Star Wars: The Force Awakens didn't completely shy away from prequel talk; one of the film's oddest lines is Kylo Ren joking with General Hux about a clone army. Now fans have begun to piece together another strange reference that was originally in the film, but removed before its theatrical release. We all remember the above shot from The Force Awakens; it's the entrance to Maz Kanata's castle. And we all knew there were Easter eggs in the flags. For example, the 501st Legion, a major fan-driven band of Stormtroopers, has a flag buried up there.
But recently Reddit user Aero-Space pointed out that the flags in the film's trailer were different from the flags on the Blu-ray. Here's their work:
(Note: the above images say the "release version" of the film had the flag in it, but that's incorrect. The change was made from trailer to the theatrical release, not from the theatrical release to Blu-ray.)
Strangely, J.J. Abrams more or less told us about this change long before anyone noticed it. A Rolling Stone article from December has the answer, as a writer is sitting in a room with J.J. Abrams editing the film. This is the exchange:
Abrams, fresh from his speech about the importance of details, sits at the center of the editing room. They begin by reviewing a shot shown in the trailer, where dozens of flags appear on a castle that belongs to Maz Kanata, a mysterious little goggle-wearing creature, played by Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) via motion-capture and CGI. The flags are designed to drive superfans nuts with references to the earlier movies, but Abrams tells Guyett that too many of them allude to the first of Lucas' prequels: "I don't want to be too about podracers," he says. "I'd rather come up with our stuff."
This makes sense. Abrams has repeatedly said that capturing the spirit of the original trilogy, going so far as to consciously copy the structure of A New Hope, was a key to the film's success. But it would have been nice to include such a minor allusion to The Phantom Menace's podracers, if not Anakin specifically.
Of course, this wasn't the only potential Anakin reference that was removed from the film. But given how many insane theories fans would have inevitably created if they thought Maz had any sort of connection to young Anakin's podracing days, it's pretty understandable why Abrams would take it out, no matter how small a detail it seemed.