Everyone has probably realized now that there are shots from trailers for The Force Awakens that aren’t in the finished film. That’s not such a big deal when it’s just a shot of Kylo Ren turning on his lightsaber, but it becomes complicated in the case of Maz Kanata handing General Leia Luke’s lightsaber.
For that to have occurred in the actual film, a number of things would have to have gone down differently. Luckily, this is one mystery we don’t have to wait two years to solve. Abrams spoke with Entertainment Weekly about it and cleared everything up:
That was a scene actually filmed, but we took out. At one point, Maz used to continue along with the characters back to the Resistance base, but we realized that she really had nothing to do there of value, except to have her sitting around…
Lupita did film scenes on set for that sequence, but it felt like going right just to go left, and it was unnecessary. So we ended up leaving those things out.
I sort of see his point, but - speaking purely from an armchair quarterback position - I think it would have been cool to keep Maz around and get to know her better. If she hands the lightsaber off to Leia (instead of Rey for some reason?), it doesn’t sound like she had nothing to do.
More than anything, I’m just amazed how much this film wasn’t nailed down as they made it. Unfortunately, that’s something you can feel as it plays.