Rian Johnson, writer and director of the eighth installment of the franchise, dedicated the night to the late Carrie Fisher, who died after filming had completed.
“She’s up there flipping the bird and saying ‘don’t bring this night down with solemn tributes’,” Johnson said on stage at the Shrine Auditorium.
It was in that spirit that Johnson excitedly introduced his cast, including Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac. Hamill and composer John Williams, who Johnson called one of the “greatest living film composers” were among the few who got standing ovations.
“Let’s watch a Star Wars movie,” Johnson exclaimed as the cast took their seats, the lights dimmed, and the iconic Star Wars crawl appeared on screen.
The enthusiastic audience laughed and cheered throughout much of the two-and-a-half-hour film. One audience member even shrieked “What?!” at a key scene deep in the film.
The elaborate premiere featured a massive assault vehicle and a procession of Stormtroopers and droids that preceded the first showing of the film in advance of its December 15 release.
The mood was joyous and pregnant with anticipation for the highly anticipated and guarded film, which sees the return of Hamill’s Luke Skywalker, as well as Fisher’s final performance.
Formal reviews won’t be out for a few days, but journalists and others at the screening who shared their initial reactions online said The Last Jedi packed in the adventure expected in a Star Wars film, but took it into new territory.
J.J. Abrams, who directed 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens and will return to direct Episode IX said the film was “great” and that “Rian killed it.”
Logan director James Mangold also praised the film’s director, calling the movie “a great chapter of a blockbuster franchise”, that also had Johnson’s “voice shining through”.
Entertainment Weekly’s Anthony Breznican said the film “will shatter you and then make you feel whole again”.
Speaking aheead of the screening, Hamill described as “weird” the experience of seeing Luke Skywalker’s traits passed on to new characters in the franchise.
This latest film sees Hamill pass the baton the new, younger stars of the series.
“Everybody is great,” he said. “What is weird is you get to see portions of your character being divvied up amongst other characters.
“I used to be the hotshot pilot and now Oscar Isaac is. I used to be sneaking around dressed up as the bad guys on the Death Star and now Kellie Marie Tran and John Boyega are.
“What about the orphan who is discovering mystical powers that he had? That is now Daisy Ridley.
“It’s good, it’s the next generation; they should do the heavy lifting.”
Hamill also warned fans the movie might not play out the way they expect.
An elderly Skywalker appeared only briefly in Episode VII: The Force Awakens, when he met Ridley’s character Rey on a remote outcrop surrounded by ocean, but his character will feature more prominently in this outing, when he steps back into the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon.
“He says in the trailer ‘this is not going to go the way you think’, so expect the unexpected,” he said.
“I was shocked, I said: ‘Really? It’s time for the Jedi to end? What happened to this guy? Wasn’t he the most optimistic, hopeful character?’
“What could have traumatised him? What could have happened that he would wind up being this bitter, elderly recluse?
“It’s really surprising, but just the fact that they could surprise me is credit to Rian Johnson’s storytelling.”
Hamill said he had loved the chance to spend time with the film’s star-studded cast, which includes Boyega, Isaac, and Andy Serkis.
He said: “I love them all, one is better than the next.
“Domhnall Gleeson [who plays General Hux], I’m telling you, he is so great as an actor to play that extreme parody of villainy with a straight face, it’s just brilliant.”