Top 5 Parts of “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance”
Last weekend I rode the all new Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland. I shared my experience on opening day of at Disneyland and some tips on how to get onto the ride in a spoiler free post earlier this week. Now I’m going to get deep into spoilers and highlight my favorite parts of the the groundbreaking new ride. So, if you want to avoid spoilers, and honestly if you think you’ll ride it any time soon I’d suggest avoiding them, go check out our other post. For those of you who have ridden Rise of the Resistance, or who don’t care about spoilers, read on for my thoughts on the ride, including the top three things about it that help make it one of the best theme park experiences ever.
Ok, spoiler time! As a refresher, or if you haven’t ridden it but want to be spoiled, the attraction is roughly broken into four sections. After making your way through the line, guests enter the first pre-show area. You see BB-8 rolling around and beeping at you, and a hologram of Rey appears and sets up the adventure. From this pre-show, you move outside and board the “transport” ship. This segment is more like a half ride, and half pre-show. It’s a little like a much more elaborate Haunted Mansion stretching room. You’re then captured by the first order and disembark into the belly of a Star Destroyer. You enter the giant room filled with Storm Troopers and a TIE Fighter, and First Order officers usher you into another line.
At this point you’re directed down hallways, given a color, and sent for “processing”. You’re then interrogated by Kylo Ren and General Hux, after which the Resistance busts you out of your cell, and directs you into the “reprogrammed” prisoner transports, your vehicle for the actual “ride” part of the attraction. From here the trackless ride vehicles wander the Star Destroyer looking for an escape. You dodge probe droids, run through the middle of a firefight between Finn and Storm Troopers, sneak under giant laser cannons while watching a huge space battle, and eventually escape Kylo Ren to make it to an escape pod. Here the ride enters the last segment, where a drop track and motion simulator take you back down to the surface of Batuu, where your vehicle exits the enormous show building and drops you off.
There are plenty of more detailed ride summaries out there, and lots of walk through videos (I’ve posted two below, including one showing the two alternate paths the vehicle can take), so I wanted instead to focus on really highlighting some of the moments and design elements in the ride that make it stand out as maybe the best themed attraction ever made.
Here are my top-5 parts of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance:
5. The Narrative Hides Things That Would Make It Feel Like a “Ride”
Since it was announced, Disney promised immersion throughout Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. We’re supposed to be transported to the Star Wars universe, not just in a themed land. Disney may have over-promised a bit on some of that throughout the land, but on Rise of the Resistance, they clear paid attention to it. Once you step into the pre-show with BB-8 and Rey, there are no moments that really break the immersion. Every cast-member operating the ride is now in character, and all of the “theme park attraction” things that have to happen fit within the narrative of the story happening around us.
Stand-outs are things like where you’re split up into groups. While we are asked by cast members how many people are in our group and then directed to a line, its done under the guise of being separated into smaller groups for our processing and interrogation by a First Order Officer. Being transferred from the holding room to the vehicles isn’t just done by a cast member, but by Resistance soldiers breaking you out and frantically getting you in vehicles so you can escape. (Side note, the cast members in all the roles on the ride were doing a great job, fully in character. This really puts the cast member interactions up there with Haunted Mansion or Tower of Terror where they can really lean into character a bit more.)
Another favorite moment for this is how the ride deals with the need for returning vehicles. Instead of seeing a line of boats like on Pirates or cars backing up like Radiator Springs Racers, you never see another ride vehicle with guests other than the second one you’re with (the vehicles move in pairs, on slightly different paths). The room you board the vehicles in is just a tiny room with two of them in it. When you leave, you pass two empty ones. The narrative is your vehicles are stolen and reprogrammed, so Lt. Bek, our guide through the ride, tells our droids to trick the other droids by saying its a prisoner transfer. These two empty vehicles are the actual empty ride vehicles returning for the next set of guests. And because they’re trackless, they can swing right into the room you left. This detail and thought into the keeping a necessary part of any ride captured within the story and immersion is the type of thing that makes the ride so good.
4. I Have No Idea What’s Happening
We talk a lot on Coaster101 about loving rides that are disorienting. Usually this comes from describing an amazing roller coaster with tons of cross overs – see our round table about Steel Vengeance. Rise of the Resistance does this almost from the get go. One of the most popular effects from the ride comes from the pre-show transport section. When you board, there is obviously one door on each side of the room. It’s easy to assume that you would exit the door opposite you came in, but thanks to a clever effect, you don’t. You exit where you entered, and are now in a completely different location. You go from outside at a rebel base to the hangar of a Star Destroyer without really noticing how.
This continues throughout the ride as the trackless vehicle goes forward and backwards, spinning to get away from enemies. In the room with the AT-AT Imperial Walkers, I had a moment where I shouted to my friends “who’s shooting at us!” Blasters and explosions seemed to be happening all around us, and we seemed to be stuck in the middle. As we pulled out of the room I noticed a crouching Finn animatronic who was shooting back at the Storm Troopers (maybe with other Resistance troops?). He would have been easy to miss, and it’s things like this that kept a giant smile on my face throughout the ride. I can’t imagine how many other little moments and effects I completely missed because they blew past me in a giant, frantic battle and escape.
