Star Wars: The Force Awakens has already smashed box office records. Currently, it is the fastest film to break the 350 million dollar barrier in the United States, in just the second week of its run. It seems that J.J. Abrams' recipe proved to be successful, with some of its ingredients being hat tips to the original trilogy, and perhaps some foreshadowing of the future that has yet to come.
The reference to the original film that stands out the most is Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber, which made its first appearance in the first Star Wars film, ''A New Hope'', in 1977. Back then, it was used as the means for the introduction of the Jedi concept to young Luke Skywalker. It was handed to him by Obi Wan Kenobi, his first mentor, and one of the last remaining members of the order, and it was lost to him when Darth Vader (former Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker and father to Luke) cut off his hand during their first duel in 1980's ''The Empire Strikes Back''. Unsurprisingly, the lightsaber also made its appearance again in the prequel trilogy, as the story was focused on the path that transformed Anakin into Lord Vader.
Now, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the lightsaber emerges as the tool which propels Rey's future forward, by providing a yet vague connection between her and the events of the past. When she touches it, she has visions of the past, of characters connected to the lightsaber, and perhaps of the shape of things to come. The visions include the corridor in Cloud City from ''The Empire Strikes Back'', where Luke faced his father for the first time, Kylo Ren surrounded by masked men and dead bodies, and Luke Skywalker affectionately touching R2-D2 with his artificial hand. Those last two images could belong to the past, but there's also a strong possibility that they are events of a possible future. Either way, they work well and serve as stimuli for speculation for the duration of the wait until the release of the yet unnamed Episode VIII.
Those visions also contained cameos of characters from the past, in the form of voices. Master Yoda can be heard talking about the nature of the Force, and Obi Wan Kenobi informs Rey that she is taking her first steps into a bigger world. The latter is voiced by both Ewan McGregor, who recorded new voice material for the film, and late actor Sir Alec Guinness, who played the older version of Obi Wan in the original trilogy. A recording of him uttering the word 'afraid' was modified, in order to produce the word 'Rey'. The result is very convincing, and builds bridges between all movies of the franchise, as it connects the new lead to both versions of a character who played a significant role in both previous trilogies.
Rey and her connection to Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber (and perhaps to the Skywalker family itself) isn't the only time that the Force Awakens pays homage to the original films. Rey is a scavenger of mechanical parts, who lives inside a non-functioning AT-AT (better known as an Imperial Walker, the quadrupedal machines that made their appearance in ''The Empire Strikes Back''), and collects her loot from a crashed Star Destroyer, which hints to a past battle between the Empire and the Rebellion on planet Jakku. Finn accidentally activates the same ''chess'' game that Chewbacca and R2-D2 played in ''The New Hope'', and also discovers the sphere that Obi Wan used to train Luke in the ways of the Force. The film is literally filled with such examples of fan service, and at most times they are implemented into the film in the best possible way, without distracting experienced or new viewers from the plot.
There is no way to be certain of whether some scenes were references to the future of the story or not. It is possible that the next film will focus on both the training of Kylo Ren by Supreme Leader Snoke, and the tutoring of Rey to the ways of the Force by Luke, who is now a Jedi Master. If that's the case, the next film will mirror the training of Luke himself by Yoda, and will continue the pattern of using the original trilogy as foundations for the construction of something new and yet very familiar. Whatever the case may be, the Force Awakens has proven (at least to most viewers) that the new trilogy can deliver in terms of continuing and honoring the Star Wars mythos, and that there are at least two more Star War films to be very excited about.