Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind Ride Review

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is a new Marvel roller coaster at EPCOT, debuting for Summer 2022 as the biggest addition of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. This spoiler-free review shares our thoughts on the thrill ride, comparisons to other attractions, and commentary about how it fits into EPCOT.

Let’s start with some quick background for those who are unfamiliar with Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, the new family-friendly roller coaster in the park’s newly-rebranded World Discovery area, near the front of the park between Spaceship Earth and Mission Space. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind replaces the old Universe of Energy pavilion, which is now the Wonders of Xandar pavilion.

Walt Disney World has dubbed this the first “Other-World Showcase” pavilion at EPCOT. Xandarians traveled from their homeworld in the Andromeda Galaxy to Earth (“Terra”) to create the Wonders of Xandar pavilion, inviting EPCOT guests to learn more about their people and their advanced technologies. This encompasses a large portion of the normal queue, with the build-up occurring in three distinct areas before the ride itself begins.

Immediately upon entering the building, the queue winds through the Galaxarium, which is a planetarium-style space showcasing planets, stars and other intergalactic wonders connecting the planets Xandar and Earth. Narration is provided by Worldmind, which is a Xandarian supercomputer (there will be a test at the end on what’s going to be a veritable encyclopedia of terms).

The Galaxarium melds Marvel with pop culture with a traditional planetarium. It’s an interesting and engaging mix, and one that quickly bounces from breathtaking to decompressing to making you want to dance. The full Galaxarium loop is over 30 minutes long, but is more amusing background and context than it is necessary to the attraction’s story.

The regular queue continues on to the Xandar Gallery, where you learn more about the Xandarian people, culture, and their history. This includes everything from a model of a prototype community of Xandar, models of starships, and more. It culminates with interviews from “Good Morning Xandar,” where there are several different interview clips with duos from the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Again, this is a mix of interesting and entertaining. The prototype community (ahem) draws on real principles of urban planning and there are other aspects of the gallery that clearly draw on real science, technology, and culture…as applied to Xandar. The talk show clips are a clear nod to the Disney-owned “Good Morning America” on ABC, and are pretty goofy. Some of the acting during those segments is also a bit phoned in; perhaps Chris Pratt is tiring of being in Disney and Universal attractions.

The Wonders of Xandar pavilion tour then takes guests to the Phase Chamber, where the actual attraction story begins. This is the point at which Lightning Lane and standby/virtual queue lines meet; the former experiences the Galaxarium but bypasses the Xandar Gallery entirely.

As this is a spoiler-free review, I’m going to avoid major plot points going forward. Suffice to say, you’re introduced to members of the Nova Corps, and learn about more of their technology–along with several more Xandarian terms. This occurs over the course of two distinct pre-show rooms.

All of this sets the stage for the roller coaster portion of the attraction, which Walt Disney World previously called this a “storytelling coaster,” which is to say it’s a roller coaster with show scenes. Disney has also called Cosmic Rewind family-friendly, suitable for most guests and thrill levels.

Throwing yet another term into the mix, Imagineering has dubbed this roller coaster as an OmniCoaster ride system, which is a nod to Omnimover dark rides like Haunted Mansion. Cosmic Rewind’s ride vehicles slowly rotate 360 degrees and do a reverse launch, which is a first for Walt Disney World.

Questions of intensity and suitability are bound to come up, so we might as well address those here. The problem is that there’s no direct analogue at Walt Disney World; as intimated above, several aspects of Cosmic Rewind are “firsts” for Walt Disney World. There’s also the practical reality that different attractions affect different people differently, so it’s something of a fool’s errand to say this is suitable or not suitable for X or Y guests.

I am a fool, so I’ll say this: if you’re able to experience Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom, you will likely be fine doing Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at least once. It’s definitely more intense, but is similarly smooth and doesn’t punish the body in the same ways that many roller coasters do.

