Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker comes out on December 20, but there’s another “Rise” in the Star Wars universe that I’ve been looking forward to all year. That’s right, I’m talking about Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance!
Spoiler alert: I’m taking a deep dive on the attraction, so if you want it to stay unspoiled, click here to read about what we’ve learned by going to Disney World everyday instead. 😉 But come back here once you’ve ridden!
I was among the first guests to experience this attraction on December 5, and it is nothing short of spectacular. So while we’ve reviewed this ride before, let’s give it another look… through the eyes of someone who might be a little bit obsessed with Star Wars.
My adventure began at four in the morning on an unusually cold Orlando day. I joined a squadron of other eager fans as we gathered outside the gates of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Our mission? To defeat the First Order, bring hope to the Galaxy, and not get a leg cramp from standing in line for three hours!
Once I had secured my boarding pass, it was just a matter of time before I’d be called onto the most important mission of my life (or of this vacation, anyway).
My first call to action was a bit of a false start, as a First Order saboteur had left the Resistance fleet grounded. After being given a recovery time on my MagicBand, I decided to check my Datapad (Star Wars speak for phone) for updates. Being a dyed in the wool Rebel like I am, I noticed a distress signal from some Resistance operatives in orbit!
This new Datapad mission helped offer some much-needed context to the attraction. In fact, more so than any other Play Disney Parks experience, it’s an integral part of your adventure. In the Resistance mission, you help Finn navigate a First Order Star Destroyer, solving puzzles and slicing into computers as you secure a disguise, free his fellow prisoners, and even slice into some Droid-operated vehicles used for troop transport. By the time I finished playing mission control, I had wiped some critical data from the Star Destroyer’s systems, gotten critical information to the Resistance, and recruited a fleet of R5 astromechs to the cause. Not a bad start, eh? I didn’t do the First Order mission, but it’s my understanding that it’s much more dependent on your physical location in the queue to complete, similar to the Datapad experience for Smuggler’s Run.
Finally, by 8:00AM, I was allowed to board. I wove through the thick forest, past the waterfall, and into the laser carved caves of the Resistance base.
The base was long and maze-like, with chunks of mysterious infrastructure poking from the walls and ceiling. Switches with unknown functions, crates filled with critical cargo, and plenty of seating carved into the walls. General Leia knows how to treat her recruits. I took some time to observe the supplies we had gathered for our mission.
I also stopped to check the holodisplays to check on troop movements.
Finally, we reached the end of the queue, where BB-8 was also looking over the radar screen.
This little guy is incredibly articulate; even more so than his appearances in the Star Wars: Launch Bay and A Galaxy Far, Far Away. He beeped and booped in binary as he scanned the radar, showing us an unidentified ship entering Batuu’s orbit.
But before long, his message was interrupted by an incoming message from Rey herself!
This is one of the most impressive effects in the queue and one that’s probably helped by the already artificial-looking appearance of Star Wars holograms. Intellectually, I know how this effect works: I’ve seen it on the Haunted Mansion about a thousand times. However, for the life of me, I can’t spot a single flaw in this projection. It looks like her image is just being projected onto nothing. No obvious screen, no obvious source. Just… Rey, floating there, talking to BB-8 in real time.
Rey thanks us for joining the cause, before informing us that Batuu is no longer safe. The First Order is bringing in Star Destroyers to stamp out the Resistance (and possibly half of Black Spire Outpost), and Rey needs us to rendezvous with General Leia on the planet Bacara.
Interesting fact, Bacara is actually the nickname of one of the clone trooper commanders from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I guess it’s the galactic equivalent of being nicknamed Indiana or something. A nice little callback!
Anyway, Rey tells us explicitly that we must not tell anyone about the location of the secret base. On Bacara. The secret base on Bacara. The Bacara secret base. Don’t tell anyone about the secret base on Bacara. Got it?
Good, because we’re then introduced to our pilot and escorts for this mission.
Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac), the hotshot rebel pilot, will be leading our security detail while Lieutenant Bek (no relation to Admiral Ackbar, that we know of) will be our commanding officer.
Our pilot is also going to be familiar to Star Wars fans: Nien Nunb, the Sullestian pilot who flew with Lando Calrissian during the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi!
We’re ushered outside onto the tarmac, which feels like a real Resistance base! Poe’s X-Wing is there, with BB-8 in the Astromech port, while we’re ushered onto a transport shuttle for immediate departure!
