Apologies Wanderers for the week off. There were a few things that came up that proved more important, then some laptop trouble set us back a few more days. But we’re back now and look forward to more content than ever.
Rise of the Resistance is the latest attraction to come to Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios. The ride completes Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge as it has opened in stages on both coasts. This post will review Rise of the Resistance, giving both spoiler-free thoughts and in-depth analysis of the attraction.
Before jumping in to the specifics of the attraction, I’m going to give a few general thoughts on this new attraction for those that want to read about the ride but don’t want to spoil their ride through. After that, I’ll break Rise of the Resistance down scene-by-scene, along with photos. I’ll have another post in the next day or two detailing tips on how to get on Rise of the Resistance.
When Disney set out to build a land based on Star Wars, expectations were sky high. The hope was for an immersive land with ambitious attractions, a place reminiscent of one of the most imaginative film franchises while still being on its own. Galaxy’s Edge opened with only one of those attractions, and while I thoroughly enjoyed spending time there it was obvious something was missing. That has now changed since Rise of the Resistance is open, a modern marvel of an attraction that is among the most creative Disney has ever built.
Rise of the Resistance utilizes a trackless ride system to an extent that we haven’t seen stateside. The technology is astonishing and worth the ride in and of itself. On top of that, the queue is full of detail and the pre-show(s) are unlike any I’ve experienced. While the ride is fantastic and would be a smashing success alone, the whole experience blends together seamlessly that it’s hard to really pinpoint when the attraction actually begins. From the start of the first pre-show the experience lasts over 20 minutes, an incredible length.
Along with the technological achievement, seamless experience, and outstanding queue, the cast member acting throughout the attraction boosts Rise of the Resistance. All of them play characters that fit in with the plot and add a human element to an out-of-this-world (pun intended) experience. Throughout all of my experiences on the ride, these characters add laughs to the attraction and immersion to the ride. The live characters are excellent, as are the blend of animatronic and screen characters. There are so many moments in the ride where it isn’t necessary for an animatronic to be there, but there they are, a little hidden, adding to the ride. Like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal Studios, this attraction blends screens and physical sets wonderfully.
This all leads to the best attraction Disney has built in (fill in the blank) years. There’s little doubt Rise of the Resistance is better than anything built in the last decade and likely this century. While it’s hard to gauge a brand new attraction against other classics like Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion, the ride holds up no matter what attraction you pair it against. Rise of the Resistance is everything that is right about modern theme park attractions, utilizing technology and classic ride storytelling to make for an attraction unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
RIDE SPOILERS AHEAD!
Now for a scene-by-scene breakdown of the attraction. We’ll start with the queue since, you know, that’s where guests enter. The queue takes guests deep inside of a Resistance hideout on the Outer Rim. Outside of the base, the forest is overgrown and understated, with a waterfall capping off a beautiful little area before guests head inside of the building.
From there the queue winds back into this building with a narrow path. The walls are textured and worn with markings throughout, almost like it’s an old temple of some sort. As you get back further and further into the building there are more signs of it being a Resistance Base. There are holographic maps followed by weapons and flight suits in lockers. It’s all made up of physical sets and there’s no interactive element to it (I guess you could do the Disney Play app in parts) which is a choice that I like. I don’t think the queue is there to wow anybody, it’s setting up the story and does that very well. That’s not to say it isn’t pretty to look at, it is.
From there comes the pre-show, where BB-8 and an array of other characters meet guests to explain what is happening. A hologram of Rey explains to us that the Resistance, which we are joining, is in danger living on Batuu and we need to get out. Lieutenant Bek and Nien Nunb (a personal favorite!) are going to lead us, the new resistance recruits, out of the area and away from the First Order. We also see Poe Dameron in this sequence, the most we’ll see of him and Rey in the entire attraction.
This seems like as good a time as any to address the use of characters from the newer trilogy as opposed to the original one. The entire attraction might hold more power and nostalgia to people if we were escaping Darth Vader with Luke, Leia and Han. I get that and, frankly, it’s probably a fair critique. It’s no secret that the new trilogy has a few issues, whether you are a Last Jedi detractor or can’t stand all of the fan-service in Rise of Skywalker. I fall into the latter, for the record.
Having said that, I don’t think it really takes away from the attraction. Lt. Bek leading us around was a smart choice as he’s not an integral character but still recognizable. He’s hardly divisive. There are a few awkward moments in the attraction considering where the newest film, Rise of Skywalker, went. That movie’s plot and this attraction’s plot don’t exactly jive, especially since most people will see the movie before riding the attraction. It’s important to remember that Galaxy’s Edge is set between Episode 8 and 9, so the attraction does fit in with canon. All in all, guests are the active character in the ride, not those from the movie, so I don’t think the use of the new trilogy is a big detraction. I do understand having some minor qualms with it though.
After that initial pre-show, guests are hustled outside to board a vessel piloted by Lt. Bek. Along the way, there’s a black and orange Tie-Fighter that BB-8 has boarded. It’s just the beginning of the eye candy throughout the attraction and a testament to not only the grandness of Rise of the Resistance but also the massive budget used to create the ride.
When boarding the vessel, I recommend getting as far to the right as possible so you can get up close to the Lt. Bek animatronic. There’s not really a bad area on this part of the ride but I’m always drawn to the physical stuff as opposed to screens. The animatronic is just one of the unexpected surprises in this portion of the ride. He looks great, wheels around in his seat and talks. Nien Nunb pilots the ship, shout out to my guy!
