Michael Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock
Michael Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

The force took over Hollywood on Saturday night as Disney-Lucasfilm’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” premiered to wild applause at the Pantages Theatre.

Celebrities and fans cheered throughout the end credits of the film, which has a running time of 2 hours and 18 minutes.

Some observers in the crowd remarked afterward how surprisingly action packed and beautiful the film looked. Others noted how much they liked the new characters in the prequel, which opens next Friday.

“It was excellent,” said fan Chris Canole. “The new characters and story lines really engaged me. It reminded me of ‘The Dirty Dozen.'”

The “Rogue One” screening began at 7 p.m. with no introduction, unlike last year when Disney Chairman Bob Iger spoke before “The Force Awakens.”

Felicity Jones, the Oscar-nominated star of the film, got the night’s biggest raves. Actors Donnie Yen and Alan Tudyk, who play Chirrut Imwe and robot K-2SO, also received enthusiastic responses. The film co-stars Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker.

Dane Cook told his Twitter followers the movie could be the best of the eight Star Wars films.

Reaction to the first public showing of “Rogue One,” which begins opening in international markets on Wednesday, will no doubt represent a relief to the multitudes of Star Wars fans. Disney’s review embargo lifts Tuesday.

“Rogue One” is the eighth film in the Star Wars franchise but the first to step outside the narrative of the other seven films in a standalone story set shortly before the events of 1977’s original “Star Wars” — though Darth Vader, the Galactic Empire and The Death Star remain key elements.

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It follows a group of rebel spies trying to steal the schematics for the Empire’s Death Star. It’s directed by Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla”) from a script by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy.

Anticipation has been building for several days, particularly with a massive model of an X-Wing fighter placed on front of the Pantages. The festivities began with a red carpet that started at about 5 p.m. Saturday.

Disney is launching “Rogue One” accompanied by enormous expectations, four years after it acquired Lucasfilm from founder George Lucas in October, 2012, for $4 billion. “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” fulfilled the initial hopes last year with a $248 million domestic launch on its way to a worldwide box office gross of $2.1 billion. But Disney is on the hook for four more Star Wars films through 2020.

Recent forecasts have predicted that “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is on pace for an opening weekend of more than $130 million in the U.S., according to pre-release tracking.

Company head Bob Iger  said in September the studio was not expecting the film to do “Force Awakens”-level business because it exists outside of the main narrative about the Skywalker clan. It relies largely on a new cast of characters, instead or bringing back fan favorites such as Han Solo and Princess Leia.

Watch our exclusive interviews from the “Rogue One” premiere:

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