Bek greets us once we’re on board, and then we’re off!
This is the first real “ride” of the attraction. It’s a simulator, though not as intense as Star Tours or Millennium Falcon. Guests are directed to handrails as the ship prepares for takeoff, while Poe patches into the comms along with members of Red and Blue squadron. The second I saw those cockpit cameras pop onto the view screen I knew those poor pilots were doomed.
As we take off and watch the spires of Batuu become a view of outer space, we’re suddenly ambushed by First Order TIE Fighters!
Red and Blue squadrons, naturally, get blown up as we’re caught in a tractor beam, while Poe escapes to get back up. The situation is looking dire, folks! Especially when a First Order officer pops up on the comms to interrogate us, only to get literally body checked off screen by General Hux himself.
Then the doors open onto this:
The troopers are more than just rigid statues. Several of them turn their heads to follow you as Cast Members dressed in First Order uniforms escort you toward your interrogation cells. This was honestly my favorite part of the entire attraction, as you could tell everyone was having a blast playing the bad guy.
One other thing of note. The transport ship uses the same door for both loading and unloading, making it obvious that movement has actually taken place. However, Disney has made it incredibly difficult to spot just how the internal compartment actually moves. It doesn’t seem like there’s space above it for it to just lift into place while fitting in those details. I’d love to see some blueprints of how it actually works.
Anyway, to be polite, I decided to cuff myself with the official First Order binders I got at First Order Cargo earlier in the day.
This was met with amusement by the officers.
“I see this one comes ready to be interrogated…”
It’s a good thing he doesn’t realize they’re actually trick cuf-
“Are those… trick cuffs?”
“…Nooooo.” I said, trying not to seem like too much of a liar. “…Look, you’re about to interrogate me anyway, right? Can you at least use the nice interrogation droid? With the clean needles?”
The officer just laughed. “Who said anything about a droid?”
After being assigned a color, I’m escorted into a dark, foreboding room where a Stormtrooper looms overhead.
Only for General Hux to arrive… accompanied by the Supreme Leader of the First Order, Kylo Ren.
The screen effect is a bit more obvious here, if only because Disney can’t control precisely where you stand. Still, when Kylo Ren makes the lights flicker and the wind rush past you with a display of the Force, you can’t help but start frantically thinking about Sabacc so he can’t read your mind!
Then Kylo is called to the bridge, and there’s a moment of tense silence… before the glow of a cutting torch illuminates the cell wall. A panel slides open, and one of the Resistance fighters I helped Finn rescue earlier is beckoning to us, along with the R5s I sliced! (Thank you, datapad!)
“We’re busting you out of here!”
I’ve got to admit. This bit of gameplay and story integration was magical. I know people use the term magical a lot when talking about Disney rides, but I mean it. This was someone I helped save, coming to save me with a droid I hacked. As I hopped on board the trackless ride vehicle (popping out of my binders, of course), I couldn’t help but feel like I was actually on a Star Wars adventure.
As we’re driven out onto the deck of the Star Destroyer, I couldn’t help but gasp. It feels incredibly real, and even the reloading sequence for ride vehicles is woven into the ride’s narrative. Your R5 unit beeps nervously at its not-hacked cousins while piloting through the expansive ship, trying to act casual as you look for the turbolifts out.
Your first stop is very suddenly derailed by the appearance of a probe droid straight out of The Empire Strikes Back.
Backing quickly around a corner to avoid detection, your R5 unit passes under a catwalk… guarded by Stormtroopers.
The troopers open fire, knocking chunks out of the Star Destroyer’s walls! You can actually see the heat marks as holes are blasted into the ceiling above you! It’s a way more advanced effect than the simulated explosion damage at Muppet*Vision 3D, which is the only thing I can think to compare it to. One second the ceiling is fine, until suddenly it’s got a huge chunk missing with sparks flying out of it! Your R5 speeds away to try to escape, while blaster bolts whiz by over head.
It is here that I remember a critical, often overlooked fact about R5 units. You see, canonically, R5 Units are the budget version of the far more popular R2-Series Astromech. You know the one.
To appeal to budget buyers or people shopping in bulk (like the First Order), Industrial Automation made some… sacrifices… when it came to the droid’s heuristic processors. You know, in things like navigation and steering.
I remembered this because my R5 unit was driving like it had one too many Fuzzy Tauntauns at Oga’s Cantina. Maybe my uploading a Resistance personality matrix into its core also had something to do with it. I don’t know. I didn’t have time to think, I was too busy screaming.
