Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Review - A Gorgeous Land With A Lot of Potential

When the Walt Disney Company unveiled the plans for a Star Wars-themed land, fans could barely contain themselves. While showing some awe-inspiring renderings for this new addition, Disney officials promised that Guests visiting Batuu (that's the name of the fictional planet represented in both versions of this land) would soon be able to be completely immersed in the world of Star Wars and enjoy otherworldly flavors, specialty merchandise, as well as two thrilling rides.


Fast forward to August 4, 2019. The Disneyland version of Galaxy's Edge has already opened to all Guests, while the Florida version is currently hosting Cast Member previews. Even though the majority of Guests still hasn't had the chance to visit this new land, we were fortunate enough to be able to tour the Florida version and check out most of its offerings.




So, is the land really as immersive as promised, or has it fallen short of expectations? In our opinion, the answer lies in between. Before we share our own, personal thoughts about this land, let's compare Galaxy's Edge to a very successful addition that debuted at Universal Studios Florida back in 2014: Diagon Alley.

Diagon Alley and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge share a lot of similarities; in fact, we certainly agree with others when they say that Galaxy's Edge was a direct response to Universal's most immersive themed area. Consider the following:
  1. Both lands are completely separated from the rest of the park. Guests entering Diagon Alley have to enter through a facade that's completely unmarked, and the same is true of Galaxy's Edge;
  2. They both feature two main attractions: a headliner (Escape from Gringotts/Rise of the Resistance) and a secondary ride (Hogwarts Express/Smugglers Run). NOTE: while the Hogwarts Express is not located inside Diagon Alley per se, it opened with the land and would not exist without it;
  3. Each of these lands has a small area dedicated to characters that are "separated" from the rest of the world that was created as they are considered rebels or dangerous (Knocturn Alley/the Resistance Forest);
  4. Both lands include a market area (Carkitt Market/Black Spire Outpost Market) that sells items specifically created for the area;
  5. The two areas offer food and beverage offerings not available in other lands;
  6. A specialty beverage was created specifically for each of these lands (Butterbeer/Blue Milk);
  7. Each land features a large icon that "wows" Guests with special effects and that catches their attention (Diagon Alley's dragon breathing fire/Millennium Falcon making noises and vibrating like it's about to take off);
  8. Regular Cast/Team Members working in these immersive areas interact with Guests using themed greetings and display a remarkable knowledge of the movies that inspired the creation of these lands (something not required in many other themed areas);
  9. Guests can interact with props scattered around these lands to further immerse them into the story that's being told (Guests can use their own phone to do that at Galaxy's Edge):
  10. Audio-Animatronic figures and otherworldly creatures can be found around every corner.
As you can see, both lands follow a specific template that sets them apart from most of the other themed areas found in other parks around the world. That said, will Galaxy's Edge prove to be as popular as Diagon Alley? While it's still too early to answer that question, we would like to share with you our opinion regarding everything we were able to experience during our tour of Black Spire Outpost. Let's begin.







THE PLANET
Batuu is breathtaking. Even though entering the land from Grand Avenue may not give you chills right away, the view of the Millennium Falcon with the gorgeous mountain range-like background is absolutely amazing, something that cannot be expressed with mere words.

The colors, smells, and sounds all work together to transport Guests to another place and time, something that was previously confined to a movie screen. Now you can actually live your Star Wars adventure in real life and interact with props, characters, and even build a reputation (either good or bad) by completing certain tasks.






Sounds amazing, doesn't it? Sadly, there are a couple of flaws. First of all, the planet of Batuu was never feature in a Star Wars movie, so some fans may be a little disappointed (that didn't affect us a lot as we are far from being Star Wars fans). Additionally, the lack of music is really detrimental to the experience, as it makes the land feel dead.

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THE RIDE
Star Wars fans will love Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. I mean, you get to fly the Millennium Falcon, the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, how cool is that??

Guests riding Smugglers Run are assigned one of four different positions: Left pilot, right pilot, gunner (2x), and engineer (2x). Each of them can affect the ride for all the other passengers, either making it a very exciting experience or a less bumpy (and lucrative!) expedition. At the end of the experience, each Guest earns "credits" that will be added to their Play Disney Parks account and that could be used to gain additional benefits (mostly to interact with characters around the land) in the not-so-distant future.



After riding the attraction multiple times, we came to the conclusion that the closer you are the screen, the more fun you'll have. Here you are all the positions ranked from best to worst:
  1. RIGHT PILOT (controls the up and down motion, triggers the hyperspace jump) - located in the first row
  2. LEFT PILOT (controls the left and right movement) - located in the first row
  3. GUNNER (controls the three guns, either in manual or automatic mode) - located in the second row
  4. ENGINEER (fixes the ship by pressing buttons) - located in the third row
Sadly, while we enjoyed the attraction, we didn't fall in love with it. Aside from the nice queue and the excellent pre-shows (the Audio-Animatronic and the area Guests can explore before boarding the Millennium Falcon are fantastic), the ride felt like a way-too-interactive version of Star Tours. Personally, we enjoy passive experiences much more than interactive attractions (we dislike interactivity so much that we disregard the questions at the end of Spaceship Earth and we avoid attractions like Toy Story Mania or Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin like the plague), so having to press buttons throughout the entire ride was something we personally disliked, especially since it was incredibly difficult to focus on what was happening on the screen.


Additionally, the video presented as part of the attraction was always the same, just with minor changes depending on how the crew performed. This seemed quite strange to us, especially since Star Tours takes Guests to a variety of different planets, making each ride unique. Having different missions would definitely improve the quality of the attraction.

Rise of the Resistance was not open at the time this review was written, but we are absolutely sure it will be one amazing experience. We will share our thoughts about this immersive dark ride as soon as we get the chance to ride it.

CHARACTER INTERACTIONS
We can't stress enough how important character interactions are in this type of environment. While there are really few characters to see around Diagon Alley, fans were promised that they would be able to encounter many of their favorite heroes (as well as new characters) around Batuu. That would definitely be an advantage for Disney.

While we had a couple of fun interactions (which made a huge difference for us), we were only able to see a grand total of three (3) characters during our five-hour visit to Black Spire Outpost. That was a major letdown, as it made the "planet" feel lifeless. We truly hope they will introduce many more characters in the near future, as they will help create an even more complete and immersive experience.

FOOD AND MERCHANDISE
Food and merchandise are also very important parts of the overall theme park experience nowadays. While we didn't purchase any merchandise during our visit (most of the items offered are way too expensive for us), we were able to enjoy some food & beverage offerings, but we will post a detailed review on another occasion.



Overall, we found very few food & beverage offerings that we were interested in trying, yet what we were able to try was excellent. While Blue Milk may not be as good as Butterbeer, it's still a solid (should we say liquid instead?) addition, and the Ronto Wrap is the land's best option in our opinion. Desserts are overpriced and not special in any way, so we can't recommend them.


Overall, we think Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge has plenty of potential that hasn't been unlocked yet. With just a few adjustments, this could become the most amazing themed land ever created. Unfortunately, we believe it's not there yet. All that being said, this is undoubtedly a solid addition that will greatly help Disney's Hollywood Studios and that will allow millions of Guests to live their own Star Wars story and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Now it's your turn. If you had the chance to visit Galaxy's Edge, feel free to share your opinions with us by leaving a comment in the section below. We would love to see how others feel about this new addition.

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