Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge review – A Star Wars fan’s perspective
Disneyland has embraced the galaxy far, far away for its largest ever theme park expansion, but does it live up to the astronomical hype?
Galaxy's Edge summary
Galaxy's Edge is an astounding achievement in theme park design and an unprecedented Star Wars experience. It's bound to become the sight of countless spiritual pilgrimages for devout Jedi the world over.
OUR SCORE: ★★★★★
- Opening date: 31 May 2019.
- Location: 1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, California.
- Ticket price: Galaxy's Edge is included with entry to Disneyland. Tickets start from US$104.
- Opening times: Changes seasonally, but generally open from 8am–11pm.
- Family friendly: All ages are welcome, but kids will need to be 101.6cm tall to go on the rides.
- Reviewer: An obsessed Star Wars fan/father of a toddler who would have loved it.
Pros and Cons
- Feels authentically Star Wars
- Rise of the Resistance is a ride like no other
- Astounding attention to detail
- Get to drink blue milk
- Unique, exclusive merch
- Difficult to secure a spot on Rise of the Resistance
- Expensive if you want to drink in the cantina or build a lightsaber
- Long lines for Smuggler's Run
Spanning more than 5.5 hectares, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is Disneyland's largest ever single-theme expansion.
Rather than simply recreating existing settings from Star Wars, Disney went all in, conjuring up a brand new planet that now canonically exists within Star Wars lore.
The result is Batuu, a remote world located in the Outer Rim of the galaxy far, far away. It's recognisable by its giant petrified tree spires, ancient ruined temples, bustling spaceport and ample dining and bathroom facilities.
Black Spire Outpost, the town on Batuu in which Galaxy' Edge is set, houses a vibrant marketplace, a cantina, two major rides, a droid workshop and a custom lightsaber-building experience.
A life-size Millenium Falcon is parked in the centre of town and Stormtroopers patrol the streets looking for signs of a hidden Resistance base.
But it's not just the scale that impresses. Conceptually, Galaxy's Edge is unlike any other part of Disneyland. Where Fantasyland or Adventureland happily acknowledge the existence of the real world (think the Mickey Mouse ears or Indiana Jones T-shirts for sale), Galaxy's Edge is wholly committed to the illusion that it (and you) exists within the Star Wars universe.
This manifests in a number of cool little ways. As you wait in line for the cantina, Stormtroopers pull you out of the queue and shake you down for info on the hidden Resistance cell (tell them nothing). While chatting to store vendors you'll be asked for your "credit chip" or if you can pay using "Republic Credits" (US dollars). Signage is scrawled in the gibberish Galactic Basic language glimpsed in the movies, so you'll have to work out where you are using other visual cues.
The commitment to the bit is so all-encompassing that you can't even buy merchandise with ''Star Wars'' emblazoned across it. Instead, mementos are subtler in-universe items like Black Spire Outpost T-shirts and recreations of Princess Leia's ceremonial dresses.
For a Star Wars obsessive, wandering around and absorbing the authentically crafted atmosphere of a thriving, chaotic spaceport was worth the cost of entry alone. And that's before I even went on any of the attractions.
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge attractions review
Rise of the Resistance
The centrepiece of Galaxy's Edge is Rise of the Resistance, a ride like no other in the world. Disney's Imagineers have described it as their most impressive creation yet and it's hard to argue.
It's a combination of an interactive show with live actors and animatronics, a motion simulator, a trackless-vehicle jaunt and a freefall drop, all wrapped up in an unfolding Star Wars narrative that blurs the boundaries of the queue, the ride and the park outside. From start to finish it takes about 15 minutes.
And it's incredible.
It begins inside a makeshift Resistance base. After snaking your way through the ramshackle hide-out as part of the queue, you enter a briefing room where a hologram of Rey warns that your cover has been blown. It's time to evacuate. Poe Dameron SpaceSkypes in to help manage the escape. Having the real actors reprise their roles adds to the authenticity. By this point I was feeling more than a little giddy.
You step outside into a clearing, saunter past Poe's X-Wing and into a waiting corvette which blasts you offworld. This ship moves around and shakes, but you're standing at this point, so it's more about establishing a mood than providing kinetic thrills.
As the horizon of Baatu fades into the black of space an animatronic Mon Calamari captain informs you that the First Order has arrived. A Star Destroyer warps into view. Before long the ship is caught in a tractor beam and pulled aboard.
This is where things escalate dramatically. The doors burst open and a First Order officer (a park employee trying to be convincingly firm while not upsetting the kids) storms aboard and orders us off.
We're marched into a gargantuan hangar inside the Star Destroyer. A legion of 50 stormtroopers stand at attention in front of an IMAX-size opening to the void of space, TIE Fighters whooshing past behind them. It's like standing on a working movie set, just with all the post-production SFX in place. It sent chills down my spine.
From there you're marched into a detention cell, interrogated by General Hux and Kylo Ren (holograms) and busted out by Resistance soldiers (live actors). At this point the ride begins in earnest. You board a trackless car and zip all around the Star Destroyer, laser blasts flying as you duck and weave around AT-ATs, probe droids and stormtroopers, all while being relentlessly pursued by Kylo Ren.
Through the Star Destroyer's windows you catch glimpses of the escalating space battle outside. It's overwhelmingly cool.
The Star Destroyer is eventually damaged and your vehicle drives into an escape pod which then plummets for a fun-but-brief freefall thrill. By the time I'd "landed" back on Batuu I couldn't stop laughing. The conjured illusion is remarkable and just how seamlessly the various ride elements blend together is unprecedented. The term "ride" almost doesn't do it justice.
