There’s been much ado about Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge (or Star Wars Land, for short). Rightfully so, an immersive theme park land dedicated to one of the most beloved movie franchises of all time is something many of us have dreamed of for decades, way before Harry Potter, in fact. The wand boy and his Wizarding World at Universal surely changed the landscape of theme park design, forever. But there’s something at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge that doesn’t happen at any other theme park land, at least to this level: you’re the star and you’re in control.
Other Theme Park Lands – a Brief Recap
Disneyland, the original theme park, opened in California in 1955. It marked the first family entertainment experience that aimed to be immersive and transportive. And to this day it stands as the mark that all other theme parks aim to reach. In many ways, most of the early attractions retold the stories of Disney movies as guests rode through them. Other original attractions put guests into the action but their part in the experience was secondary to that of the attraction’s characters and features.
As decades have marched on, theme park attractions have increased exponentially in their intensity and ability to immerse guests into whatever story is being told. Still, the vast majority feel like the guest is a secondary or even third tier character who is supporting the main characters. And the guest’s actions are purely dictated by the attraction and its main characters.
Let’s look at some new attractions that have opened in recent years. In New Fantasyland you go under the sea simply for the story of “The Little Mermaid” to be retold. In Enchanted Tales with Belle, you’re part of the show, if you’re selected, but you’re simply retelling Belle’s story.
In Pandora – World of Avatar, as impressive as both attractions are, you are passive. Your actions do not dictate the outcome.
Same goes for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You are exploring the Wizarding World at an incredible level of detail. Both Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida changed the theme park game. The immersive detail is a gift to the industry. But the story is rarely yours to experience. You are experiencing Harry’s journey.
You’re the star at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge
Yes, there are big characters within the land. Kylo Ren, Rey, Chewbacca, and Stormtroopers journey through the streets of Black Spire Outpost, right alongside you. And this is one of the ways that it makes you the actual star. The plot is that The Resistance has journeyed to this distant outpost in hopes of recruiting more members to fight against the First Order. Alas the evil First Order has arrived to put an end to this recruitment. But if you don’t want to choose a side, you don’t have to. And if you do, you can get as into it as you wish. Interact not only with the characters but the Cast Members throughout the land. Play the data pad app within the Disney Play app. Dress up in Batuu inspired garb.
You’ve seen the ads with the Millennium Falcon. It is there waiting for you. And it is this ride in which you determine the outcome. You and your crew have tasks to perform. Perform them well and your ride will be smooth and your journey more complete, perform them poorly and you’ll have a bumpier, less fruitful ride.
Belly up to the busy, crowded, and mildly chaotic Oga’s Cantina. You can play the smuggling scoundrel, the rebellious member of the Resistance, or you can just take it all in and be a guest, a traveler. There’s no one else’s story to get in the way here.
Take your time and stroll the winding paths. Observe the details, the sounds, the sights. You’re welcome to show your allegiance to either side, or just sit back and be passive. It is purely up to you.
At first I wasn’t blown away by Star War’s Galaxy’s Edge. I was used to the in-your-face franchising of Wizarding World of Harry Potter – which I adore. As far as emotional moments go, I do think Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley cast a better spell.
But Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge gives guests more power than they realize. It takes some getting used to. Because it’s never been done exactly like this before, it can be a little uncomfortable when you realize the more you put into the experience the more you’ll get out of it.
This land has been criticized for many things, chief among them is that it is new and unfamiliar, not a recreation of a planet we’ve seen in the movies. But by being a new land, though it does have its own book series now, guests aren’t stuck in a retelling of a familiar story.
There is more to come. A groundbreaking attraction, Rise of the Resistance, that sounds like it is guaranteed to take your breath away and other potential enhancements. I’ve only been twice and I plan to spend more time interacting with the land and its inhabitants. It certainly has its shortcomings but overall, the Force is strong here.