Study Guide

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Setting

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A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Well, it's set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. We're pretty sure everyone's figured that out by now.

Beyond that, though, things get a bit more complicated. One of the rules with the Star Wars universe is that every planet is basically a single environment, providing convenient "themes" for us to follow the action. We start on Jakku, a desert planet…where either a major battle was fought or someone dumped all the garbage afterward.

We then move to Takodana, where Maz hosts her Zen-and-the-Art-of-Bartending rumpus room. It's green and moist and has a lot of lakes. The Resistance Base is pretty similar: so much so that you may wonder if they're not the same place.

Then we're off to Starkiller Base, which is itself a planet...full of trees and snowy tundras in addition to the whole planet-swatting death beam.

Finally, we arrive at the mystical home of the Jedi, where Luke Skywalker has holed up to meditate on his mistakes and maybe come up with a plan for the future that doesn't involve the First Order tromping through everyone's living room. In between, we're on various flavors of starship, from the good old Millennium Falcon to whatever creepy Star Destroyer Kylo Ren ended up on.

Again, that all provides a nice visual tag to help keep the different scenes clear and to provide convenient visual cues to help us get centered. When a new part of the drama starts, we move to a new planet, complete with new environments and an overall vibe that helps keep the drama together.

Some have noted that Jakku bears a suspicious resemblance to another sand-swept intergalactic wasteland where a possible messiah grew up lonely and forgotten: Tatooine.

Part of this was because director J.J Abrams wanted to leave some nostalgia in the air before plunging into these all-new stories with all-new settings. But they also wanted to evoke the fondness people felt for the original trilogy, serving as a transition from the first set of movies to the new one, in J.J. Abrams's words.

Hence, Jakku, a planet that feels a whole lot like Tatooine, even though it's no such thing.

Or Starkiller Base, which is pretty much just the Death Star 2.0. Fans complained about the resemblance, but Abrams wanted to evoke that throwback feeling before Episodes VIII and IX presumably send us all careening somewhere entirely new.

It's also interesting to note that, while the movie is clearly set in the Star Wars universe, and with the aforementioned Tatooine cribbing noted, almost none of The Force Awakens takes place on any planet we recognize.

Even the Republic's capital, destroyed by Starkiller Base, isn't Coruscant like it was in the prequel trilogy, but somewhere entirely new (and seen for about 30 seconds before getting turned into a brand-new asteroid belt for harried rebels to zip through). The only exception is the Falcon, which doesn't seem to be going anywhere and which provides the one piece of real estate we genuinely seem to have seen before.

It's an entirely new part of the galaxy, which not only tells us how stupid big the galaxy is, but how much of it we still have to explore. That vastness means that the producers can go almost anywhere with the story, which is part of what makes Star Wars so exciting.

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