Maybe the bigger surprise in this room is that it moves. The plot has us escaping Batuu only to be met by a First Order fleet and Star Destroyer that will draw us in with a tractor beam. On my first ride through, I just assumed it was a mini flight simulator. The ship sequence feels similar to Star Tours albeit much less intense as guests stand instead of sit. It turns out that this isn’t actually a flight simulator but instead is moving guests to the next room. It’s a small thing that really blew me away, as I expected the doors to open from the opposite side but instead they just open where guests boarded, albeit in a different room. This sequence on the flight isn’t the best moment of the ride or anything but it moves the plot along with some unexpected highlights.
After the ship is detained by the First Order, we end up inside of the Star Destroyer and are met by the room that has been in all of the Rise of the Resistance promos leading up to opening. Even having seen the room in pictures, it is no less shocking. The Cast Member, performing his/her First Order duties, orders guests off the ship. This is also shocking and sets the mood. This room full of Storm Troopers is sleek and shiny, a perfect representation of the Empire and First Order in the Star Wars franchise. It’s an absolute wow moment that I can’t get enough of. Some of the Storm Troopers move from time to time, seemingly after you assume that they are all models.
The room is stunning – grand, beautiful and full of detail that you’ll miss on the first ride through. That this all happens before guests are on the actual ride is shocking and fantastic. The Storm Trooper room is truly one of the best moments of the experience and that’s not to diminish the actual ride. I can’t accurately describe just how wow inducing that first moment of stepping off the ship into the Star Destroyer is.
From there the First Order troops (Cast Members) gather guests into groups for interrogation. Even something this simple is done extremely well as the Cast Members are so stern that you can’t help but laugh. Don’t let them catch you laughing though! That hallway is sleek as well.
Once inside of the interrogation room, prisoners (that’s us) are met by General Hux and Kylo Ren from up above. Frankly, this is the worst room of the ride. That’s not necessarily an insult as much as it is a compliment to the rest of the experience. The room still looks pretty cool. Hux and Kylo appear up above guests via screens. Them being somewhat hard to see is the biggest issue here. After they have threatened you some they leave and there is some clatter in the roof above you. Eventually, in a cool bit of Imagineering, the Resistance breaks you free through a door that they seemingly burn out of the wall.
Resistance forces (again, Cast Members) explain that they have come to break you free and hustle guests into ride vehicles. It’s an exciting moment, and one that has been met by cheers during a few of my experiences. Once on board the ride vehicle there is an explanation about how these droids are going to lead us out of the ship. Then we’re off!
The trackless system is a star from the beginning as it spins and zips guests through the attraction. While you can sort of guess where the vehicle is going, it’s all unexpected compared to a typical ride system. The vehicles move fairly fast but I wouldn’t call it a thrill ride, at least in terms of speed.
Our droid-driven vehicles zip us through the ship, narrowly escaping other droids and hazards. Storm Troopers eventually spot you and start firing but thankfully they are terrible shots on theme park attractions too! At this point, we move from trying to sneak around the ship to zipping through and trying to escape. All of that zipping leads to an extraordinary moment when guests enter the AT-AT room.
It’s another jaw-dropping moment on par with the Storm Trooper room. The scale is just off the charts as these seem larger than life. Storm Troopers again open fire on you and we zoom past them before the ride vehicle goes on to a lift system to see the AT-AT’s at eye level. It’s an amazing view. Depending on what track you’re on, you may end up staring one of them right in the face and having it start to shoot at you. The AT-AT room alone makes the ride a success. That it fits organically into the plot and isn’t even the focal point of the ride is a true feat. There’s even a few animatronics thrown into this scene for good measure.
Now on the top level of the ship, we end up in the presence of Kylo and Hux talking. Eventually Resistance ships show up and attack the Star Destroyer. The Kylo and Hux animatronics look really good and the whole room is beautiful. There is a little confusion in the plot here for me, as Kylo turns around at one point and… sees us? The reason I’m not sure if he sees us is because our vehicles are immediately shot backwards and he starts chasing. It’s a tiny hiccup or little bit of confusion in an otherwise very well told story.
Kylo keeps appearing during the chase through different visual cues. First it’s a screen that has him walking closer and closer. Then it’s his lightsaber cutting through the ceiling. Finally, it seems like he’s got us trapped (this time in animatronic form) before a resistance fighter guns down the ship sending him off balance. The different visuals of Kylo on the hunt is a nice trick and a good bit of diverse storytelling. Again, it shows just how much thought was put into the ride. It feels like a true chase scene, something that isn’t often pulled off in theme park attractions.
With the ship going down, our droid operated vehicle finds an escape pod and the attraction holds one last surprise. We latch on to what seems like a flight simulator of some kind and drop! It’s a fantastic moment and is the most action-packed the ride gets. We fly back to Batuu to meet up with the other Resistance forces, eventually landing with a thud and meeting up with Lt. Bek who crash landed a little further down the way.
Even the ending looks incredible with a rounded roof that has plants growing on top. I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise at this point.
Nearly 2,500 words later, I think that just about covers it. Rise of the Resistance is an achievement that Imagineering will have trouble topping for some time to come. The attraction is full of wonder and beauty, while still being exciting and telling a coherent story. It takes modern theme park trends and enhances them, nailing the huge moments but not overlooking the minor ones. All of that leads Rise of the Resistance to be one of the very best attractions in the world.
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Categories: Attraction Reviews