- LOS ANGELES (AP)
Audiences rose to their feet giving the latest "Star Wars" film a standing ovation after the credits rolled at the ending of the franchise's third trilogy.
Cheers often erupted with enthusiasm throughout while viewing "The Rise of Skywalker" on Monday night. After the screening, the film was met with a slew of positive reviews after director J.J. Abrams told the audience before the film played that he was "mostly terrified" to show the movie, which ran for nearly 2 ½ hours.
Seated in the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood were Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, and director Steven Spielberg, who Abrams specifically thanked.
Comedian-actor Seth Green, who attended the world premiere with his wife, Clare Grant, said he enjoyed watching how the latest film closed the final chapter of the Skywalker saga.
"I loved it," Green said. "I'm going to be unpacking this for a while. It's dense, it's deep, it's full of awesome stuff. To me, it's a satisfying finale of this saga."
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 with others opting for the look of the characters' mother, Queen Amidala, and many donning the armor of Stormtroopers, bounty hunters and Darth Vader.
"It was everything I'd hope it would be and more," said Dwayne Smith, who went to the premiere with his wife, Shannon, and son Kayden. Both father and son were wearing black First Order costumes.
"The twists, turns and nostalgia. It was emotional," Smith said during the premiere's after party. "It had action. It had everything. If you're on the fence from the last film, you'll be happy that it's back on track."
Attendees were treated to a blue 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 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.