Let me preface this by saying that I am not a big fan of the sequel trilogy. I liked Force Awakens well enough, but the less said about The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker the better. There’s certainly elements I like about them, Kylo Ren and the First Order generally being the best aspects, but unlike the prequel trilogy there just hasn’t been a whole lot to come of this era to make up for the actual shortcomings of the films set within it.
Galaxy’s Edge has been sort of a wet fart for Disney. The fact that for the majority of its life so far the biggest attraction has been the cantina sorta says it all I think. The attention to detail is incredible, it really does feel like you left the park and are somewhere completely different, and the cast does a pretty good job of staying in character and really bringing you into the world they’ve created. There’s some awesome props and animatronics (I love the dianoga in the water tank at the drinking fountain, for instance), but there was just so little to really do or engage with there if you weren’t looking to buy a bunch of overpriced crap. Hell, you couldn’t even get into the lightsaber workshop without shelling out the $200 it costs to put one together. My favorite part of the whole land was Ronto Roasters, because that Ronto Wrap is seriously the best snack/lunch item in the park, absolutely love it. Smuggler’s Run was the sole ride operating within Galaxy’s Edge for half a year and while it did fulfill childhood fantasies of getting to fly the Millennium Falcon, it was still basically a better (arguably at that) Star Tours, it was just another motion sim. There’s a reason that despite all of the hype and anticipation for a new land, and a Star Wars-centric land at that, the crowds just weren’t there like Disney was expecting and they had to do a lot of damage control once it finally did open up to the general public to a rather tepid reception.
Fast forward to the opening of Rise of the Resistance and set aside all the drama and bs surrounding the boarding pass system and how even getting to the park before rope drop doesn’t even guarantee you a chance to ride the thing and Disney actually pulled off something incredible.
I have never in my life been so immersed in a ride before. The actual queue itself is done well with carved out benches should you need to take a seat if/when they do finally move to a standard standby line and you actually end up spending a longer time waiting to get on. There’s lots of props and details everywhere, costumes and props from the films, it’s cool to get a look at everything they have setup. Then you have the transmission scene with the Rey hologram and BB-8 animatronic, it’s an impressive effect. Then the doors open and you move back outside, see Poe’s X-Wing as well as your transport vehicle off of Batuu. This was a bit of a wow moment, lots of little gasps from the crowd, but it’s nothing compared to what was still to come. You step aboard your transport, which is setup sort of like a modern day subway where you just kinda find a place to stand and hold on. There’s a Mon Calamari animatronic in the pilot seat towards the front, I believe his name was Beck but I could have misheard and I am too lazy to look it up right now. You take off in the first motion simulator element of the ride, a trip that is short lived before being intercepted by the First Order as you find yourself caught in the tractor beam of one of their star destroyers. This leads to what stands out as the single most impressive moment of the ride (and it isn’t even part of the ride itself!). Everyone lines up, at the other side of the vehicle ready to depart, but it is the very same set of doors you entered through that actually open. Except instead of looking back out where you came from at Galaxy’s Edge, instead you are greeted by imperial officers, an army of stormtroopers and a massive view out into space as you step out into the hangar of the star destroyer. Everyone was absolutely silent at this moment, it was truly breathtaking. A wonderful illusion that really did end with you feeling like you left Batuu behind and have been captured by the First Order, you feel like you are aboard the star destroyer. The hangar set is massive, open and utterly gorgeous, this is far and away my favorite moment of any ride I have ever been on, I was stunned at the transition and how well it was done.
You are then herded through the ship and moved into groups for interrogation. Again, major props to the cast members, they did a great job of staying in character and actually being rather intimidating while still managing just a touch of humor. It was fun watching the kids in the groups as many of them really did seem kinda scared by the experience, they completely bought into the illusion. After being moved into holding cells you are confronted by projections of Hux and Kylo Ren, complete with their own moving shadows that cast out over the cell and move perfectly in time with them. As Kylo is called away to the bridge you are left momentarily alone. Sounds come from all around you before finally a door is cut through the metal walls and you are lead to your escape vehicle by the Resistance. It’s at this point where the ride proper begins.
I’m not going to go into too much detail on the ride itself, I already feel like I’ve spoiled enough as it is and there’s tons of videos online in ultra high definition showing the ride from every imaginable angle if you really want to see the full experience. I do want to point out a few more moments that stood out to me though, so spoiler warning for the actual ride. Using a trackless system the vehicles are incredibly smooth and able to move in every direction, turn a full 360 degrees, they move at a good pace and can accelerate to a pretty decent speed it feels at times. This really is the most technologically advanced ride Disney has ever done, hell it might be the most advanced ride anyone has ever done. There are so many amazing little effects. From stormtroopers blasting at you with visible bolts flying through the air and causing damage to appear on the walls and ceilings around you to some truly incredible animatronics towards the latter portion of the ride. There’s a scene where you enter a hangar and are confronted by two life-sized AT-ATs just towering over you, a moment I’m sure we have all dreamed of. Taking an elevator up while stile on your ride vehicle. More laser fire blasting overhead. Being confronted by Kylo Ren as you enter an elevator, who proceeds to use his lightsaber to cut through the ceiling above you. The final confrontation towards the end with Kylo moving your vehicle with the force. The massive turrets firing at the Resistance fighters as you move between them. And finally the escape pod sequence which features a full on, Tower of Terror style drop (granted not quite as long a drop) right into another motion simulator sequence before crashing back on Batuu and proceeding to move outside in order to exit the vehicles and head about your day (lamenting that no matter how much you may want to, you cannot go back in line to do it all again).
Words just cannot describe how utterly blown away I was by the whole experience. From the impressive technological accomplishment of the ride to the full immersion of the experience, this really has become my all time favorite attraction at Disneyland, hell at any park. Sure, there’s probably some coasters or something over at Six Flags that I’d argue I probably enjoy more overall, I am a coaster fan at heart, but those aside this ride is gonna be a hard one to top. So bravo Disney, you really and truly did it. Rise of the Resistance is a masterpiece.