The Force Awakens makes many references to the original trilogy. What references to the prequel trilogy are made in The Force Awakens? I'm looking specifically for plot elements, characters, and even themes that are introduced in the prequels that appear in TFA. (Implicitly, has the new team dumped the prequel trilogy down the memory hole?)
Some references to the prequels in The Force Awakens are given here, including,
- Flags from pod races being displayed outside of Maz Kanata's castle
- "The Sith" are introduced into the films, but the term was introduced in the novelization of A New Hope.
- There is a Jedi Temple in the prequels. The first Jedi Temple is mentioned in The Force Awakens.
- Who the clones in the Clone Wars were.
- Leitmotifs from the prequels.
It doesn't look like many references, and they're all oblique. If the prequels didn't exist, one's understanding of The Force Awakens wouldn't be different.
This includes both the shapes - witness Maul's, and colors - witness Mace Windu's.
In Episode 7 we have a Cross-Guard lightsaber, which is red/yellow in color according to WGA leaked script.
Slaughter of Jedi students by a Skywalker Turned Dark traitor
Vader at Jedi Temple in E3 <=> Kylo Ren and Luke's trainees.
Protagonist being a best friend with alien restauranteur who's been around and knows stuff and is wise.
Obi-Wan and his Ep2 friend Dexter Jettster discussing Camino <=> Han solo and Maz
The main goal.
In OT, the main goal of the Bad Guys was to crush the Rebellion and keep on ruling; with a stretch goal of getting Luke to turn to Dark Side.
In PT and in Ep 7, the main goal of Bad Guys is:
Destroy the Jedi
FIRST ORDER has risen from
the ashes of the Empire
and will not rest until
Skywalker, the last Jedi,
has been destroyed.
Regain power from a position of defeat and emergence from hiding.
Heavy use of familial relationships to intertwine movies.
OT merely had Skywalker family. Nobody else was related that I can think of.
PT had Boba Fett's "father" Jango
Ep 7 has Poe Damerron (parents fought for Rebellion), Snap Wexley (mother flew Y-Wing at Endor), Kylo Ren.
Droidekas <=> BB-8
Good Guys have a Senate (and the overall system of government) that is, basically, largely useless.
Ironically, many of similar reasons which drove Separatists to separate away from the Republic, are the reasons Resistance arose outside of New Republic :)
Ewan McGregor's voice in Rey's vision as young Obi-Wan, alongside Yoda and Old Obi-Wan.
Maz Kanata greatly resembles a toy found in Anakin's room (seemingly unintentional reference)
Motion capture CGI characters
In general, heavy use of CGI (no matter what the PR was)
Cockpit view of starfighter dogfights (we didn't see that in OT)
Anakin in Ep1 <=> Poe
If you also include canon materials beyond the film:
In the Foster novelization, Snoke mentions that he witnessed the rise of the Empire - the concept not revealed as anything specific till the prequels.
The basis of how the plot is set up is trade, taxation and politics
Taxation of trade routes led to Trade Federation blocading Naboo.
The trade chasing (according to Visual Dictionary) led the New Republic to demilitarize and refuse to confront First Order - which led to Resistance creation and to First Order's ability to become the menace.