The Force took over the Shrine Auditorium near downtown Los Angeles, as stars and filmmakers of Star Wars: The Last Jedi came together on Dec 9 for the first screening of the eighth instalment of the massive Lucasfilm franchise. Giant AT-M6 walkers flanked the entrance to the red carpet, as stars like Daisey Ridley, Mark Hamill, Laura Dern, Lupita Nyong’o and others arrived and posed for pictures with fans.

Director Rian Johnson (right) shows some love to actor Anthony Daniels who plays C-3PO. – Reuters

John Boyega had built suspense about whether he would make the premiere, tweeting earlier Saturday that bad weather had kept him from flying out of Atlanta.The Last Jedi picks up where 2015’s The Force Awakens left off, with Rey reaching the planet on which Luke Skywalker had been holed up, away from the war waging between the First Order and The Resistance. Ridley, who plays Rey, teased on the red carpet that her character gets ”enough” screen time.

Daisy Ridley

Daisy Ridley looks stunning at the premiere. Photo: AFP

“I’m not going to lie, I’m proud of myself,” Ridley said. “It’s nice seeing something that you worked so hard on, that it’s tangible, that you can measure. Because I’m like, ‘I was stronger and that fight’s cool’.”

Carrie Fisher, who unexpectedly died late last year, was ever-present at Friday’s premiere, featured prominently in film posters lining the red carpet. The iconic actress, who first portrayed Princess Leia in 1977, was able to finish filming her part as General Leia Organa before her death.“I’d like to dedicate tonight to Carrie,” writer-director Rian Johnson said before the screening began. ”Let’s have a blast for Carrie.”

Overwhelmingly Positive Review

Initial reaction to the film was overwhelmingly positive, giving hardcore fans plenty to chew on after an action-packed film that struck many notes.“It’s very complex and very intimate and very emotional,” said producer Ram Bergman. ”There’s a lot of movie…. It’s one of those movies, you’re going to say, I need to digest it, and I want to go see it again because there’s just a lot of it. I think the movie is dense. It’s complex, but it’s a fun ride. It truly is a Rian Johnson movie.”

Johnson, who is tapped to direct future Star Wars films, said the franchise has remained so popular and enduring because of the ability to straddle fun and drama.“With the original trilogy and also with the prequels, it was that hero’s journey, something that everyone can relate to packaged in a fun adventure, a fun ride that just makes you come out of the theatre and want to grab your spaceship toys and run around the backyard,” Johnson said.

“I think it’s the combination of those two things. I’ve said it’s like the balance between opera and bubble gum. The fact that Star Wars rides that balance just right is what makes it special.”

Carrie Fisher’s daughter and ex-husband Billie Lourd and Bryan Lourd attend the premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Photo: Reuters

With other movies in the pipeline, Johnson said there’s no set story arc yet. “That’s what we have to figure out,” he said. “That’s what’s going to be fascinating going forward: What makes it Star Wars? What makes it feel Star Wars? What do we maintain in order to give the audience that feeling? So I don’t know. That’s to be seen.” – Reuters