That last point is definitely the crux of Cosmic Rewind’s suitability for most guests: it’s really smooth. There’s a lot of banked twists and turns, moderate drops, and generally mild thrills. It does not go upside down or have any major drops; mostly just a lot of fluid movement that complements the soundtrack quite nicely.

From my perspective, Cosmic Rewind stands in contrast to Expedition Everest; that’s a more intense roller coaster suitable for fewer guests, with aspects that are downright uncomfortable, and not necessarily in a fun or thrilling way. They’re just unnecessarily punishing. (Even the much more intense VelociCoaster “lets up” on riders more than some less-intense Disney coasters. This is hard to explain, but if you know, you know.)

By some measures, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is on the “more intense” end of the Walt Disney World roller coaster spectrum, but it’s not intense by real world roller coaster standards. Nor is it uncomfortable or unpleasant at any point. The movement is better described as fun and fluid than intense and punishing.

Again, VelociCoaster is much more thrilling, but the two have comparable “pacing.” You’re more likely to be laughing and grooving to the beat of the music than screaming from the rush of the ride.

To that point, Sarah was able to experience Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind several times during the media preview without issue. To put that into perspective, she cannot do Expedition Everest or Space Mountain (the one at Magic Kingdom, not anywhere else) and even Slinky Dog Dash makes her nauseated. Of course, Sarah is not you–so your mileage may vary.

The bigger issue with regard to rider sensitivity is going to be the screens. Those aforementioned OmniCoaster vehicles do a good job of directing rider attention where it needs to be, and the attention usually moves in tandem with the roller coaster trains. This makes the likelihood of feeling queasy due to the different motion low–it’s not jarring or disorienting. Again, Sarah was totally fine here and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure makes her uncomfortable.

Nevertheless, if you’re concerned about Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind being too intense, request one of the first two rows. That’s the least thrilling and jarring. If you want the best seat from a storytelling perspective, anywhere in the middle is going to be ideal.

If you want the most thrills, rows 9 or 10 will be your best bet. From there, you can crank it up a notch by fixating on every single show scene and object long after you pass. Think of this as the Big Thunder “goat trick,” but for an entire ride.

Another fool’s errand is comparisons to existing Disney attractions. My big fear that this was going to be a glorified Crush’s Coaster, which is beloved by a lot of people for some reason or another. That’s a ride that I think is graded on a tremendous curve given its home in the worst Disney theme park on planet Earth. Thankfully, Cosmic Rewind is not Crush’s Coaster, but on planet Xandar. (It would’ve been some cruel irony if Disney “fixed” Epcot by giving it clones of two Walt Disney Studios Park rides.)

As for a more apt comparison, there isn’t really one. I could say that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy meets Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin meets Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout, but that would be utter nonsense–an amalgamation of three fundamentally different attractions. That would also sell it woefully short. I could also say it’s like the next-generation of Space Fantasy – The Ride, a much more apt comparison, but like 3 of you would get the reference.

Suffice to say, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is its own beast, successfully marrying screen-heavy scenes with a family-friendly rotating roller coaster for a ride that is at once smooth, fluid, and thrilling. And that’s just the ride itself–we’ve largely glossed over the story, characters, and music up until this point.

Layered on top of the thrill ride is an incredibly fun and fitting soundtrack, with 1 of 6 different songs playing during the course of the ride from an Awesome Mix Playlist. If you’ve ever experienced Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout, you know how integral music is to the attraction. That’s a big part of what makes the attraction so enjoyable, and the same is true with Cosmic Rewind. These songs offer an upbeat energy and flow matching major movements of the ride, plus some lyrics that are fitting to the attraction (or provide openings for jokes during the ride).

Not that it really matters since you can’t choose your song, but I think “September” is far and away the best fit, followed by “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” (this is Sarah’s favorite) and “Disco Inferno.” I’m the least musically-inclined person you’ll ever meet, but I think the song and coaster “cadence” align most closely with September. The other three songs are all good fits, just not as good as those three.

