- Han Solo dies. At the very least, someone you care about from the original trilogy will not survive to the end of this trilogy. Probably two or three characters, really. Maybe the droids.
- Copious callbacks to the original trilogy that straddle the line between reverence for the original trilogy and pandering to the fans who love anything that references the original trilogy.
- A sudden realization that the actors from the original trilogy are way older than everyone else in the movie.
- Ideas repurposed from the old Expanded Universe (now Star Wars Legends).
- An earnest attempt to convince you that the prequels aren't all bad.
- The heroes get captured, because that's pretty much a requirement nowadays.
- Despite starring a woman and a person of color, the film will still manage to screw up equal representation.
- The soccer-ball droid will have more charisma and depth than at least one of the other main characters.
- LENS FLA—oh, wait; wrong film. A moment where you could swear you're watching one of the Star Trek reboot movies.
- No matter what the movie is like, the fan community will not be able to agree on whether it's any good.
I'm not a betting man, but I'd put money on that last prediction. That's because The Force Awakens is arguably in an even tougher spot than the prequels were. Multiple generations of fans have had an immensely personal connection with those first three films. When Episode I debuted, it only had to live up to the impossibly high standards of the original trilogy, For Episode VII, being as good as the original trilogy won't be enough. It needs to be better.
In the last 20 years, the Special Editions have become the face of the original films, much to the chagrin of Star Wars purists. The prequel trilogy—an endless source of outrage for countless hardcore fans—and its spinoffs (e.g., The Clone Wars) have changed the landscape of the fandom, making the original trilogy a smaller and smaller part of what it means to be Star Wars. Episode VII is, perhaps, some fans' only hope of salvaging this fractured franchise. And with the Expanded Universe—the one place where Luke, Vader, the Alliance, and the Empire were still king—being thrown out almost wholesale for the sake of a new continuity, Episode VII needs to prove itself worthy of discarding the beloved Thrawn trilogy (and numerous other works) to make room for itself.
"At least it's better than the prequels" won't cut it. There is a lot riding on this movie. It's a real-life Anakin Skywalker: The one we've all been hoping for to bring balance, but the one that's probably going to tear us apart for it to happen. Whether the movie ends up being marvelous, mediocre, or mortifying, I don't imagine it will simultaneously be able to satisfy those who long for the original trilogy and those who like all of Star Wars, justify rewriting the continuity, and unite fans in excitement about the direction of the entire franchise.