What could have been...
Im going to assume youve seen the movie and know what happened. Thing is, what you saw was only one option from a range of potential choices. Rumours, concept art and other sources have all given us a hint of what could have been. Lets take a look at a few ways The Force Awakens could have been a very different film.
Obviously there were probably a million Stormtrooper ideas during the course of The Force Awakens production. The final design is clearly a beautifully updated homage to the original designs, but I wonder how people would have felt about these more angular concepts from The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, or that Vadar-mirroring black armour and cape get up.
Kylo Ren was originally a lot more roboty
Waaay back when all we had was an announcement, Kylo Ren was known as The Graverobber because of leaked concept art showing him holding Vadars remains. At this point he was a lot more synthetic, with a non-human face and cyborg hand. Its possible his kinship with the Sith lord could have come from similar injuries on his way to the dark side in an earlier version of the story.
Chewie had seen some action
In the final movie its C-3P0 sporting a red robot arm (the secret of which will be revealed in a Feb 2016 one-shot comic). However, early concept art had Chewie with a bionic arm from war wound. Its an interesting phrasing given that the film sees him and Han carrying on as roguish smugglers. Did they have a different interim backstory originally? The film also sees Chewie shot in the arm during a battle, suggesting that someone really wanted a limb hurt somewhere.
Either Kylo Ren had an ordinary lightsaber, or there were others
That cross-hilt saber caused a stir when it fired up in the first trailer. This is not that lightsaber. While it might be an early version of Kylos, theres an odd flourish with an annotation pointing out the hilt is made from a Wampa claw. Either they were experimenting with ways to add character to his weapon, or other lightsabers were going to get some screen time.
Max Von Sydows character could have been different
Sydows character, Lor San Tekka, only appears very briefly before Kylo Ren dispatches him. That might not have been the case originally, with many early rumors suggesting hed be a significant bad guy. There were also a lot of concept art sketches of a grizzled old man resembling Sydow, with a multitude of mechanical enhancements.
Was the fall of the Jedi more visible before?
Much of the film only works because the Jedi have been gone long enough to fade into myth (again). Lukes attempt to restart the Order was cut short by Kylo and the Knights of Ren. This piece of concept art mirrors a brief flashback in the movie, but seems quite detailed for what ends up on screen for less than a second. We know that Ren is actually a title like Darth and that JJ Abrams teased wed have to wait to find out more. As it turns out, a whole other movie kind of wait. Whats interesting here is that if one of these figures is meant to be Kylo, hes not yet the disfigured cyborg shown in similar early concept art, suggesting that may have originally been something that occurred here or soon after. A run in with Luke perhaps?
Did Kylo and Rey have different characters or relationships?
Again, this image shows a version of Kylo Ren that looks a little less than human, suggesting he was once going to be more monstrous and less sulky teen. The body language is also a lot more cloying and invasive than anything we saw in the film, which makes me wonder if the character was different in early drafts.
Rey was a lot more gadgety
Early on during Star Wars production, rumours about Reys outfit suggested it would be very practical and gadget laden. This concept art supports that and suggests Reys obvious knowledge and technical proficiency in the film was originally meant to be portrayed far more visually.
Poe Dameron was meant to die
In the actual movie Poe is apparently killed in a crash, only to magically appear later with almost no explanation for his surprise non-deadening. That may well be because he originally wasnt meant to survive. When Oscar Isaac was first offered the part the character didnt make it, and his lucky escape was only added in after hed accepted the job. It definitely explains why he doesnt really serve any purpose after the first act.
BB-8 could have been boring
Like the Stormtroopers, there were probably plenty of BB-8 variations, and this piece of art suggests some of them were a bit more down to Earth. Its still more or less the right shape, but that support axle means the ball is basically just a big wheel and thus a far more traditional droid design.