Early praise for 'The Last Jedi' after elaborate LA premiere

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — There were cheers, gasps, droid photo opportunities, casino games and more than a few standing ovations at the jam-packed world premiere of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" on Saturday night in Los Angeles.

And many are already praising it online.

Rian Johnson, the 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 cast members took their seats, the lights dimmed and the yellow Star Wars logo and iconic scrawl appeared on screen to signal the start of the film.

The enthusiastic audience laughed and cheered throughout much of the 2 1/2-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 Dec. 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 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, told The Associated Press that 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."

Producer Adam F. Goldberg wrote that the film made him feel like a kid again.

Entertainment Weekly's Anthony Breznican said the film "will shatter you and then make you feel whole again."