[WARNING: This post contains MILD SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens]
When last we saw Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and their friends, they were throwing a giant victory party on Endor with some Ewoks, celebrating their massive victory against the Galactic Empire. They had destroyed the second Death Star (and Emperor Palpatine with it), seemingly ending the Galactic Civil War - and closing the books on a tumultuous time in the galaxy's history.
However, things obviously didn't go as smoothly as our heroes might have liked. Three decades has passed between Return of the Jedi and this winter's The Force Awakens, so it's apparent that the Empire did not go quietly into the night. Based on footage showcased in Episode VII's second teaser trailer, the Imperials seem just as strong as ever, with legions of stormtroopers at their command and the villainous Kylo Ren by their side. Despite the major blow they suffered, they're still wrecking havoc across the galaxy.
We now have a better idea of just how dire the Rebel's situation really is. During Star Wars Celebration this week, iO9 snapped a couple of pictures of prop and costume descriptions (head there for their images) that confirms the names of the two factions involved in this great conflict. The Empire has been renamed as "The First Order", while the Rebel Alliance has become "The Resistance".
Based on that information, it looks like the "victory" depicted in Return of the Jedi wasn't much of a win at all. The natural progression post-Return of the Jedi would have been for the Rebels to form a New Galactic Republic to usher in a new era of peace in the universe, as happened in the old Expanded Universe (EU) Star Wars literature. Still, there are many power-hungry Imperial officers out there - ones who surely didn't just fold up once Palpatine died.
The information that the good guys are going by "The Resistance" suggest not much has changed since the time period of the original trilogy. By the sound of it, the Rebels are still a band of scrappy heroes doing their best to go toe-to-toe with the well-resourced First Order that's committed to regaining control of the galaxy. Some may had hoped for a twist on the classic set-up (i.e. remaining Imperial factions group together to take on the larger New Republic), but since part of Force Awakens will be about honoring what came before, we doubt too many will take issue with this.
As we get closer to The Force Awakens' release date, it will be interesting to learn more about the First Order and how they came about. Despite having two trailers to digest, there's still so little we know about the film (officially, that is). Could Gwendoline Christie's Captain Phasma be the leader of the First Order? What is the nature of their affiliation with a Force-user like Kylo Ren? Perhaps some of these answers will be revealed in the many books that will fill the gap between Jedi and Force Awakens - since it appears the First Order has been around for quite some time.
All in all, this may not be the juiciest Star Wars update in the world, but it paints an intriguing picture for J.J. Abrams' film and where things stand in the galaxy far, far away. The First Order is coming back with a vengeance and the Resistance are still the underdogs, even with all they've accomplished under their belts. Who knows how this Galactic Civil War will turn out, but it certainly sounds exciting.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be in theaters December 18, 2015.