LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - With Stormtroopers and lightsabers, Disney's much-anticipated "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" made its debut with a star-studded premiere on Monday, and the attention was all on one man at the center of it all - creator George Lucas.
The man who created the entire "Star Wars" world received a standing ovation from the audience at a Hollywood movie theater as he sat next to his long-time collaborator Steven Spielberg.
"None of us would be here tonight without the miraculous creation of one man. George Lucas, from the bottom of my heart, on behalf of everyone involved in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens,' thank you sir," said J.J. Abrams, the film's director.
Out in theaters on Friday, "The Force Awakens" follows tenacious scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) as her fate becomes intertwined with that of rebel Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and a ball-like droid named BB-8.
Set 30 years after "Return of the Jedi", which came out in 1983, the film also sees the return of franchise veterans Han Solo (Harrison Ford), General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
Skywalker's glaring absence from the film's marketing is intentional to avoid giving away a crucial plot twist.
Lucas sold "Star Wars" to Disney in 2012 for $4.05 billion dollars, and "The Force Awakens" is the first of a new trilogy and new standalone films from the studio.
Abrams, a self-described "Star Wars" fanboy, told Reuters he was feeling the pressure of releasing the film into the world.
"There are certainly nerves showing the movie to 1,000-plus people tonight but I feel very confident in the work that was done by the actors. So, if nothing else, I know people will enjoy watching their performances," he said.
Hamill said the new film can't live up to the expectations of the devoted "Star Wars" fan base.
"It's only a movie and if you think you're going to go into the movie and recapture your childhood you're setting yourself up for disappointment," he said.
Reviews of the new film are embargoed until Wednesday but at the premiere screening, the audience were in high spirits, often cheering when familiar faces popped up on screen.
Early reactions on Twitter were positive, with Los Angeles Times reporter Glenn Whipp saying "Quite simply: This is the STAR WARS movie you're looking for."
Additional reporting by Reuters TV in Los Angeles, editing by Estelle Shirbon