Note: Rise of the Resistance opened at the end of January 2020. As a result, it's difficult to secure a spot. You need to be inside the park at opening time and then log in to the Disneyland app to secure a "boarding group", which serves as a virtual queue. The upside is you don't need to stand in line all day. The downside is these spots filled up within five minutes of opening.
The ride also broke down twice while I was there (I was given a pass to return later… twice). This ended up only being an inconvenience, but it had the potential to be heartbreaking. It will inevitably become more reliable, so it might be wise to not rush your visit.
The other ride inside Galaxy's Edge lets you live out the fantasy of sitting inside the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon as it zips across the galaxy. It's a fairly traditional motion simulator ride à la Star Tours, but with one new element: interactivity.
Riders take on the role of pilots, gunners or engineers and are scored based on their performance; how well you do has some impact on what you see on screen. It's cool, but not groundbreaking in the same way Rise of the Resistance is.
I actually enjoyed the physical set that serves as the queue area more than the ride itself. Patrons line up around the outside of the 1:1 scale Millennium Falcon before moving inside its mildewed corridors, past the dejarik board (read: space chess) and into the cockpit – something every Star Wars fan has dreamed about at some point.
Nothing feels more authentically Star Wars than standing inside a wretched hive of scum and villainy and knocking back a few questionably coloured beverages.
From the circular bartop in the centre of the room to the cozy booths that ring the perimeter (perfect for securing transport offworld), the atmosphere is pitch perfect.
Bucking a long-running tradition, Oga's is the first establishment inside Disneyland that serves alcohol (kids are welcome and non-alcoholic Star Wars-y drinks like blue milk are available).
Beers, wines and cocktails are all themed and have names like Fuzzy Tauntaun and Jedi Mind Trick. If the drinks weren't so expensive (~US$17 per cocktail) I'd happily make it my local.
I've often found stopping to get food and drink mildly frustrating in theme parks because it feels like wasted time that could be spent exploring, but here it only heightened the atmosphere.
Definitely make a pit stop at Oga's, but be warned: you need to make a booking in advance using either the website or the Disneyland app (slots are 45 minutes long and there's a 2-drink maximum for alcohol).
Like droids at Mos Eisley walk-ins are turned away.
Building a lightsaber at Savi's Workshop
Building a custom lightsaber is the premium optional experience at Galaxy's Edge. You need to book weeks in advance to secure a spot and the privilege will cost you a hefty US$200. But for Star Wars tragics it's worth it. (Alternatively, for US$100 you can build a custom RC droid.)
This being Galaxy's Edge, there's a narrative element at play. Savi and his scavengers wander the galaxy looking for ancient relics like lightsaber parts. They're not Jedi, but they are sympathetic to the cause, understand the technology and are happy to share that wisdom with worthy individuals (read: worthy individuals willing to pay US$200).
Because Batuu is under First Order occupation, you can't just ask walk up to Savi's Workshop and ask for lightsabers. Instead, say you're interested in seeing the "scrap". It's hilariously cloak-and-dagger but sets the mood perfectly.
After you're ushered covertly inside construction begins. First you choose a kyber crystal which determines the colour of your blade. Green, violet, blue and red are available.
Having chosen from one of four basic lightsaber archetypes, you then select the combination of five components you like most. There are thousands of combinations. The lightsabers themselves are hefty, feel nice and solid in hand, and, apparently, are "combat ready".
Here's the one I built.
Once you've finished construction, the lights dim, John Williams' iconic Force Theme swirls around and Yoda's disembodied voice imparts a message through the Force to all the newly armed lightsaber wielders in the room.
At this point the host instructs everyone to ignite their sabers and hold them aloft, neon illuminating the room. Depending on your level of Star Wars obsession/self-consciousness, you'll either find this part deeply embarrassing or oddly spiritual. I found it genuinely moving (don't laugh!) and I'll treasure the memory for a long time to come.
Hot tip: Try to book an appointment in the evening so you don't need to carry your lightsaber with you all day. You're given a padded shoulder bag for it, but it was still awkward holding it on Splash Mountain. As a bonus, the blades look fantastic waved around Galaxy's Edge at night.
Where is Galaxy's Edge in Disneyland?
Galaxy's Edge is located at the park's north-west boundary. It borders Fantasyland, Frontierland and Critter Country.
How long are the queues at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge?
Most attractions at Galaxy's Edge are by appointment or virtual queue, so you don't actually spend too long in lines. Smuggler's Run is the exception, with lines between 45 and 75 minutes. You can make this faster if you're willing to split up and use the solo rider line. This took us about 20 minutes.
Is Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge worth it?
If you're not much of a Star Wars fan, you'll get less out of it. You won't pick up on the references scattered everywhere and the prospect of parting with hundreds of dollars to build a fake laser sword will seem absurd (perhaps justifiably so). But, the quality of the craftsmanship on display will impress and Rise of the Resistance will wow just about anyone.
Fortunately, there's no extra cost to enter Galaxy's Edge, so if you've had enough Star Wars just wander into the rest of the park and onto Pirates of the Carribean.
Answering as a Star Wars tragic, though, the answer is unequivocally yes. No matter how many times I've watched the films, read the books or played the games, nothing has ever felt this much like stepping foot inside the Star Wars universe.
Galaxy's Edge is wish fulfilment of the highest order. To squeeze the most out of the experience requires some suspension of disbelief, but the authentic sights and sounds do most of the heavy lifting for you. Play along and be swept up in the moment.
I never would have guessed it was possible to have a borderline spiritual experience inside a hyper-commercialised theme park. But here we are. Galaxy's Edge moved me.
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