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Star Wars recap: Catch up on the saga before 'Last Jedi'

From the classic trilogy to "The Force Awakens" -- and the comics, novels and games in between -- this is what you need to know before Episode VIII.

Disney

Are you ready for "The Last Jedi"?

It's been two years since the newest Star Wars trilogy launched with 2015's "Episode VII: The Force Awakens". So we wouldn't blame you if a few details of the story have slipped your mind as you head to "The Last Jedi", opening this week. And there are loads of comics, novels and video games continuing the saga, which means there's even more backstory to fill in. 

Before you see "The Last Jedi", we've rounded up everything you need to know in bite-size recaps. How did the Empire become the First Order? How did Luke, Leia and Han part ways? What's up with those new characters Rey, Finn and Poe? And what's happened since "The Force Awakens" ...?

Previously on Star Wars ...

At the end of "Return of the Jedi", the evil Galactic Empire of the original movies was defeated. Rebel leader Mon Mothma took charge of the New Republic and set out to scale back the Empire's military. Leia and Han got married and a year later had a son, who they named Ben. And Luke Skywalker started training a new generation of Jedi Knights.

But the good times weren't to last ...

General Leia

Leia (Carrie Fisher) was a leading light in the New Republic until the revelation that she was Darth Vader's daughter ended her political career. With Han Solo off trying to liberate Chewbacca's home planet, Leia and Admiral Ackbar formed the Resistance to fight a new Imperial threat.

General Leia does battle with her own son in "The Last Jedi".

Lucasfilm

Carrie Fisher died in December 2016. "Last Jedi" will be her final appearance in the saga.

To find out more about galactic adventure and intrigue after "Return of the Jedi", read the trilogy of novels by Chuck Wendig: "Aftermath", "Life Debt" and "Empire's End".


Kylo Ren

Born on the day the New Republic and the defeated Empire signed a peace deal, Ben Solo (Adam Driver) was sent to train with his uncle Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and the revived Jedi order. Sadly, he soon followed in the tragic footsteps of his grandfather, Anakin Skywalker. He turned on his fellow Jedi, killing them all and adopting a new name inspired by the Knights of Ren, a clan of bad guys similar to the classic trilogy's Sith lords.

Kylo Ren faces the ghosts of his family's past.

Disney

Armed with his distinctive fizzing red lightsaber, which has vents on the handle to release excess energy from the weapon's broken kyber crystal, Kylo Ren now follows the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). Scarred in the climactic battle of "The Force Awakens" and torn between the Dark Side and the Light, the tortured Ren is now more like his grandfather, Darth Vader, than ever.

For more on Leia, Han and young Ben, read the novel "Bloodline" by Claudia Gray.

The First Order

After the Empire was defeated, a group of die-hards known as the Imperial Remnant were defeated in battle above the planet Jakku. Many ships crashed into Jakku's desert sands, where they became a haven for scavengers like the orphan Rey. The surviving Imperial forces retreated to rebuild in secret with the help of criminals and mercenaries.

During "The Force Awakens", the First Order's mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke ordered the First Order to break out and take the fight to the New Republic, destroying the galaxy's government with the Death Star-style superweapon known as Starkiller Base.

For more on the Empire's rebirth, play the game "Battlefront II".

General Armitage Hux

The ginger-haired general is the harsh disciplinarian in charge of the First Order's military. Often seen in "The Force Awakens" adorably squabbling with Kylo Ren, Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) is also partial to a bit of fascist speechifying.

The illegitimate son of a high-ranking Imperial officer and a cook, Hux ascended to power by conspiring with a warrior from a primitive world, named Phasma, to murder Hux's father.

For more on the Hux family's role in the transformation of the Empire, read the novel "Phasma" by Delilah S. Dawson.

Captain Phasma leads the First Order's troops into battle.

Jonathan Olley

Captain Phasma

Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) looked cool in her shiny Stormtrooper suit in "The Force Awakens", but proved to be a bit of a liability to the First Order when she lowered the shields on Starkiller Base. In her own comic set after the movie, Phasma blamed this rather embarrassing faux pas on another First Order officer, allowing her to return to duty in "The Last Jedi".

For more shiny Stormtrooping, check out the comic "Captain Phasma".

Rey 

Born roughly 10 years after "Return of the Jedi", Rey (Daisy Ridley) lived on Jakku amid the wreckage of the old Empire. After waiting years for her family to return, Rey escaped in "The Force Awakens" and began to harness her own powers, before delivering Luke Skywalker's lightsaber to him at the first Jedi Temple.

Rey gets to grips with her Jedi powers.

Lucasfilm

Finn

Snatched from his family at a young age and trained for war, Stormtrooper FN-2187 (John Boyega) turned against the First Order and joined the Resistance in "The Force Awakens".

For more on Finn and Rey's back story, read the anthology "Before the Awakening" by Greg Rucka.

Finn takes to the skies.

Lucasfilm

Poe Dameron 

Ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) was rescued by Finn from the First Order in "The Force Awakens". His mother was a pilot and his father a commando who helped destroy the Death Star over Endor in "Return of the Jedi". In charge of the crack X-Wing pilots of Black Squadron, he sought to uncover the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, an old friend of his mother.

To follow the adventures of the dashing Dameron and his heroic parents, check out the comics "Poe Dameron" and "Shattered Empire".

Dashing Poe Dameron goes into action for the Resistance.

Jonathan Olley

Supreme Leader Snoke

Interestingly, we haven't seem much of the First Order's scarred supremo in other media, so all we have to go on are his brief holographic appearances in "The Force Awakens". According to actor Andy Serkis, who plays the digitally animated Snoke using performance capture, he's a "complicated" guy ...

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