With Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Star Wars universe has expanded itself to include villains on the scale of those associated with the most popular extended cinematic franchises such as Marvel or DC. The story arc has always been centred on the galactic battle between The Dark Side and The Light – with the Skywalker family being at its heart, and with powerful wielders of The Force engaging in conflicts of the physical, philosophical and political kind.
While Jabba The Hut, Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine have long been revered as the most dastardly villains in this galaxy far, far away, this new chapter of the tale has brought forth a range of evil-doers that effortlessly rival those icons of the past, as figureheads of the new Dark Side.
The antagonists of the Star Wars universe have evolved over the decades, assuming different names and forming different organizations. They have always had the same goal, however – to assume absolute galactic power. It all began with the ancient interstellar government named the Sith, whose self-serving Lords (traditionally identified with the title ‘Darth’) seized and maintained power for a thousand years, through cunning, manipulation, and by using The Dark Side of The Force. Though rebellious forces ultimately overthrew the Sith, the movement soon secretly re-surfaced.
As seen in Episodes I, II and III (the Star Wars prequels) – The Phantom Menace, Attack Of The Clones and Revenge Of The Sith – Sith Lord Darth Sidious hid in plain sight, under the name Senator Palpatine, for many years – quietly rising to a position of influence within the Senate of the Galactic Republic (Supreme Chancellor), while secretly manipulating his fellow Senate members. When the time was right and his traps were set, he eventually turned popular opinion against the Jedi – the arch-enemy of those that use The Dark Side – and declared the Republic an Empire, with himself as Emperor and with Darth Vader as his henchman. This galactic dictatorship was the resurrection of the Sith government.
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Episodes IV, V and VI (the original Star Wars trilogy) – A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi – concerned themselves with the downfall of the Galactic Empire at the hands of the Rebel Alliance. Emperor Palpatine and his henchman, Darth Vader, were eventually defeated by Luke Skywalker and his fellow freedom fighters. The demise of this second incarnation of evil was once again merely temporary, however, as Episode VII – The Force Awakens – brings us the rise of The First Order.
The First Order is essentially the underdog in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, because it is the Republic that holds the power in the galaxy and the First Order that is fighting to take it. Being the resurrection of the Galactic Empire and the Sith, however, it has secretly amassed power and resources during the thirty years since the Battle of Endor in Return Of The Jedi. With a brand new Starkiller base at its disposal, The First Order seeks to overthrow the new Republic and seize total power, once again.