The hype around Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was massive from the moment Bob Iger announced the plans for the lands at D23 Expo, and the grand openings on both coasts earlier this summer left many Disney and Star Wars fans feeling somewhat underwhelmed. For better or worse, this has put even more pressure on Rise of the Resistance, an attraction Disney has constantly described as “the most ambitious, immersive, advanced, action-packed attraction we’ve ever created.”
The big question is, does this ride deliver on such a lofty promise? It is hard to remember a time that an attraction has had such high expectations pre-opening; current fan favorite Flight of Passage, for example, didn’t have much known in advance and was actually discounted by many fans prior to anyone getting a chance to ride it, but for Rise of the Resistance Disney has preemptively set the bar extremely high. The good news is that their confidence was well-placed, as this incredibly immersive attraction meets those goals, and then blows right past them; while riders coming off of Flight of Passage after their first ride used adjectives like “breathtaking”, the most common thing I heard from guests after disembarking this attraction was stunned silence at what they’d just experienced. Truly a first of its kind, this attraction blends multiple ride systems seamlessly to tell an incredibly detailed story that can be enjoyed by the most indifferent and fervent Star Wars fans alike.
Speaking of who the right “audience” is for this attraction, while you don’t need to be a Star Wars super-fan to enjoy it, having seen Episode 7 or 8 (or 9, depending on when you’re reading this) will certainly help familiarize you with the characters you’ll be interacting with. If you haven’t seen any of the films, you’ll still undoubtedly be impressed and have a good time, but you may not have an intense understanding of what’s going on. Also audience-wise, the attraction has a 40-inch height requirement, which rules out many small children, but this may be for the best as the intensity of some of the scenes may frighten little ones; even though a four-year-old could be tall enough to ride the attraction, you may want to wait an extra year unless they’re brave for their age. For those who suffer from motion sickness or are fearful about specific ride elements, you likely don’t need to miss out on the fun, as the attraction itself is generally mild and will only affect those who have a very extreme sensitivity.
Operationally speaking, Rise of the Resistance did not offer any previews or soft openings prior to its launch, meaning today’s launch will be the first time Cast Members are putting massive amounts of Guests through the attraction, so things will likely be rough in the beginning. There are some details that will surely be refined over the coming weeks, namely a somewhat confusing grouping process and frequent delays that cause transitions between different moments leading up to starting the ride to seem a bit…disjointed. The technical complexity of a brand new ride system often leads to higher than normal downtimes and delays, so that is only taken to the next level when you combine multiple new ride systems together; if you’re going in the first few weeks, pack some extra patience as they work to sort everything out, as you’re likely to encounter extremely long waits and FastPass+ is not an option (at least not yet).
As a local resident, there are few attractions anywhere that will motivate me to wait in a long line, but like Flight of Passage, this is one where visits from friends and family will see me waiting hours to introduce them to the awesomeness of this ride. Despite any potential hiccups and long lines, it’s definitely worth a visit as soon as possible so you can enjoy the attraction with minimal spoilers, which I highly recommend avoiding for this attraction. Disney’s Imagineers are operating at an epic scale here and there is another surprise around every corner, so knowing what’s coming next will certainly take some of the fun away. However, if you’re the type of person who just needs to know what’s inside that massive show building, read on.
** WARNING: MASSIVELY DETAILED SPOILERS AHEAD **
Overall, this attraction is incredibly unique…it’s a mix of multiple ride types: simulator, drop ride, dark ride and walkthrough attraction, and it pulls the best of each together seamlessly to tell an exciting, unique story full of twists and turns (figuratively and literally). The scale is unlike anything done at Disney before, and the most common comparison is to Pirates of the Caribbean at Shanghai Disneyland, a hugely immersive and popular attraction that has previously been considered the high-water mark.
Starting at the beginning, let’s talk about the queue: the standby one is long, and there isn’t a ton to entertain you. They’ve got some flight suits, weapons, and a couple of cool glowing glass space maps you walk past, but nothing interactive or dynamic to keep kids entertained. In attractions like Haunted Mansion or Flight of Passage, taking the FastPass+ queue means missing out on fun interactive elements, but that’s not the case here, as all of the action starts after the two queues merge. At that point you enter a briefing room and get a download of the situation from holographic Rey and BB-8: a Star Destroyer (which has already been infiltrated by Finn) is headed to Batuu and we all need to be evacuated to the new Resistance base via a transport ship piloted by Lieutenant Bek (a new, attraction-specific character) with backup from Poe Dameron. The wow factor in the briefing room is Rey: the hologram tech they’re employing is incredible, and while we’ve seen similar presentations down the street at Universal Orlando, this is taken to a whole new level by the lack of an obvious screen to project onto.
After you leave the briefing room you’re ushered out into an open-air space, where Resistance members urge you quickly onto a waiting transport ship. Once onboard the ship, it takes off and begins an extremely well done but mild simulator experience that sees our transport team intercepted by the First Order and the Resistance blindsided and heavily wounded in the attack. We are pulled aboard a Star Destroyer via a tractor beam, at which point our ship is boarded by First Order personnel and we’re ordered (quite menacingly) off of the ship and onto the bridge of the Star Destroyer. This in-queue simulator is similar to the elevator sequence on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, but taken to a factor of ten – this several-minute transport sequence has an incredibly detailed animatronic, viewports giving you a “view” out of the front and back windows of the ship (which, like on Smuggler’s Run, change appearance based on the time of day you’re riding), and mild but meaningful motion that feels like more than just a slightly trembling floor.
