Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is not not the best attraction at Walt Disney World. In this spoiler-free ride review, I’ll explain what I mean by that, offer comparisons, and other thoughts & commentary about this new Hollywood Studios (and upcoming Disneyland) multi-phase attraction.
When I say spoiler-free, I mean it. Aside from one photo of a scene that (unfortunately) has been shared so much by Disney that you couldn’t help avoid it, there are zero spoilers here. Certainly not a scene by scene ride breakdown, no on-ride photos–not even a basic outline of the plot or attraction premise (beyond its name). If you’re here for the photos, you might as well close the browser now. Aside from that one image, everything here is of the queue before the first pre-show or random areas of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
With that said, I won’t be coy about it or bury the lede–Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is an excellent, world-class attraction. It’s the home run that this land needed, and clearly the flagship E-Ticket of the two in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Moreover, Rise of the Resistance instantly belongs on any top 10 list for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or even the world…
My reasons for skirting whether Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is the best attraction at Walt Disney World are three-fold. First, insufficient experience. There’s a ton to see and let sink in, and it’s thus too early to make a definitive proclamation. This is a sensory overload in the best way possible, and my attention was pulled in multiple directions. There was definitely stuffed I missed for that and other reasons.
Second, and this is something we’ll cover in greater depth in a separate upcoming post offering a Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opening day report, but the attraction experience is presently inconsistent and unreliable. My review is based on a smooth and seamless run-through. I could see my opinion shifting over time if/when I have ‘bumpier’ experiences.
Finally, and to that point, after publishing my Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run Ride Review, I found myself second-guessing my first impressions. In doing that attraction countless additional times over the course of many months, there are new things I like, dislike, and no shortage of ways I now disagree with my own review. (And that’s even with my relatively tepid review that didn’t even put it in Disneyland’s top 10!)
This is hardly uncommon for me. On the one hand, I’m almost always coming off of the initial high and excitement of something new, causing “grade inflation.” On the other hand, there’s a certain raw authenticity about a (roughly) contemporaneous review shared shortly thereafter. It’s how the vast majority of the general public will approach a ride–without time to let the cynicism of social media seep in, and without revisiting ad nauseam to find ways to nitpick.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is an attraction deserving of multi-ride throughs and some time for reflection. Keep in mind, though, that it’s deserving of more rides and reflection to determine whether it’s the best ride in the world. Don’t let the restrained tone and excessive prefacing of this review thus far fool you–this isn’t a question of whether the attraction is good. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is mind-blowing.
What makes Rise of the Resistance so mind-blowing, in large part, is massive set pieces and a slew of how did they do that moments. I may not be ready to call this Disney’s best attraction, but it’s certainly Imagineering’s most ambitious and most impressive of the modern era. WDI pulled out everything in their proverbial bag of technical tricks, and executed them all flawlessly.
The result with Rise of the Resistance is something epic in scale. (It’s really a shame so many spoilers are out there–with Disney leading the charge–as it’s best to go into Rise of the Resistance with as much of a blank slate as possible.) Everything in Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance congeals perfectly, too.
There are a ton of Audio Animatronics–but also a lot of screens. The two, among other effects, are married in such a way that the average guest will never notice. Every piece of bleeding edge tech is seamlessly integrated with practical effects. The end result is that complete suspension of disbelief is achieved in guests.
In fact, due to its multi-phase approach and that sense of grandiosity, Rise of the Resistance feels a bit like being an active participant in a fully-finished, experiential film. By this, I mean that it’s like you’re in the midst of a movie’s action for 18 minutes or whatever, complete with special effects and no peeks behind the curtain.
Don’t get me wrong, this has all of the familiar beats of a theme park attraction, and that’s what it unmistakably is. However, it’s also much more engaging and polished than almost anything you’ve experienced before. It’s interactive but not in the “gamified” sense that’s all the rage right now (including with Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run).
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is still a passive ride, but it’s something engrossing, immersive, and non-viscerally thrilling. From the Cast Members perfectly executing their flaws to the plotting and encounters, the tension, pacing, and suspense are also exceptional. Accordingly, you might walk out having trouble articulating what makes Rise of the Resistance so special. (As I’ve found, a stupefied “wow” will suffice.)
To that end, I have a tough time drawing comparisons between any existing attractions and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. If forced to choose, I’d probably pick attractions with the best conceivable queue and pre-show that you’d never want to skip and pair those with trackless dark rides and thrilling motion simulators.