When we exited the ride, we had no idea where we were. We were back outside, and back on Batuu (thanks to the narrative again for keeping the immersion), but we had no idea where. When we finally emerged from the exit path, we were on the other end of the Resistance base. Don’t ask me how we got there. I’d love to see a cut away layout of the ride, but for now we’re going to have to live with it being a confusing, disorienting, beautiful path.
3. Not Just A Drop
To many the most surprising moment of the ride will be the drop track towards the end. Your vehicle enters a small room, gets attached, and then briefly free falls (similar to those on coasters with a drop track). I knew this was coming somewhere, as it had been mentioned in a lot of preview materials even from last Spring. But what I didn’t realize, was that this was just the begin of a full on 30ish second motion simulator ride. It provides a full on Star Tours-esque adventure as your escape pod flies down towards the surface of the planet. Why I like it so much is that it does what my favorite simulators do, it isolates your small group in your vehicle, so you can be fully immersed in the action. I was totally surprised to have that much of a motion ride at the end of what is otherwise a pretty gentle ride from a “motion” point of view.
Plus, tying into point #5, I love that it returns you back to Batuu. Where you crash land in the simulator is exactly where your little trackless vehicle exits the building. You see Lieutenant Bek safely crashed in his escape pod as well. It all gives an immersive reason for why you’re back (almost) where you started.
2. The Final Confrontation With Kylo Ren
The ride is full of awesome special effects and close encounters with characters, animatronics, and lasers. They are all fantastic, but I wanted to focus on the one moment that really stood out to me. You could say it “blew me away”. No, I’m sorry, that was a terrible joke. But, it’s the final encounter with Kylo Ren that still sticks with me as maybe the most exciting moment in the ride. First, Ren is just an awesome full body animatronic, which are relatively rare. Especially being that close to you.
Second, the way he grabs the vehicles is amazing. You’re facing away from him when you first enter the room, but he uses the force you pull you towards him and spin you around. It feels like a faster, jerkier move than the normal driving, and our R5 droid piloting the vehicle squeal (beep?) in fear as he grabs us (like when R2 beeps when he gets shot). It’s incredibly exciting to suddenly come face to face with him. But what really makes this my favorite moment is how you get away.
I had no idea how we would get out of there. Suddenly, a flash of light and the wall behind Ren appears to blow open, exposing us to space. A jet of find blows past you, and the animatronic thrashes. In the moment, it sure as heck feels like things are being sucked out of the room. A panel falls in front of the animatronic, which helps keep us from thinking that he’s flailing for far too long, and let’s the robot reset. Our vehicle pulls away as Kylo loses his grip and we escape.
I didn’t notice when I was on the ride because I was transfixed by the animatronic, but you can actually see on the screen to the side – where the space battle is happening outside – how the hull was breached. A damaged Tie Fighter comes flying into frame careening towards the room we’re in. As it flies past the screen it hits the room we’re in bursting open the wall, all timed perfectly. I love the detail that you can see how the impact happens.
1. My New Favorite Star Wars Character
So while the effects on the ride are great, and I loved how disorienting it was, and the immersion of the narrative was wonderful, my actual favorite part of Rise of the Resistance is the new friend I made along the way. Throughout the second half of the ride, we are piloted by our trusty R5 droid that’s been reprogrammed by Finn. Like all of the other little utility droids in Star Wars, he clearly has a personality. Just like how you can kind of understand R2D2 or BB-8 even though they’re just beeping, I felt the same way with R5.
He beeps and spins to look at us as he talks to us and as he drives, and he bobs is head up and down in alarm when something exciting happens. He beeps at the empty vehicles passing us to convince them nothing is amiss. He sounds worried when we almost stumble into a probe droid. He backs quietly away from Kylo and Hux. He grumbles when Lt. Bek asks “who picked these droids, anyway?” He sounds terrified when Kylo’s lightsaber cuts through the ceiling.
Of course, he also saves our bacon throughout the ride. We aren’t really doing ANYTHING to get ourselves out of there. Some Resistance recruits we are, he’s the real hero of Rise of the Resistance.
There is lots of praise for the Lt. Bek animatronic in the transport vehicle that is incredibly detailed and you can get super close to, but I’m pretty sure that R5 is the only character on a ride that you can reach out and touch. I’m not sure we’re supposed to do that, but the first thing I did when I sat in the front row was pat him on the head. To heck with having R2 and BB-8 meet and greets, I want an R5 meet and greet. R2 is Luke’s droid and BB-8 is Poe’s droid, but R5 is MY droid, and I love him.
So hopefully if you read all that you’ve ridden Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. What were your favorite moments? Is R5 also your best friend? Let us know in the comments.
For more information on Rise of the Resistance (and how to get on), check out the Disneyland and Hollywood Studios websites. And, as I get to ride it more often, we’ll see what things I missed on the ride that I loved even more than these!