It's significant that Disney's new Star Wars movie is going to be "Episode VII", because that implies a continuation of the events in the six films that have already been released. But how much of a continuation will it be?
At this point, only a few people know what Lucas' detailed story treatment for a new trilogy contains, but we are fans and fans like to speculate, so let's speculate.
I think at least one safe assumption we can make is that the movie will be (at least somewhat) set in the future, beyond the events of Episode VI. How far into the future is anyone's guess, but let's assume that the story takes the ages of the actors into account to preserve a sense of continuity.
So, assuming that we are going to see Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker in at least cameo roles, they're probably going to be pretty old. In fact, if any of them had children, their children would be almost certainly be adults by the time of the new films. One avenue of speculation, then, would be that the new films might involve the offspring of some of these characters, or perhaps students if Luke brought the Jedi order back. My guess is, we'll see at least one child of Han and Leia as a character, and at least one Jedi trainee of Luke's. This kind of fits the theme of familial bonds that permeates Star Wars.
My hope (new hope? hurhur) is that the film focuses primarily on these younger characters, and does not try to shoehorn the older main characters of Episodes IV-VI into the roles of action heroes. I didn't think it worked very well in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but that's just my opinion.
So who will oppose this hypothetical new generation of characters? What is the enemy? I hope that the Force will play a large role in the story, and thus the Dark Side will manifest itself. Maybe one of Luke's new Jedi students will fall to the Dark Side. Maybe the Sith are reborn. With the Empire defeated, I don't think we'll see that again. Rather, the threat will be something nascent and hidden at first, like it was in Episode I, but will grow in power as the story unfolds.
I also wonder about whether John Williams will score Episode VII. He will turn 83 in 2015. It's nearly impossible to imagine a Star Wars movie without his bold, brassy orchestral scoring to back it up, but George Lucas might not be the only one passing the proverbial torch with this film.
The good news is, Episode VII means there's an opportunity for someone new to steer the Star Wars film franchise, and there are so many talented directors who are far more passionate about Star Wars than George Lucas seems to be today. I don't know who will get that chance, but I would love to see Joss Whedon, Brad Bird, Peter jackson, Guillermo Del Toro or some other gifted director take charge. Sure, most of those guys have commitments through that time frame, but commitments change all the time in Hollywood (just ask Matthew Vaughn, who walked away from X-Men: Days of Future Past yesterday), and who wouldn't be tempted by a once-in-a-geek's-lifetime opportunity like this?
Anyway, that's enough rambling from me. What do you think Episode VII will be? What story will it tell, and who will the main characters be? Who will their enemies be? How will it all connect back to the Skywalker saga?