Back to the Star Destroyer: this is possibly the biggest wow-moment of the attraction, as the bridge is absolutely massive and filled with fifty (at my count) Stormtrooper animatronics, each full-sized and moving in their own unique and subtle ways. This room also has a massive viewport, a ride vehicle you can test out or take photos in, and even a large TIE fighterhanging against a wall (which still looks small due to the scale). This room is similar to the holding room on the Millennium Falcon, though in this case you’re not given any credentials and can (theoretically) spend as much time as you’d like here — I say theoretically because this room is so impressive, I wouldn’t be surprised if they find the need to enforce some operational limitations to keep people moving through the space, at least in the early days.
At this point in the attraction, you’ve seen holo-Rey, flown on a mild simulator ride, and seen one of the most impressive spaces ever created by Imagineering. Had there been a need, WDI could have stopped at this point and would have created a solid attraction that would be fitting of a place in Galaxy’s Edge…and you’re not even at the ride yet! This is likely the most impressive element of the attraction: every moment is an experience, not just the ride itself, and all of it only goes to heighten the sense of awe.
Moving on from the bridge, you enter a hallway and find yourself in a traditional queue where you wait to be grouped for your vehicles. As I mentioned earlier, this part feels a little rough; First Order personnel have you line up initially in two unmarked lines, then you get re-grouped by color. However once you’ve been assigned a color, you’re told to remember it and you then move into a room where everyone mixes together again, only to be later re-separated by your assigned color…weird. Speaking of colors, they represent your vehicle and row, with red and blue in one vehicle and white and orange in the other; both have very similar experiences, but the red/blue vehicle has a solid edge over its counterpart in several areas. If you can only ride once, try to get your party in one of the first four spaces in either of those two unmarked lines to get a spot in the lead vehicle.
After your grouping experience, you move into a prisoner holding room, where you have an encounter with the First Order’s General Hux and Kylo Ren. They are presented via the same realistic-style projection technology Universal favors for their recent pre-shows, but Disney has really tended to the details by even ensuring the shadows of these figures move around in sync over your head, which is an awesome touch once you notice it. After they are conveniently summoned to the bridge, the Resistance cuts a hole in the wall to extract us and ushers us onto a transport vehicle (back into our assigned colors) for us to finally get onto the ride.
The ride vehicle itself is a trackless, eight-seater vehicle with two rows of four (slight stadium seating) piloted by an R5 droid that sits in front of the middle two front seats. Once all of the safety checks are done, Finn gives us the rundown of the simple, direct travel route our droids are supposed to follow, Lieutenant Bek is established as our remote guide, and we’re off to find escape pods back to Batuu before the Resistance backup arrives to destroy the Destroyer…what could go wrong?
Things quickly go wrong (it wouldn’t be a Disney attraction otherwise, right?). After the compulsory dance of the trackless ride vehicles (found on Ratatouille, Antarctica, and most every other trackless system), the red/blue vehicle immediately runs into a patrol drone that luckily doesn’t spot us, and we dodge it by running directly into a set of Storm Troopers that do catch us and open fire. We run away into the infamous AT-AT room, where we glide between two of these towering figures before getting fired on by another set of Storm Troopers, and the ride vehicles diverge in two different paths and we are moved onto a lift and elevated up to eye-level with the AT-AT. In this split, the red/blue vehicle comes face to face with the towering armored transport, which lowers its weapons and shoots at us; the orange/white vehicle takes a lift alongside the AT-AT and gets fired upon instead by a Storm Trooper’s blaster. When you’re being lifted up, keep an eye out for a Finn animatronic…there is a different one for each lift, both in different places.
We next come across Kylo Ren and General Hux discussing the Resistance on the bridge, which is when the rest of the Resistance fleet shows up to start a fight. We run away, but Kylo Ren pursues us, menacing us with his light saber and even using it to try to break into our elevator lift. We get out of the lift and past some giant, firing cannons before we move into a room where Finn is warning us to evacuate before the ship gets destroyed. Kylo Ren appears again and uses the Dark Side to threaten us, but he gets temporarily distracted when the fight outside gets brought close to home by way of knocking a giant hole in the side of the Star Destroyer and creating a very windy environment thanks to the ship’s air being sucked into the vacuum of space, which allows us to get away. One more note here is to keep at least one eye out the viewport in this room…the action outside really helps to explain what is happening.
Once destruction is imminent, we get out of the room and pull around the corner into an escape pod, which you know is locking into a new ride system thanks to an extremely loud click, and this indicates you’re about to experience the infamous drop. You’ve likely seen movie scenes where the escape pod drops out of the ship a safe distance and quickly takes off, and this perfectly replicates that feeling. The drop is not massive, just enough to give you the sensation of falling before the forward engines kick in, and it’s also surprisingly gentle; instead of a hard stop at the bottom, it almost glides near the end of the fall, making it much less jarring and a very different feeling than Tower of Terror. Once the engines start, you’re in for about 15 seconds of a full-on simulator ride – this is the only part where I think those who are prone to motion sickness may have some trouble, but the movement is not severe and you could likely close your eyes immediately after the drop to avoid unpleasant side effects from this portion of the ride.
Our escape pod’s programming is a bit off, and we crash land back in Batuu, interrupting a Batuuan citizen in the middle of their welding work. The vehicle then moves out into the unload area, which is another beautifully themed, covered outdoor space, and we’re congratulated for surviving our harrowing trek. As we disembark, Lieutenant Bek congratulates us and our R5 unit on successfully escaping the First Order and protecting the location of the Resistance base. Mission accomplished!
Have you ridden Rise of the Resistance yet? If so, what was your favorite part of the attraction, and if not, which part sounds most exciting to you?