For everything before you buckle up in the Rise of the Resistance ride vehicle, I’ll go with Haunted Mansion mixed with Tower of Terror mixed with Flight of Passage’s queue (NOT THE INTERMINABLE VIDEOS!) mixed with the Harry Potter rides. For the final ride experience, I’ll go with any of Disney’s major trackless dark rides mixed Indiana Jones Adventure mixed with Transformers: the Ride mixed with just a dash of Shanghai Pirates.
Already, that’s probably sounding like some nonsensical mashups. (Although I think anyone who has been on those and this can at least see where I’m coming from with each of them.) If I had to choose one single, “clean” comparison, it would be Indiana Jones Adventure. From the queue to pre-show to ride experience and the same type of interactivity, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is like Indiana Jones Adventure but with ~25 years of experience, new technology, and a different approach.
Even with that comparison, the problem is that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance has no clear analogs. It’s a multi-phase attraction that feels like certain parts were inspired by other things, but only as loose inspiration or on a technical level. Otherwise, Rise of the Resistance is its own thing entirely, and that’s a large reason why guests are going to have trouble putting its essence and quality into words.
I’ve used the term “multi-phase attraction” now a few times, and you’ll probably see that or something like it elsewhere. Admittedly, it’s a bit meaningless–every attraction has at least an entrance, ride, and exit, thus making it multi-phase. Here, what that more or less means is Rise of the Resistance is utilizing different ride systems and approaches in what Imagineering would define in the core attraction experience.
As noted above, this worked for me as my “run” of Rise of the Resistance was fluid and smooth. As such, I’d agree with Imagineering’s statements that the core attraction attraction duration is over 15 minutes. For the sake of being vague to avoid spoilers, I’d count all of the “stuff” beginning in the first room after the queue as an essential component of the attraction, and that’s where I’d start the clock on its runtime.
Unfortunately, the practical reality is that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is not currently running smoothly. I don’t want to fixate on this too much as we’ll have a separate opening report and I’m hopeful all of this is ironed out.
However, right now there are a few problems with Rise of the Resistance: downtime, unreliability, and scene back-ups. Downtime and unreliability are obviously bad, but they don’t impact the core attraction experience–just whether you can do it at all.
Scene back-ups, on the other hand, impact it significantly. Based upon our conversations with other guests, these are occurring with regularity, so they’re worth bringing up here. If you experience X scene, then wait 20 minutes in what feels like a line, then Y scene, then wait, then Z…that sure sounds like a queue with pre-show scenes, and not part of the “core attraction experience.” I can’t disagree with that sentiment.
As far as critique, that’s it. Something that can, should, and hopefully will be resolved with a few more months of test and adjust. I could probably nitpick a few more things if forced to do so or once I have another dozen ride-throughs, but the same could be done for Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Ultimately, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance belongs in the conversation with those (and other) greats as one of the best Disney attractions of all-time. Calling it not not the best ride at Walt Disney World means it’s not necessarily the best, but doesn’t foreclosure the possibility that it is–the jury is still out for me. This is everything I wanted it to be and more, elevating the rest of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and (at least partially) helping it to deliver on the promise of being a place for you to ‘live your own Star Wars story.’
Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, but Disney would’ve saved itself a lot of media critiques, fan second-guessing and questions as to whether the land is a “failure” if both they waited to open Galaxy’s Edge until both attractions were ready. Unfortunately, the same could probably be said about waiting to open this ride until it was fully tested and working reliably. Those are both other stories for other days, though. Suffice to say, when it’s firing on all cylinders, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is an all-time great–maybe the very best.
PSA: If you’re planning on visiting Walt Disney World in the next few weeks (in other words, sometime before 2020 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend), you need to read our Virtual Queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Tips & Info post. Showing up at the scheduled opening time of Disney’s Hollywood Studios will not get you on this attraction!
If you’re planning on visiting the new land, you’ll also want to read our Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Guide. This covers a range of topics from basics about the land and its location, to strategically choosing a hotel for your stay, recommended strategy for the land, and how to beat the crowds. It’s a good primer for this huge addition. As for planning the rest of your trip, we have a thorough Walt Disney World Planning Guide.
Have you experienced Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance? What did you think of the attraction? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Would you like to see a review with spoilers and photos? What about a Rise of the Resistance strategy & planning post? 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! (Please avoid spoilers if replying before 2020.)