By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Droids rolled down a blue carpet and stormtroopers kept order at the world premiere on Monday of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”, the ninth and final movie episode in the sci-fi fable of a celebrated Jedi master.
Walt Disney Co <DIS.N> closed off an entire city block in the center of Hollywood to host the celebrity-studded debut screening of the highly-anticipated film, which opens for the general public in theaters around the world on Thursday.
Staff waving glowing light sabers guided premiere attendees, among them “Star Wars” royalty Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill, to a ceremonial blue carpet under a large tent, outfitted to resemble a spaceship hangar beneath a star-lit sky. Replicas of three X-wing Starfighters dangled overhead.
Actor Harrison Ford, whose Hans Solo character died in the 2015 installment “The Force Awakens,” joined the celebration, as did Adam Driver who plays Solo’s progeny turned knight of the Dark Side, Kylo Ren. Other A-listers invited as guests included directors Steven Spielberg and Spike Lee, and actress Frances McDormand.
“Well, this is terrifying,” director J.J. Abrams said as he introduced the movie inside the packed Dolby Theatre.
“Nothing brings people together quite like Star Wars.”
“Rise of Skywalker” caps a blockbuster film series that ranks as the second highest-grossing movie franchise of all time, with more than $9.2 billion in ticket sales.
It concludes a story that began 42 years ago in 1977, when filmmaker George Lucas introduced a young hero named Luke Skywalker (Hamill) and delighted audiences with a galaxy of metallic robots called droids, a race of tall, furry warriors known as Wookiees and a host of other eclectic characters.
At Monday’s premiere, superfans dressed as favorites from the heroine scavenger Rey to bounty hunter Boba Fett and villain Darth Vader. Hamill received a standing ovation when he was introduced, as did composer John Williams.
Initial reactions were largely positive. Throughout the film, the audience applauded, gasped and cheered at major plot twists.
“Yeah, J.J.!,” one person yelled after a surprising moment.
Fan Katie Wilson said the movie “completely blew my mind”.
“They did such a good job being able to mix this new ‘Star Wars’ world that they created,” she said. “With the nostalgia that the fans that grew up with Star Wars for years and years love.”
Princess Leia returned in the movie – despite the 2016death of Carrie Fisher, the actress who played her – by way of unused footage from “The Force Awakens”.
While the latest film brings the Skywalker family’s saga to an end, Disney plans future “Star Wars” movies with new characters starting in December 2022, though the company has not released details.
“We’re going to make sure we take our time until we know that it’s right,” Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Rollo Ross; Editing by Steve Gorman, Richard Chang and Ed Osmond)