Mild spoilers for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance follow below.
Skeptics of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge have reason to shed cynicism or doubts about the massive (and massively expensive) addition to Walt Disney World and Disneyland with the arrival of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, the cornerstone attraction of Galaxy’s Edge and one of the most immersive and satisfying ride experiences in recent memory. Rivaling Pandora’s Flight of Passage and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Rise of the Resistance uses cutting edge technology, insanely dynamic ride mechanics, and wholly immersive storytelling to put guests in the middle of a fight between the First Order and the Resistance. The result? One of the best attractions in Walt Disney World history.
There are many things to spoil in Rise of the Resistance so let me say up front it is not my intention to spoil the ride experience in this review. That said, I will be briefly explaining the plot and various stages of the ride, so if you want to go in completely, entirely cold, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Set between the events of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the trilogy capper Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, this new attraction begins with guests being recruited by the Resistance during a pre-show featuring a hologram of Daisy Ridley’s Rey, an animatronic version of BB-8, and a video of Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron. Guests then board a transport shuttle which is—surprise!—hijacked by the First Order. You leave through the same door you came out, except you walk into a completely different environment: a jaw-dropping First Order hanger filled with 50 stormtroopers (look closely and you’ll see some are moving). Indeed, you have been captured, and the Disney cast members playing the First Order officers have no qualms ordering you around as you’ve now become their prisoner.
From here, various events play out as the Resistance aims to break you and your fellow First Order prisoners out of this ship. The trick that makes Rise of the Resistance so revolutionary is that everything I’ve just described is part of the ride and part of the queue at the same time. The recruitment, shuttle transport, and capture all paly out in various walkthrough areas before you actually board the eight-seated ride vehicle, which itself is completely different from what you’ve experienced and—for lack of a better phrase—totally freaking mind-blowing.
Animatronics, trackless vehicles, video screens, surprise drops, massive props (including huge AT-AT’s), and terrifically in-character cast members all coalesce into the attraction that is Rise of the Resistance, which is why it’s kind of unfair to describe this as a ride per se. It’s a complete and supremely satisfying experience that wholly immerses you into a brand new Star Wars story.
Story is king in the world of Disney Imagineering, but the story of some rides is more seamless/immersive than others. Having ridden quite a few attractions at a number of theme parks, I feel confident in saying Rise of the Resistance is quite possibly the most immersive attraction I’ve ever been a part of (yes, even moreso than Flight of Passage). You never quite feel like you’re on a “ride” because you’re too wrapped up in all the impressive goings-on around you. And I say this as someone who often gets distracted trying to figure out “how did they do that?” There’s not only no time to look for seams and creases and wires, you just don’t really want to. The attraction itself is too good not to just disappear into.
In concert with Smuggler’s Run—aka the “Millennium Falcon ride”—Rise of the Resistance now completes Galaxy’s Edge as a completely immersive go-to destination for Star Wars fans. And while the video game nature and attention to detail of Smuggler’s Run is certainly fun, Rise of the Resistance is far and away the better attraction. That’s not a dig on Smuggler’s Run so much as it’s a testament to how incredible Rise of the Resistance is.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World on December 5th and in Disneyland on January 17, 2020.
Look for much more coverage from the Rise of the Resistance media preview on Collider soon.