Eventually, R5 drove us into the AT-AT hangar, which was every bit as breathtaking as it looked in the concept art.
Stormtroopers rush in on the catwalks above as Finn (in the uniform you helped him steal earlier), provides cover fire from an alcove. The Escape Pods are just below us! All we need to do is take the turbolifts down!
Great! Sweet free-… R5, why are we going up?
Hello, AT-AT Pilots. Who… I have just been lifted directly in front of, I see you’re lowering your gun turrets and aiming at me. That’s… really nice. Uh… R5 back up please!
As the wall behind us is blasted open, I have never, in my life, been so thankful for the fact that Stormtroopers can’t aim. Thinking quickly, R5 takes us to the safest place on the ship… the Bridge.
The two leaders of the First Order are discussing our escape, when Kylo orders Hux to raise the shields just as the Resistance fleet emerges from hyperspace!
Unfortunately, this is when Kylo reveals he’s known we were there the whole time. Dang Force powers…
At this point, we are in full “Escape the Death Star” mode. Kylo Ren pursues us, saber lit, as we rush to find a turbolift to the gun deck.
When we finally get to the Turbolift, we only have a moment of safety until his saber’s blade starts cutting through the ceiling!
Time to escape through the gun deck, where turbolasers are firing at the Resistance fleet outside!
The ship is shaking and showing visible damage as Finn hacks the comms and orders all Resistance personnel to flee. We’re almost to the escape pod when there’s a sudden tug on our vehicle!
This is bad! He’s got us, and there doesn’t look like there’s an escape… until a well-timed shot causes a hull breach behind Kylo! We can feel the coldness of space as the air rushes past us, while a ceiling panel crashes down to separate us from the Supreme leader. We’re almost safe! We just need to get into the Escape Pod.
Once we’re locked in, we see the claw arm release another escape pod… before we’re also subjected to the tender mercies of gravity.
Then it’s just up to R5 to pilot the pod back to Batuu and… oh, I already know this is going to go badly.
BAM! Fortunately, these ancient ruins broke our fall, as we’re released back onto terra firma.
Finn congratulates us on our escape. There’s a moment of panic as he looks for Lieutenant Bek, before he’s revealed to have landed in another escape pod!
Man, I really hope Nien Nunb got out okay. What a way to go: dying on a theme park ride.
Afterward, we’re back on the ground and driven to the exit, while Finn and Bek congratulate us (and R5) on joining the Resistance! Plus, we sort of inadvertently helped save Batuu from the First Order! Go, team!
So let’s get to the final verdict. Should you make the trip to ride Rise of the Resistance? From a purely technical perspective, absolutely. This ride blows even Flight of Passage out of the water as the most impressive attraction Disney has ever made. But what about for fans?
Many people don’t like the new trilogy of Star Wars films, especially after some controversial choices made during The Last Jedi. Some people are upset that the expanded universe of novels and comics was cut from the canon to make way for the new characters. Others are upset that the new trilogy rehashes the notes of the original and isn’t being innovative enough. Other people think that The Last Jedi was too innovative, to the point of damaging what Star Wars is. All of which are valid points. People have been complaining about Star Wars since there was a Star Wars to complain about.
But here’s the deal. A lot of us would have been happier if this ride featured Darth Vader instead of Kylo Ren. Even I would have preferred Vader to Kylo Ren. But I’m more than happy with what we’ve gotten. In fact, I’m overjoyed with what we’ve gotten because no other ride Disney has ever produced has so accurately captured the essence of Star Wars. I fell in love with A New Hope when I watched Han, Luke, and Leia make a daring escape from the Death Star. I screamed during the climactic battle on Bespin in Return of the Jedi. The story of a small band of heroes slipping into enemy territory against overwhelming odds and winning through luck and pluck alone is more Star Wars to me than waving a lightsaber, visiting Hoth, or even flying the Millennium Falcon. The sequel trilogy is just a convenient way to snapshot that feeling. It might be the First Order and the Resistance instead of the Empire and the Rebel Alliance, but the heart of Star Wars is still there. Take the leap, even if you don’t love the new trilogy. It’s worth it, I promise.
Plus I just… really want to take R5 home. Gotta make another appointment at Droid Depot after this…
If you liked this little review, don’t forget to comment below. Until next time, may the Force be with you!
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