REVIEW: Star Wars – Rise of The Resistance is a Return to Form for Imagineering, A Modern Classic Disney Attraction
It is often hard for new attractions to come out of the shadows of Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, The Indiana Jones Adventure, and the like, but every once in a while, when the proper budget, love, and care are applied to a project, Walt Disney Imagineering can still provide attractions that you realize are special from the very first time you ride them. Those moments are sparse in recent memory, but Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance brings back the magic following 2.5 years of disappointment for me personally. I have attended the opening of every new attraction at a Disney theme park around the world this year, and this was the first one that felt completely up to the standard I expect. While we liked Soaring Fantastic Flight for the much-enhanced queue, it was still just Soarin’… and I’m not sure much needs to be said about Ant-Man and the Wasp Nano Battle. Anyway, back to the task at hand…
While I was immediately impressed with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, there was little repeatability for me. I didn’t long to keep flying the Millennium Falcon, I hit my limit on $17 alcoholic coffee drinks, and I built all 4 lightsaber types. Despite living 5 minutes down the road, I rarely have felt compelled to go back after my early visits in California and Florida. People I brought to the land were often bored with it after about 60 minutes. Perhaps the land felt incomplete, and after today, I can say for sure that it was. Rise of the Resistance contains all of the quintessential Star Wars moments the land was lacking. Don’t get me wrong, I think a lot of families will ride Rise and be done with the land for the most part, but it gives the area a reason to exist beyond appeasing only hardcore fans. I understand that Batuu really only works for those who love Star Wars beyond the films, delving into the animated and literary realm of the universe, but now there’s an attraction with the actors and actresses you wanted to see, the stunning sets and visuals you expected, and the technical wizardry that only Disney can create. It’s a Star Wars ride for everyone. You don’t need to be the most knowledgeable fan to understand the story or to recognize the nods to the film series.
First-off, the queue is LONG, but filled with detail. We’re not talking detail or a variety of locales the likes of Flight of Passage, but enough to keep you entertained if the line keeps moving. Secondly, this attraction has multiple fantastic pre-shows. I won’t go into detail, but each is more impressive than the last. Some of them are as masterful as any part of the ride portion of the experience. It is a whole new level of storytelling before the ride.
Would I like the ride to feature Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and others from the original trilogy? Sure. Does it hurt the enjoyment of the attraction? Probably not. The ride is fun, even if you prefer the classics, but I can’t imagine anyone is coming off disappointed. Plus, we finally get some much-needed music in the land. You finally feel like you are living a Star Wars adventure, scored by John Williams. That’s what we all wanted, it just feels right. The ride ends with the Throne Room score blaring as you arrive safely back to Batuu after experiencing heart-pounding action. There’s no way you walk off of this ride without a smile on your face.
If I had to really nitpick, the ride is on the cusp of using too many screens. They work really well for scenes where you are looking out at space through a window, but I could do without projected characters in places where there could have been audio-animatronics. Besides the Stormtroopers, the attraction features AA versions of BB-8, Lieutenant Beck (twice), Nien Numb (kind-of), a First Order Probe Droid, Finn, Kylo Ren (twice), and General Hux. You could also count the R5 unit attached to your ride vehicle as well if you’d like. While not the largest fleet of figures assembled, it is the largest in quite some time, hopefully something that will continue beyond this attraction. For me, this blew the often-lauded Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Shanghai Disneyland out of the water (pun intended). That attraction just felt like Soarin’ or Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in a boat at most points, rather than as immersive as Rise of the Resistance was.
Rise is the next evolution in the use of trackless ride vehicles, a revolution in using such a system. Cannons fly out into your vehicle’s path, load stations are so well-disguised that it’s hard to tell that’s what they are, and you never know where you’re going next. The ride reminded me so much of Mystic Manor from Hong Kong Disneyland, using the vehicles flawlessly in the story, utilizing them to their full potential, and making it feel like you weren’t going down a pre-determined ride path. Oh, I didn’t even mention that that transport vehicle pulls into elevators, drop shafts, and space-flight simulators along the way. It’s no wonder this ride took longer than expected to finish, there’s quite a bit going on. Luckily, as of publishing, the ride has had only one downtime and may end up being more reliable than many of us has feared.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the cast members at the attraction who were all going above and beyond to put you in the story. Resistance members hurried you into transports, while First Order officers yelled at me touching buttons or generally not “behaving”. The cast add so much to this attraction, and it’s a rare occasion where they can be a part of the story and make every experience a little different. Part of the re-rideability is not just in the slightly different ride paths of the four transport vehicles, it’s getting to interact with different cast members on both sides.
All-in-all, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance sets a standard that the U.S. parks will find hard to beat given their upcoming lineup. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure will leave a lot to be desired with it’s primarily screen-based scenes, as will the beleaguered Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway (here’s to hoping that exceeds current expectations). TRON Lightcycle Run and Guardians of the Galaxy – Cosmic Rewind will be fun, but don’t expect much in the way of audio-animatronics or physical props there as well. My hope is that Rise of the Resistance raises guest expectations in Florida, forcing management to be more generous in attraction budgets when warranted. I hope the world shows up in droves to see this fantastic ride and the company sees that if you spend what you should, “quality will win out.”