J.J. Abrams is such a big fan of Star Wars that initially, he refused offers to direct another entry in the series. But as we all know, he eventually came around, and his The Force Awakens will be released to theaters this December. The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after Return Of The Jedi, and while much of the plot remains in the mystery box even after two teaser trailers and some set photos, Abrams has revealed that there will be hints and references to the six previous films, as well as the 30-year gap leading up to the newest adventure.
In a Vanity Fair interview that’s not yet available online—presumably to ensure that the Star Wars faithful pick up two copies, one for the bathroom and one for the valuables safe—Abrams, who doesn’t seem all that concerned with fan service, says that his initial drafts actually contained too many references:
[W]e’ve obviously had a lot of time [during the development process] to talk about what’s happened outside of the borders of the story that you’re seeing. So there are, of course, references to things, and some are very oblique so that hopefully the audience can infer what the characters are referring to. We used to have more references to things that we pulled out because they almost felt like they were trying too hard to allude to something. I think that the key is—and whether we’ve accomplished that or not is, of course, up to the audience—but the key is that references be essential so that you don’t reference a lot of things that feel like, oh, we’re laying pipe for, you know, an animated series or further movies. It should feel like things are being referenced for a reason.
To be fair, in the world of Lucasfilm and Disney, if a reference is made, it is probably to lay the groundwork for an animated series or future movies. (Or a cruise ship.) Unfortunately, as the extended universe is not considered canon anymore, audiences will not be treated to Duloks, Hoojibs, or Jaxxon. Even worse, the prequels are considered canon, so audiences may be subjected to midichlorians, Dex’s Diner, and Jar-Jar Binks (although Abrams states in the same Vanity Fair piece that Binks may simply appear as a skeleton.)
Abrams appears to be working hard on balancing the new with the nostalgia; both trailers focus heavily on our new heroes and villains, with only a few big throwbacks to the original trilogy. As Abrams puts it, “Everything has got to be essential to the characters in the film.”