It is been one of the most eagerly awaited – and hyped – films in cinematic history.
But for millions of Star Wars fans there has been one pressing question above any other over the last instalment in the long-running saga: “Is it any good?”
The good news for the devotees of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and the rest of the returning heroes is that the initial reaction to the new film, The Force Awakens, has been overwhelmingly positive.
Critics and other invited guests at the film’s world premiere in Los Angeles took to social media to deliver their initial verdicts on the film – and reassure the fans that the franchise is in safe hands.
Director JJ Abrams, who masterminded the acclaimed big-screen reboot of Star Trek six years ago, was singled out for praise by many of those who took to Twitter after emerging from one of three screenings in LA. Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill – the three main stars of the original trilogy – were joined by their new co-stars, including John Boyega and Daisy Ridley on the red carpet before the unveiling of the first of three new Star Wars films.
Fans had camped out for days for the chance catch a glimpse of the stars, while audience members had bags searched and had to hand over mobile phones under a strict anti-piracy clampdown.
More than 4,000 cinemas around the world will be showing The Force Awakens, the plot of which has been a closely-guarded secret, over the next few days.
Advance ticket sales, which are already predicted to top $220 million (£133m) in the US alone on its opening weekend, are expected to be boosted further by the early buzz on the film – which picks up 30 years after events depicted in the 1983 blockbuster, Return of the Jedi, the final instalment of the original trilogy.
Los Angeles Times writer Steven Zeitchik told his Twitter followers: “From comedy to costumes, fights to fx to overall feel, JJ Abrams has created a thoroughly old-fashioned movie.”
Robert Mills tweeted: “Short #TheForceAwakens reaction. It’s everything you want it to be. See it ASAP. Beware of spoilers. It’s funny, fun and exciting.”
Actor Rainn Wilson, star of the US version of The Office, said: “1st Star Wars review: it was epic, awesome & perfect. The cast was stellar. JJ killed it!”
Buzzfeed’s Adam Vary said: “Rest easy: #TheForceAwakens is 100 per cent #StarWars and something new.”
And US entertainment reporter Germain Lussier said on Twitter: “The Force Awakens spoke to my every emotion. Most of them good, a few not, but overall it was an amazing, overwhelming experience.”