Disney closed down Hollywood Boulevard as the studio took over three theaters—erecting an elaborate red carpet tent over the street that served as the pre-show press gauntlet, a show for the fans, the after party, and provided tunnel entrances to three theaters: The Dolby and Chinese at Hollywood and Highland and the El Capitan across the street. Security was tight (with several metal detector checkpoints) and the wind whipping as guests and their families posed for pictures (didn’t they get the memo to leave their cameras in the car?), many in costume, including green-faced Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Yoda ears.
Disney supplied stormtroopers and the new droid BB-8, who commands more screen time than C3Po or R2D2, it turns out. That’s the function of this new movie, which I will review when the embargo lifts at midnight, which is to make a transition from the old “Star Wars” universe to a new story led by three younger characters played by Brits Daisy Ridley and John Boyega and American Adam Driver, repping various sides of the Force.
How’s the movie? It is “good enough,” many of us said at the after party, to score HUGE at the box office in 4100 theaters (many in IMAX and 3D) this weekend, breaking records (the trailer crashed ticket seller Fandango when it broke last October) in the process. Will it crack $200 million? The excitement surrounding the “Star Wars” reboot brings unprecedented front-end appeal, and the word-of-mouth leaving the premiere Monday night will fuel the flames. In any case, Disney touted the premiere itself as the biggest of all time.
Warm inside the Dolby (where the Oscars are held) and munching “Star Wars” collectible tubs of free popcorn, we were flanked by staffers from Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, and sitting near Elizabeth Banks and Geena Davis, who stood and gave the crowd a wave, acknowledging that she was clearly NOT “live” on the red carpet being interviewed on the giant video screen. After Dolby intros by Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger, who plunked down $4 billion to buy Lucasfilm because of the potential value of the “Star Wars” franchise, Disney studio head Alan Horn, and Lucasfilm chief and former Steven Spielberg producer Kathleen Kennedy, who recalled hiring 16-year-old J.J. Abrams to edit some Spielberg Super 8 films they had found, Abrams set up standing ovations for “Star Wars” creator George Lucas and 83-year-old composer John Williams, who scored all the “Star Wars” films (he won five times, including “Star Wars”) and will surely land his 50th Oscar nomination for this one (he already holds the record as the most nominated person ever). Other Oscar prospects? Visual Effects, I’d say.
It’s also notable that original screenwriter Michael Arndt (“Toy Story 3”) took the stage with the writers who took over for him, Abrams and “Star Wars” saga veteran Lawrence Kasdan, as he does share screen credit (per the Writers Guild). Also on stage joining Ridley, Boyega, and Driver were underutilized Gwendoline Christie and Andy Serkis, who presumably have bigger roles to play down the line, as well as the stunning Lupita Nyong’o, sheathed in clingy silver, who plays a more pivotal part, Anthony Daniels (C3Po), Max Von Sydow, Oscar Isaac, a rickety Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), and the legacy trio Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford, who posed in the front with the three robots to raucous cheers.
At the after party, guests from all three theaters played video games, grabbed action figures, and got their pictures taken with lasers and stormtroopers, while the cast and key players were safely sequestered inside a VIP area, where no questions could be asked.