LOS ANGELES (AP) — Audiences enthusiastically greeted the latest “Star Wars” film, rising in a standing ovation Monday as the credits on the closing chapter in the franchise’s third trilogy rolled.
“The Rise of Skywalker” director J.J. Abrams told the audience before the film played that he was “mostly terrified” to show the film. Seated in the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood were Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, and director Steven Spielberg, who Abrams specifically thanked.
Cheers erupted throughout the nearly 2 ½ hour film, which Abrams has said will draw the story of the Skywalker clan to a close.
Fans turned the premiere into a living tribute to various eras of the space epic franchise, with some dressing up like Hamill’s Luke and Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia from the 1977 original film, others opting for the look of the characters’ mother, Queen Amidala and many donning the armor of Stormtroopers, bounty hunters and Darth Vader.
Attendees were treated to a red carpet spectacle that included appearances by the droids C-3PO and R2-D2, and Chewbacca stepping out of a black sport utility vehicle and posing for photographers with long arms stretched in the air.
Guests included Harrison Ford and actors made famous by the newest trilogy: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Kelly Marie Tran.
The premiere was the first time anyone outside a select group saw the ninth film in the core “Star Wars” story. “Rise of Skywalker” arrives in theaters Friday. Attendees had a chance to walk past an exhibit lined with numerous photos from previous films including a portrait with the late Carrie Fisher and her daughter Billie Lourd, another photo with Mark Hamill hugging Fisher and several Stormtrooper uniforms.
Few films have captured the popular imagination like 1977’s “Star Wars,” which has sparked three film trilogies, TV shows, toys and more. “The Rise of Skywalker” is one of the year’s most-anticipated releases, in part because filmmakers have promised a conclusion to the story of the Skywalker clan that includes Luke, Leia and their father Anakin, who became Darth Vader.
Disney paid more than $4 billion to acquire the Star Wars franchise in 2012 and the recent trilogy started by Abrams in 2015 with “The Force Awakens.” While it returned beloved characters from the original trilogy to the big screen for the first time since 1983, the story has focused on a new generation of characters played by Ridley, Adam Driver, Boyega and others.
Fans remain divided on 2017’s “The Last Jedi,” which showed a late-in-life Skywalker as a bitter recluse who cut himself off from his friends and broader conflicts embroiling the fictional far, far away galaxy.
Disney has not yet announced film plans post-“Rise of Skywalker.” Work on a trilogy set outside the Skywalker story has been halted, and no new stand-alone films have been announced since the poor showing of 2018’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”
Regardless of the reception to “Rise of Skywalker,” Disney has already delivered Star Wars fans two wins in 2019. Its theme parks in Florida and California opened massive Star Wars-themed expansions this year where guests are essentially transported to a distant planet. The company’s new streaming service, Disney Plus, also debuted the first live-action “Star Wars” television series in “The Mandalorian,” which introduced a popular new character: Baby Yoda.