either. It'll get terribly confusing if I even mention the Star Wars comics...

Here are some bullet points ( which look like dashes and are in no particular order) to help the non-Fan get on with Fans, should they hear some Star Wars lingo and references dropped.

- “That’s no moon.” This is what Obiwan Kenobi says when they are first made aware of the Death Star. Star Wars fans like to say this when something is revealed to be not what it seems.

- “It’s a trap!” What fish-guy lookin’ Admiral Ackbar exclaims in the third film, Return of the Jedi, when the Rebel Alliance attacks the Second Death Star. This quote is used often, and can even be seen on t-shirts, as well as all over the Internet.


- “I love you.” “I know.” What Leia and Han say to each other (respectively) before Han Solo is frozen is a substance known as “carbonite” in the second film, Empire Strikes Back. Star Wars fans consider this the height of romance and a neat fact is that Harrison Ford (who plays Solo) ad-libbed the line… at least as far I know.

- Hyperspace: What happens when spaceships in Star Wars travel at faster-than-light speeds. The famous effect seen resulting from hyperspace travel is the stars streaking, making everything look very, very fast.

- “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” A line said throughout all six films. It’s like “I’ll be back” with the Terminator movies. Fans love it.

- Jabba the Hutt: A disgustingly large slug-like alien who’s an interstellar (read: across large tracts of the galaxy/space) crime lord. Nowadays many use it as a derogatory way to describe obese persons.


- Slave Leia: When Princess Leia is held captive by Jabba the Hutt, she is forced to dress in a skimpy outfit. Ever since, many lovely young ladies dress as “Slave Leia” at conventions (read: large geek gatherings celebrating games, comics, movies, etc).

- “Use the Force.” “May the Force be with you.” Common lines throughout the Star Wars movie series. The Jedi knights use a mystical life-energy called The Force. Fans love it, naturally.

- Stormtroopers: The white-armoured, freaky looking shock troopers of the evil Empire. They hark back to Nazi Stormtroopers in a way, but are more like space goons who can’t shoot straight. Because of Star Wars, when people say “stormtrooper” they usually mean Imperial Stormtroopers from Star Wars—not their various historical counterparts. Stormtroopers are a crowd pleaser at many a convention. Put simply, Fans love to dress up as these guys.

Imperial Stormtrooper 01.jpg

- AT-AT: Probably pronounced as it looks (“at-at”), though some people say “A-T-A-T”. These are the four-legged Imperial Walkers that assault the ice planet Hoth in Empire Strikes Back. Fans love to use them as examples for things.

- Wookiee: The alien race Chewbacca belongs to. They are very tall, largely built and covered in fur. Fans will refer to very hairy people as “wookiees” or “as hairy as a wookiee” and so on.

- Ewok: Short, furry humanoids from the forest moon of Endor, who appear in Return of the Jedi. Many, more cynical fans feel they ruined the Star Wars franchise, but that’s neither here nor there for the purposes of this bit. The primitive Ewoks serve as an example of tenacity over technology when they help defeat the Empire at the Battle for Endor. Oh, sorry, mild spoiler. Well, the good guys win… not really a surprise, I suppose.

- Darth Vader: The Big Bad Guy of the Original Trilogy. He’s tall, imposing, has black armour and wears a cool cape. He’s as evil-looking as evil looking bad guys get in the Space Fantasy genre. He known for his deep, scary voice (thanks, James Earl Jones) and the breathing noises his cyborg (man + machine) respiratory system makes.


- “No!! That’s impossible!!” [Major Spoiler here, just so you know.] This is the line Luke belts out when he discovers Darth Vader is his father in Empire Strikes Back. Fans enjoy saying this when stuff happens, both good and bad.

- Boba Fett: The Manadlorian (not really alien; just a different kind of human person) bounty hunter who is sent after Han Solo. While he was barely in the movies, he is easily the favourite character of a large percentage of Fans—myself included. He has wrist rockets and a f-ing cool jetpack.


- “No disintegrations!” What Darth Vader says to Boba Fett (and some other bounty hunters) in Empire Strikes Back. A popular quote.

- Lando Calrissian: One of the only non-white human characters in the Original Trilogy, Lando is an old smuggler buddy of Han Solo’s who has this place called Cloud City. Lando betrays Han to Darth Vader in Empire Strike Back to save his people, and even though it was the right thing to do, being called a “Lando” is still one of the worst insults one can level at someone. You may be pleased to know that Lando then spends the rest of the Trilogy trying to save Han and the Rebel Alliance.


- “Never tell me the odds.” Han says this to C-3PO before going into a dense asteroid field (read: a lot of large rocks clustered together in space). Also a terrifically popular Fans quote.

- Millennium Falcon: The way, way cool near-circular spaceship Han and Chewie (Chewbacca’s nickname) zip around space in. It’s one of the most recognizable items from Star Wars overall, and everyone who loved Star Wars as a kid wanted the toy. “I covet that almost as much as I do my Millennium Falcon” is something I’ve said before. In my 30s.

File:Millennium Falcon.jpg

- John Williams: The guy who composed the Star Wars soundtrack, which even a lotta Non-Fans will recognise when they hear it.

- George Lucas: The man who made it all happen. Star Wars is his big, big baby. Fans both love and hate him.

- "Han shot first." This is not a line from the movies, but rather something fans say so often that it has appeared on t-shirts, mugs and all sorts of other sundries. You see, in Star Wars, Han Solo is confronted by bounty hunter Greedo (looking to turn his sorry hide in to Jabba the Hutt) and before Greedo can shoot Han, Hano Solo blasts the poor, nasty green alien into an early grave. Later, George Lucas re-released the films and added a bunch of stuff, including Greedo shooting first-- ostensibly to make Han look more like a hero than an anti-hero. Thus, "Han shot first". It should go without saying this is one of the big reasons why many a Fan dislikes Lucas nowadays.

There really is an enormous amount of things I could bullet point, talk about, or do interpretive dance about concerning Star Wars. However, I think this entry is daunting enough as it is for a Non-Fan… right? If you want to add more, be my guest and fire away in the comments.

Images pulled from Wikipedia


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