Speaking of jokes, you can expect a lot of them throughout the queue, pre-shows, and ride-through during Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. They run the gamut from wryly smile-inducing to laugh out loud funny. There are visual gags, clever turn of phrases, and that trademark Drax comic relief offering a certain straightforward stupidity and humor in his observations. Basically, it’s the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, but in ride form.

There are also countless quotable lines in the pre-show and ride itself, some of which will vary with your ride-through. Cosmic Rewind is going to be an absolute field day for purveyors of Etsy stores that put lines on t-shirts. Mercifully, none of these are memorable for their obnoxiousness–there are no “and uh…fly” lines here.

Since we’ve brought up Avatar Flight of Passage, that’s probably the best comparison (because who doesn’t love more meaningless attraction comparisons?!) for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Both have lengthy set-ups via the queues and pre-shows, that culminate in a thrilling attraction that is suitable for most–but not all–guests. While very different in nature, both attractions evoke emotional and visceral responses.

We love Flight of Passage, but both of us feel that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is superior on every conceivable level. More lighthearted and amusing, funny, thrilling, and an overall “meatier” experience.

A less perfect comparison is Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. From my perspective, these two attractions are incomparable; the Galaxy’s Edge headliner is a fully-fledged experience that pushes the envelope and blurs the lines on what a theme park attraction can be. Fundamentally, Cosmic Rewind is still a roller coaster–but with layers of story and other stuff added. It’s great fun, but an iterative attraction–not a game changer.

With that said, it’s a close call for Sarah as to which she enjoys more: Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind or Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. (For me, it’s unquestionably the latter.) Cosmic Rewind is one of her favorite attractions at Walt Disney World, and the only roller coaster to make that list. (We both love Cosmic Rewind, but Sarah clearly likes it more–that never happens with roller coasters.)

Then there’s Harry Potter And The Escape From Gringotts over at Universal Studios Florida. Many theme park fans were expecting the two to be similar based on descriptions, and that’s sort of the case. That’s especially true when it comes to storytelling via the elaborate queue and pre-show, plus screen-centric attraction action. On paper, there’s a tremendous number of similarities.

The key difference is that Cosmic Rewind is more of a “pure” roller coaster when it comes to the ride-through portion of the attraction. Escape From Gringotts is more fixated on the screen-driven story during the ride, whereas Cosmic Rewind constantly moves you through it. They’re both fantastic attractions–the best of their respective parks–but not as directly analogous as many of you might expect.

Ultimately, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is an incredibly satisfying attraction from start to finish, with a queue and pre-shows that provide depth, a couple of wow-moment effects (didn’t even touch on these, but they’re spoilers), hilarity & hijinks, and a compelling story set-up. The same is true for the roller coaster itself, which is satisfying in duration (a rarity for modern Disney coasters) and has fantastic flow and fluidity.

Above all else, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is just flat-out, fantastic fun. It’s one of the most fun attractions in all of Walt Disney World. It hits all of the right notes, and is just a non-stop hoot from start to finish. In large part, this is owing to the Guardians of the Galaxy characters, humor, and use of music. Again, this probably is not a huge surprise for anyone who has experienced Mission Breakout. In the case of Cosmic Rewind, the attraction enveloping all of that is very good and feels organic, too. It’s great to have a purpose-built attraction for these characters.

In short, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is exactly the blockbuster attraction that EPCOT needed and is going to be massive hit with guests. It’s unlike Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (read our review), which–at best–we viewed as an imperfect addition that Epcot “needed” but that was not without major shortcomings.

By contrast, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is the one big piece of EPCOT’s massive transformation for which we have no complaints. It scores 10/10. Okay, maybe one quibble–it would’ve been nice if there were Groot and Rocket Raccoon Audio Animatronics at some point. Screens work here, but a mix of media is always appreciated.

(It’s worth reiterating again that we experienced Cosmic Rewind during a media preview, so discount accordingly if you think this makes our opinions biased. However, our reviews of Harmonious and Disney Enchantment certainly did not “benefit” from the same early access.)

What follows is dorky EPCOT Center fan talk that’s probably not worth reading if you didn’t visit Walt Disney World before 1994.

