“Star Wars” is back, and audiences at the world premiere of “The Force Awakens” excitedly greeted the mix of familiar characters and new faces waging war in a cinematic galaxy far, far away.
Audiences at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theater began cheering Monday from the moments the film’s first words appeared onscreen and reacted excitedly to seeing the return of Han Solo and Chewbacca after a 32-year hiatus from the big screen.
After the showing, audiences spilled out into a giant tent erected on Hollywood Boulevard where they snapped photos with Stormtroopers and lined up to build their own droid toys. Many seemed to approve of the vision director J.J. Abrams delivered for the first new “Star Wars” film in a decade.
“I loved it. I thought J.J. did an amazing job,” actor Zach Braff said after the premiere. “My favorite part was just seeing the camaraderie between the veteran and the new cast members.”
“The Force Awakens” mixes familiar characters such as Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and Carrie Fisher’s Leia Organa with a new cast that includes Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Gwendoline Christie and Lupita Nyong'o.
Comedian Patton Oswalt said that the film represented a return to what made him fall in love with “Star Wars” in the first place.
“It was a lot of fun,” Oswalt said. “I had the same feeling as when I would watch these films as a kid.”
Disney screened “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” simultaneously at three Hollywood theaters, with the cast watching the film at the Dolby Theatre.
The movie will be released publicly on Friday, with some expecting it to break box office records. “The Force Awakens” has already broken presale ticket records, and many fans are eager to see the onscreen reunion of original trilogy characters last seen in 1983’s “Return of the Jedi.”
The premiere’s red carpet kicked off with stormtroopers marching and droids rolling past cameras before the film’s stars arrived. John Williams’ soaring score played in the massive opaque tent spanning four blocks in Hollywood.
While most stars opted for chic red carpet attire, Joseph Gordon-Levitt showed up dressed as Jedi master Yoda and comedian Rainn Wilson dressed as a Jedi.
The carpet melded classic “Star Wars” figures with the new generation that will carry the weight of two more sequels, video games, comic books, toys and other merchandise.
At one point, Fisher turned the microphone on her co-star, Oscar Isaac, and conducted an interview that included her dropping an expletive.
Ford reflected on the impact of the film and the role that catapulted him to superstardom.
“Well, in the ’70s nobody knew what to anticipate,” Ford said in an interview with Starwars.com. “Nobody had ever seen anything like it. Now we have to live up to what the first films delivered.”
Abrams and “Star Wars” creator George Lucas posed together for photos, and both men took time to chat with fans – some dressed as X-Wing pilots and others as new “Force Awakens” characters – before heading into the premiere.
For those without tickets to the premiere, the most they could see was the outside of the tent.
“We’re really disappointed because we are big Star Wars fans, and we were hoping to at least see a little of the celebrities,” said Natalie Arnet, a tourist from Paris.
She said she understood the need for security, but it was tough to be so close and not get a better look at the red carpet. “I wanted to see the old cast members because I grew up with these films,” she said.
AP Entertainment Writer Marcela Isaza contributed to this report.