Disclaimer: this is a speculation article. Nothing is confirmed until Disney/the Star Wars crew says so.
It's pretty obvious from the newest trailer who the villain is.
Like most Sith, he wears a black cloak and possesses a red lightsaber. Furthermore, it is absolutely certain that this was the character leaked in October. However, from his lightsaber alone, could we already have a good idea of what his character is like?
While some made fun of the new lightsaber in J.J. Abrams' upcoming Star Wars movie, others saw it as an interesting way to tease who the villain will be. When I posted my article on the polarizing lightsaber, some fans here on Moviepilot were quick to explain both the sword's medieval appearance, and it's sputtering, unstable-looking light.
Dustin Bates said:
Maybe the dude is an ancient Sith Lord who was accidentally awakened by Luke and the lightsaber design is used to represent how old he is. That could be why it isn't as smooth operating and why it looks like an old broad sword.
William Carrier added:
If you think about it and listen to the narrator, it states specifically of an awakening, perhaps this character was as someone put it awakened and is a Sith mastermind like character. I think whoever he is should have been frozen in carbonite in the era of Bane and had been imprisoned for over a thousand years. That would be pretty BA.
These comments really got me thinking about it. As Mr. Carrier said, the trailer began with an ominous voice that warns that there has been an "awakening." As many Star Wars fans already know, hyper-sleep is indeed possible in the universe through the power of carbonite. This system of suspended animation is used to transport and preserve perishable goods.
In The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo was kept alive as Jabba the Hutt's prisoner in this process.
The theory that the villain of [Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens](movie:711158) has been frozen for many years is also supported by the fact that his lightsaber isn't as smooth or functional as the ones in the previous movies. In the trailer, the saber crackles and spurts instead of humming smoothly. One can additionally notice the crystal beam is sputtering, thin, and uneven.
It is indeed possible that this character's lightsaber was made in a time when the technology was less advanced and not as functional. It could have been a time when safety to the user's hands was not given as much focus (explaining the dangerous crossbar). This could also explain the excalibur-like hilt that it possesses.
I'd like to thank Dustin Bates and William Carrier for pointing this theory out to me. When you really think about it, it could totally make sense, and lead for an awesome use of the Rip Van Winkle trope. Let's just hope Luke and the gang are prepared; this could be their greatest foe yet.