All of the forgoing views Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind in isolation and presupposes that it’s appropriate for EPCOT. Longtime readers of this blog might notice that my perspective on and resistance to the “evolution” of EPCOT has softened over time. In large part, that’s because I’ve come to accept that the park is changing, and there’s no going back to what it was in the 1980s. It’s also because I realize much of that the park I fell in love with as a child hasn’t actually existed for over 2 decades.

To each their own, but I’d rather enjoy something new that’s fresh and fun rather than watching the corpse of EPCOT Center limp among because it makes me nostalgic for what used to be. There comes a time when you either embrace change or move on; clinging to a past that is long gone isn’t healthy and doesn’t serve any new guest who lacks that same sentimentality and wants something fundamentally different from the Walt Disney World and EPCOT experience.

This isn’t to throw in the towel on theme or say that the concept of edutainment is dead. Rather, it’s to be cognizant of changing guest expectations and accept that the park is never going back to a surplus of Audio Animatronics-dense Omnimover dark rides. I wish the current version of the park could strike a better balance, and had hoped that would come with the transformed central spine (if anything, the bulk of my disappointment lies there).

From the outset, I’ve felt that Guardians of the Galaxy was an inorganic fit for Future World and would necessarily be shoehorned into the park, at best. From my perspective, no amount of narrative framework or layers of backstory could wave that away. Admittedly, my opinion was tainted from the beginning when Disney proffered “Peter Quill visited Epcot!” as the ostensible explanation for why it was a thematic fit for the park.

To some extent, I still feel that way. My acceptance of Cosmic Rewind comes in part with the passage of time; it’s been 5 years since the original announcement. It’s also in part from experiencing Mission Breakout at Disney California Adventure; I was vehemently opposed to that at first, and have to admit I was wrong–it’s incredibly fun and continues to grow on me. Finally, it’s because I’ve now experienced Cosmic Rewind.

I don’t know how else to describe it, but Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind feels like a love letter to the EPCOT Center that no longer exists. It’s as if the Imagineers who worked on the project are fans themselves and said, “we know this isn’t the thing you (and we) loved, but we’re going to do our darndest to evoke the spirit of that thing amidst this crowd-pleaser.

That probably doesn’t make a ton of sense, but there’s a perfectly illustrative example. To me, Cosmic Rewind contrasts sharply with something like the recently-announced CommuniCore Hall, which is entirely superficial. That rather sad space feels very much like it was purposefully given a name pulled from the past to distract from the fact that it’s substantively specious. There is no there there. 

I feel like this has happened a lot with “New EPCOT.” An old logo here, a design flourish there, a Walt Disney statue in the middle. For the most part, that’s all surface-level, meant to throw a bone to longtime fans while the park heads in an entirely different direction.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind makes a more sincere effort to fit into EPCOT in a material way, to the greatest extent possible. This doesn’t just happen via surface level easter eggs or nods to EPCOT Center (although, holy cow are there a ton of those). It’s via displays in the pre-show, like that aforementioned prototype community of Xandar. It’s in the way the story is told and the actual substance of the attraction.

Don’t misconstrue this–Cosmic Rewind definitely is not an old school EPCOT Center attraction by any stretch of the imagination. But it is one that meaningfully tries to straddle two worlds, and I don’t just mean Xandar and Earth. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is certainly not the attraction of longtime EPCOT Center fans’ dreams, but those who are still around might be pleasantly surprised by it if they can come to terms with the fact that the times are a-changin’.

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YOUR THOUGHTS

Are you excited for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind? If you’re also an EPCOT Center purist, are you apprehensive that this will fit the park, or do you think the storyline and pre-show will sufficiently weave things together? If you’ve experienced Cosmic Rewind, what did you think of the attraction? Any other Disney or Universal rides to which you’d compare it? Where does Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind rank as compared to Avatar Flight of Passage, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, and other recent additions for you? Do you agree or disagree with our review?  Do you agree or disagree with any of our thoughts? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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