For more, be sure to read our review of the Galaxy’s Edge Disney ride Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opens at Disney World on December 5th and opens at Disneyland on January 17th. Additionally, the Star Wars hotel, Galactic Starcruiser, opens at Disney World in 2021. When Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened at Anaheim’s Disneyland and Orlando’s Disney World earlier this year, the main selling point of the new land was the opportunity to “live your own Star Wars story” – offering guests a chance to fly the Millennium Falcon, build a lightsaber, or get rowdy in a cantina (at least for a not-very-villainous window of 45 minutes). But with only one ride fully operational at launch (the underwhelming Smugglers Run), Galaxy’s Edge felt a little like a starship with the hyperdrive disabled – a feat of engineering that was as frustrating as it was transporting, full of untapped potential. Thankfully, the land’s new ride, Rise of the Resistance, helps Galaxy’s Edge make the jump to lightspeed.
What sets Rise of the Resistance apart from pretty much any other theme park ride is the way it completely immerses you in a galaxy far, far away – but without the pressure of having to pilot the Falcon or carry out other tasks that might affect the outcome of the ride. That might seem like a small thing, since the majority of theme park rides are fairly passive experiences, but the most compelling aspect of Rise is that you truly feel like you’re an integral part of the Star Wars movies (rather than just a visitor to Hogwarts or Pandora), while still having the opportunity to just observe the action.
One of our biggest criticisms of Smugglers Run stems from the fact that it’s such a sensory overload that it’s tough to absorb everything that’s going on, since it relies on riders taking their attention off the action unfolding in front of them to press buttons or steer the ship. Rise of the Resistance is even more ambitious in terms of scale and execution, but it never lets its spectacle overwhelm its storytelling. There are plenty of interactive elements – some that even inspire feelings of believable peril – but being able to just go along for the ride as the Resistance tries to help you escape the First Order is a very pure experience, one that will make you feel like true “Rebel scum.”
On the surface, Rise of the Resistance probably shares the most creative DNA with Universal’s Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, since both are scenic dark rides that utilize the queue to establish their world and narrative, but Rise takes things a step further by basically integrating the queue into the action of the ride. While reporters had the benefit of experiencing Rise of the Resistance with no one else on it (which obviously cut down on the wait times), it has several sections that would probably be considered holding rooms in any other attraction. Thankfully, unlike the interminable “genetic matching room” in Avatar: Flight of Passage, these areas each advance the story and offer their own excitement long before guests finally get to the seated portion of the adventure.
Rise of the Resistance is set during the sequel trilogy and features familiar characters from the Resistance — including Rey, Poe, Finn and BB-8 — and the First Order — most notably Kylo Ren and General Hux.
You are a member of the Resistance who Rey commissions to help in the fight against the First Order. You are being traveled from Batuu (the setting of Galaxy’s Edge) to a top secret base held by General Organa. Of course, this is Star Wars, and so things go sideways; along the way your shuttle is intercepted by the First Order and pulled into a First Order Star Destroyer care of a tractor beam, and there you and your fellow Resistance travelers are held captive. From there, with the help of some familiar faces, you must escape the Star Destroyer and find your way to General Organa’s new base.
While Rise of the Resistance is undoubtedly a thrill ride, with “rapid motion, sudden stops, and sharp turns,” it’s not going to give you the same adrenaline high as a roller coaster or even Forbidden Journey, which is a much more turbulent trip. (Motion-wise, different parts of the ride recall the simulator aspects of Star Tours or Smugglers Run and the roving movements of Disneyland Paris’ Ratatouille ride or Universal’s Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, although thankfully without any headache-inducing 3D.)
That may be a pro or a con, depending on what your favorite type of theme park ride is, but it also makes the attraction more suitable for a wider audience. And with two levels of tiered seating in the ride cars, plus some clever design choices that ensure that most of the action takes place above you in the holding rooms – meaning taller people won’t block shorter riders’ view (another issue with Smugglers Run) – Rise of the Resistance feels like an attraction that guests of all ages can enjoy, even if younger kids might get spooked by having Kylo Ren stalking you through the corridors with his lightsaber drawn.
But Rise’s real strength is in its ability to tell a compelling, cohesive story that ratchets up the tension and keeps you guessing as it unfolds, recreating a desperate chase through a First Order Star Destroyer in a way that evokes Luke, Han, and Leia’s attempt to escape the Death Star in A New Hope, complete with copious blaster fire and encounters with multiple Stormtroopers. Along the way, you’re assisted by Rey, Finn, and Poe, as well as other members of the Resistance, and you’ll come face to face with both Kylo Ren and General Hux, thanks to a combination of precise projections and lifelike animatronics. Like Hondo Ohnaka in Smugglers Run, the animatronics are the standouts here, especially a new Mon Calamari character called Beck who helps guide your breakout.
It all plays out like a believable sequence from one of the films, complete with a rousing, goosebump-inducing score and crisp visuals that use CGI backdrops and footage of the actors, in addition to the practical effects and character projections. You’re generally being jostled around too much to admire the gorgeous starfield vistas you can see outside the windows of your various transports, and when you’re caught in the midst of a dogfight between the First Order and the Resistance, it all feels very real, and manages to look a little less artificial than the scenery on Smugglers Run – probably because most of the action takes place in space rather than on a specific planet.
Visitors who ride at different times of day will also be able to observe the gorgeous variations from day to night on the screens inside the ride depending on when you “take off,” further heightening the realism of the journey.
If you’re a theme park fan, you’ve probably already read about the life-size replica AT-ATs and a TIE fighter that have pride of place inside the ride, but they’re even more impressive in person. Likewise, the Disney Parks cast members who have been enlisted as First Order officers throughout the ride do an especially convincing job, refusing to break character – especially if you make like Baby Yoda and start touching buttons you shouldn’t be playing with while you’re waiting to be taken for interrogation.
All told, the action of the ride takes about 18 minutes, with the portion in the ride car accounting for a solid four and a half minutes, giving you plenty of Star Wars action even if the wait time is long (which it inevitably will be). The only lingering query after the press preview is how efficient the queue system actually is in terms of shuttling guests through each holding area and getting them loaded onto the cars without much of a delay – not to mention whether there will be any technical glitches given the complex nature of the ride’s design – something that won’t become apparent until Rise is open to the public.