Just to make one thing clear, I'm among the fans who loved Episode VII. I could nitpick at some things, but I'm really not interested in doing that. I also didn't have a problem with the fact that the movie's plot echoed the original as much as it did, as I thought that the characters and their personalities were all so very different from what we've seen before that it didn't matter seeing them go through the same motions that the original characters did.
I'm obviously looking forward to Episode VIII, and here are some of my hopes for what we can see next, some of them bordering on concerns.
1. Let's go in a new direction - Again, I have no problem with the plot echoes from The Force Awakens. But I want to see this take the audience into some unexpected places. I think it's safe to say that it will be darker, just as The Empire Strikes Back was to its predecessor. There will probably also be some revelations involving family relationships. With that said, we can definitely go somewhere new with this considering we have entire galaxy to play in. I have a feeling that the masterminds behind the saga have the same idea in mind.
2. Throw Rey for a loop - I have a feeling that we'll see this happen anyway, but one of the complaints about Rey in the previous movie was that she was a bit of a "Mary Sue" and was pretty much good at anything. Perhaps they were overcompensating now that there was a female protagonist? Maybe, but I don't think so. If we look at the previous two protagonists, Anakin and Luke, they both had it relatively easy compared to Rey. Sure, Anakin was a slave, but he was raised by his mother, and his slavemaster, Watto, was about as benevolent as one could possibly be. Luke had foster parents. Rey? She was an orphan, and it seems like she had basically been on her own on a junkyard, desert world ever since she was a little girl. She's had to fend entirely for herself, and it was not so strange that she would already have some grasp on the Force once it became "awakened".
Still, she did manage to take on each challenge quite well, and much of the fun was how surprised everybody was by her. Who the hell was this girl who could do so much and was channeling the Force like a boss? (Anybody else get the feeling that Han knew who she was? He kept giving knowing looks, and the camera cut away right after Maz Kanata asked him, "Who is this girl?")
With the next film, the bad guys need to be ready for her. And she just needs to barely escape with her life, perhaps with the help of her friend, Finn.
3. More new stuff to look at - Say what you will about the prequels, but they gave us a whole lot of new stuff to look at as far as different planets and spaceships were concerned. Yeah, we have different planets with the current trilogy so far, but is Jakku really all that different from Tatooine? Maybe they're running out of ideas, but I have to imagine that there are some things that nobody's done yet. Maybe we can even revisit one of those planets that we barely caught a glimpse of during Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith.
And while it's not a big deal, why the heck are they still flying X-Wing fighters and TIE fighters? Sure, they're a little bit different, but I would have to imagine that some new spaceship designs have come along in thirty years time.
4. Who is Snoke? I sure hope that they figured this out when they first wrote him into the script. If he's just some run of the mill dark Jedi, that would be pretty lame. If he's a Sith, he violates the Rule of Two. There has to be something behind him, and I really think that his origin needs to be backdated at least before the original trilogy, if not the prequels.
5. Lightsaber battles - The best lightsaber battle,visually, was the one in The Phantom Menace. Sure, it didn't have as much at stake as the one in Empire, so ultimately it's not quite as engaging, but it was finally a taste of the Jedi when they were in their prime. Obviously, Rey and Kylo Ren wouldn't be on the same level, but I think that they need to start approaching it in the next one. Personally, I would like to see a full restoration of the Jedi order, minus their dogmatic approach, by the time we get to Episode IX.
6. Kylo Ren is finishing what Vader started - This is just pure speculation. What, exactly, did Vader "start"? Is Ren referring to Vader's desire to "bring order to the galaxy"? Or could he be talking about how Vader tossed a Sith Lord down a pit, and with the rise of Snoke, somebody needs to finish wiping the evil force practitioners out of the galaxy? Then why join Snoke in the first place? Perhaps it's to get closer to him. Maybe only a true master of both the light and the dark can defeat the ultimate evil. I don't know, but I wonder if there is more to his plan than what we've been told so far.
7. Lando. Lando system? Lando's not a system, he's a man. And we need to find out what he's been up to. I'd like to think that he's living comfortably and having a nice retirement.
8. Lobot - Whatever happened to him? C'mon!