REVIEW - Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

Dec 06, 2019 in "Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance"

Inside the queue and ride of Star Wars Rise of the Resistance

“Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance sets a new standard for what a theme park experience can be,” Bob Chapek said. “Tonight, we’re welcoming the world to experience the Star Wars galaxy like never before, with the opening of the most ambitious, immersive, advanced, action-packed attraction we’ve ever created.”

This is how Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Bob Chapek described Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at its dedication ceremony two nights ago. He isn’t wrong, and we are going to start this review by saying this attraction tops anything else done at Walt Disney World, and most likely at any theme park in the world.

This review is going to be different to our usual reviews, and for a very good reason. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance isn’t a ride, it is a larger experience. Ideally, you should experience it without a detailed knowledge of the sequence of events and what takes place at each. So instead of a blow-by-blow description of the attraction and how well its executed, we’re going to instead take a more top level approach of what makes this experience so special.

We knew early in its development that Rise of the Resistance was going to be the headline attraction in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, and in some ways its delayed opening created even more anticipation that it was going to be something special. The attraction oozes with nearly every type of theme park magic ever created by Disney, and adds more. It has cinematic elements, theatrical elements, special effects, animatronics, thrilling moments, slightly unnerving moments, and a cohesive story from start to finish.

The budget was massive, and it is all on display. Unlike attractions such as Mission: Space, Soarin’ or even Flight of Passage, where much of the budget goes into creating duplicate theaters to handle the number of guests, here there is little duplication, meaning each guest gets to benefit from every dollar spent. 

Starting with the queue, it is intricate, a pleasant place to be and like Flight of Passage - uses Disney’s vast experience of what makes a proper old-school queue a great queue. It passes through outdoor areas, indoor areas, caves and more.

But perhaps the best thing about the queue is that there isn’t really much of the queue that feels like a queue. Rise of the Resistance dispenses with the typical model of waiting in a long line, seeing a pre-show, and hitting the ride. Instead, it is an adventure that takes place in multiple locations, in multiple ride-systems, and it all blends perfectly together on a scale that has never been seen before in a theme park attraction. The total runtime for show elements is in the order of 15 minutes - which is a very welcome change from the recent trend of sub-2 minute attractions.

If you would like an overview of the actual experience elements and scenes, visit this article for an overview. It is relatively spoiler free, but will give you more information on what you will experience. If you really want to know exactly what happens, watch our complete walk and ride through below.

Cast Members play a critical role in the experience, and you will encounter members of the Resistance, and the First Order. Both play their roles exceptionally well, with the First Order being particular menacing. It is a throwback to classics such as Tower of Terror and Haunted Mansion, where the Cast Members can really play an integral role and enhance the guest experience. There are even elements that reminded us of some of the Universal classics like Twister and Kong - where you are rushed out of a room and into another scene with a sense of urgency that really puts you into the action.

Another notable part of the experience is how it has been designed to really focus on your individual adventure. Guests are divided into small groups, and you never see masses of people lined up or waiting to board anything. It almost seems like the events are happening to just you and your small group - which really helps to reinforce the story and makes it all the more believable. And as in many great attractions, the entry and exists are widely separated, and vehicle load and unload are all in different places - further reinforcing that individual intimate experience.

Thankfully, Walt Disney Imagineering resisted the temptation to rely on screens, and instead used physical sets as the foundation of the attraction. Screens are used, where it make sense, along with projections and some fantastic new generation A1000 Audio-Animatronic figures. Although not as immediately impressive as the Na-Vi River Journey's Shaman of Songs, everything in Rise of the Resistance animates very well and will convince some guests that they are seeing live actors. The set design is exactly as you would hope - authentic to Star Wars, and incredibly well executed. The lighting design is of the highest order. There is so much happening, from blasters, turbo laser canons, explosions - and the lighting effects make it all real.

The soundscape is rich and detailed, and follows the action, including on-board audio and environmental effects. The whole experience is accompanied by a cinematic score that feels classic Star Wars. The lack of recognizable music was a complaint in Smugglers Run, so it is great to see that addressed here.

Actors from the current Star Wars film trilogy reprise their roles for new scenes and dialogue in Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, including Daisy Ridley (Rey), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) and Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux). Many scenes were filmed at the same time “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” were in production.

The main sequence of the attraction, the chase through the Star Destroyer, uses cutting edge trackless vehicles, and these add so much to the experience. New to Walt Disney World, but not to Disney parks overseas, you never know quite which way you are going to go. There are dramatic direction changes, and the lack of a physical rail or predefined route makes the experience feel so much more real. It can even vary the route taken from ride to ride. Despite the dynamic movements of the vehicles, the overall ride experience is smooth and is something that nearly anyone can plan on being comfortable on-board. You may have heard about drops, but there is nothing remotely comparable to Tower of Terror or a rollercoaster, so don’t be put off. Height requirement is 40”, and we consider the experience to be suitable for the entire family.

We started out by saying that knowing less about the attraction beforehand is a good thing - you want to be surprised, and there are things that happen on Rise of the Resistance that just don’t happen anywhere else. But, the attraction still has great repeat visit value. Perhaps the biggest compliment we can give in regards to repeat visits is that while sitting writing this review, if there was a standby line open - and it was 5 hours long, we would be right in it. There are so many details, and things to see - you will be visiting over and over.

Rise of the Resistance is a Walt Disney Imagineering masterclass on attraction design and build, and renews belief that Disney can still deliver massive E-Ticket attractions that we have not seen the likes of since Indiana Jones debuted in the mid 90’s at Disneyland. Like Indiana Jones, it is thrilling without needing to go fast, upside-down or have huge drops. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is just flat-out entertaining and puts a huge smile on your face. Many people have asked about comparisons to other attractions, and really there is nothing else out there on the scale of Rise of the Resistance. The closest in our opinion would be Indiana Jones at Disneyland, and Spiderman at Universal. Interestingly the creator of Spiderman, Scott Trowbridge, is also the lead on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

Looking behind the sheer entertainment value, Rise of the Resistance is a technological powerhouse. The number of ride systems and effects used throughout the experience is mind-blowing. The teams working behind-the-scenes on developing, implementing and maintaining the systems deserve huge accolades for pulling off what seems to be a near impossible task. The immense complexity of the attraction will no doubt cause some downtimes, and we have already seen from opening day that there is still more work to do. We understand the team is still a few weeks away from reaching the reliability levels that are needed. For now, expect to see boarding groups used - which goes a long way to mitigating any downtime, but an early arrival at the park is likely to be needed to secure a boarding group allocation.

To wrap up, and considering the bigger picture - Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge is now the land it should have been on opening day - with a solid Smugglers Run and a spectacular Rise of the Resistance. It now feels like a complete Star Wars experience, and will move Disney’s Hollywood Studios right to the top of the must-dos for 2020 and beyond. Bright Suns!

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Article Posted: Dec 06, 2019 / 9:26am ET