A hologram flickers into life and the heroine appears, pleading for help. We are surely her last hope.
But it’s not Princess Leia. It’s Rey, last of the Jedi. And this is the Rise Of The Resistance.
No, it’s not the new movie. Nor is it the latest animated TV series.
This is a Star Wars adventure with a hero you’ll know well. Someone close to home.
It’s you. Yes, you.
Because you’ve just joined the cast of a near 20-minute adventure alongside Rey, Poe, Finn and evil Kylo Ren. And did I mention the 50 stormtroopers?
Star Wars: Rise Of The Resistance is the talk of the galaxy, the new attraction at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Fevered anticipation has swirled around the launch of the new ride. And it has all been wide of the mark.
Because this isn’t just a ride. It’s more than that. It’s the next best thing to starring in a movie.
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Disney has spent the GDP of a small planet on the signature attraction at Galaxy’s Edge, the 14-acre theme park within a theme park.
It is jaw-dropping – the most advanced adventure of its kind, blending holograms, special effects and state-of-the-art simulation.
It starts well then just gets better and better as it goes along.
I was among the first in the world to ride it and it earned an ovation from my fellow Resistance fighters. We’ve always known that Disney does pre-rides, simulators, vehicle rides and storylines well. This time they do it all in one.
It starts with a briefing from hologram Rey, animatronic BB8 and filmed fighter pilot Poe, their voices specially recorded by the stars of the final franchise trilogy.
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At all costs you must keep the location of the rebels’ Bakura base secret or it’s curtains for the Resistance.
You’re rushed from there to a waiting shuttle, but as you leave the planet of Batuu, things start to unravel fast.
Ambushed by two First Order Star Destroyers, your ship is drawn in by a tractor beam. What happens next will take your breath away.
The shuttle doors open and live actor First Order forces swarm in, guiding you out into a cavernous hangar, seemingly cut from solid rock and filled with 50 animatronic Stormtroopers.
You’re taken from there to an interrogation cell – again by live actors who do not drop their stern-faced act for a single second. Once behind bars, you’re taunted by Kylo Ren and General Hux. Things look bleak.
Until, that is, a remarkable rescue. I’m not spoiling the surprise, one of many OMG moments that follow once you clamber into your escape pod. Using clever trackless trickery, the pod runs you into the heart of a battle with plasma-blasting Stormtroopers.
Kylo Ren reappears several times and you’ll spot Finn and others in animatronic form worthy of the Terminator T2000 series.
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You dodge giant AT-ATs, plasma cannons and failing systems as the Star Destroyer succumbs to an onslaught by the Rebel Alliance, eventually making a final, shocking exit that comes almost without warning (I’m not going to spoil the surprise there either).
You’ll want to ride again and again. And each time you’ll spot something you missed.
But then that’s true of the whole Galaxy’s Edge land, painstakingly crafted to delight every geek in the universe.
It feels grittily authentic, rundown and rusty, this Black Spire outpost on Batuu, teeming with costumed characters, pod racer workshops, traders and scoundrels.
At the heart of the piece is the Millennium Falcon, recently landed by Chewbacca, who you might bump into as you roam the alleyways. Watch out for Kylo Ren and his Stormtrooper guards, too.
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You can also fly the Falcon on the Smugglers Run ride, a sizzling simulator that places you in a crew of six to pilot your way through a dogfight in space. At Savi’s Workshop, you can build your own custom lightsaber in another compelling piece of interactive theatre soundtracked specially by John Williams.
These aren’t plastic toys, but hefty metal models complete with glowing glass tubes. They carry a hefty price tag, too, but they’re serious collector’s items if you want a special treat.
You can dine in Oga’s Cantina, a watering hole the young Han Solo would have appreciated; you can make your own droid; you can buy blue and green milk, just like in the movies. Attention to detail is everything,
And it’s set to get even better in 2021 with Star Wars Galactic Star Cruiser, in which guests can stay two nights amid perfect sets and characters.
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Every window will have a view – of deep space. There’ll be lightsaber training for adults and children, plus the chance to help navigate on the bridge.
But, of course, it being Star Wars, there’ll be lots of surprises along the way.
You may well find yourself in the middle of another space battle. In fact, I think it’s a dead cert.
Like Rise Of The Resistance, the Force is strong in this one.
- Virgin Holidays offer seven nights in Orlando from £1,024 per person, including flights from Gatwick, room-only at Disney’s All Star Sports Resort and car hire.
The package includes a 14-day Ultimate Ticket to Walt Disney World parks (for the price of 7 days). Price is based on 2 adults and 2 kids aged 3-9 years on March 18 sharing a standard room; Manchester departures also available. virginholidays.co.uk, 0344 557 3859. More at visitorlando.com
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