Walk in R2's tracks, decode the antiquities of an alien collector, and sabotage the First Order

By Anthony Breznican
May 29, 2019 at 09:00 PM EDT

Let’s go far, far away…

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is on the eve of opening at Disneyland, and Entertainment Weekly spent the day touring the finished version of the 14-acre theme park expansion from another world. (The one at Walt Disney World in Florida opens Aug. 29.)

We walked in R2-D2’s tracks in the Resistance encampment, flew the Millennium Falcon on a smuggling mission, and imbibed some icy blue Bantha milk. And there’s more to discover around every corner.

What Lucasfilm and Disney’s Imagineers have created feels like the most detailed playset ever manufactured, and you are the action figures, engaging in missions to help the Resistance, empower the First Order, or entangle yourself in the scoundrel underworld that’s playing both sides against each other.

Your phone is your weapon. The Play Disney Parks app will translate the alien Aurebesh language that’s inscribed everywhere, and it also enables you to sabotage (or reactivate) surveillance panels throughout the land in a capture-the-flag-like game of espionage and attrition warfare.

You can use it to communicate with droids, reveal the illicit contents of shipping containers, or eavesdrop on the communiques of underworld figures.

Joshua Sudock/Disney Parks

Galaxy’s Edge opens to the public Friday, although special reservations are required to avoid overcrowding. The sleepy galactic backwater of Black Spire outpost, located on the planet Batuu, is — as the name suggests — situated on the fringe of the known star systems. But it’s about to get a massive influx of visitors.

EW’s first stop was the Resistance encampment in the woodlands outside Black Spire outpost, where the Rise of the Resistance ride will activate later this year. There’s a full-size A-Wing starship and an X-Wing fighter parked amid the terraces outside the still-under-construction ride.

In the center of town is the main attraction — Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.

Outside is a life-size version of the fastest ship in the galaxy, undergoing repairs in an open square outside a spaceport run by the charismatic Weequay pirate Hondo Ohnaka. Inside the ride, his eerily lifelike animatronic robot recruits you for a quest to hijack a train shipment of coaxium fuel, just as Han Solo and Chewie did in Solo: A Star Wars Story. (Look for EW’s exclusive video tour of our flight coming soon.)

Richard Harbaugh/Disney Parks

No matter how much you’ve imagined flying the Falcon over the years, nothing quite prepares you for experience of actually piloting it. How well you do pilot the ship or control the cannons changes the experience, and novices are bound to crash into a few asteroids or collide with other starships along the way.

Bring the Falcon back with too many scrapes and blaster burns, and Hondo spreads the word that you owe him. This is another way the Play Disney Parks app makes you part of the community, capturing and sharing your experience with fellow denizens of Black Spire. You may sit down for a Bespin Fizz in Oga’s Cantina and find that your bartender has heard tell of your botched mission. Or you may be regaled as a hero smuggler, not to be trifled with.

Although Smuggler’s Run is the only ride active inside Galaxy’s Edge for now, every part of the park is designed to feel immersive. You can buy toys, but not the typical Hasbro playthings. The figures you can pick up in the Marketplace bazaar are old-school, handmade items — similar to Jyn’s wooden Stormtrooper doll in Rogue One, or Rey’s stuffed X-Wing pilot doll in The Force Awakens.

Joshua Sudock/Disney Parks

You can buy stuffed Porgs, Wampas, and Lothcats across the way in a creature shop, and although they would count as more toys in our world, the shop is set up as a pet store.

Further down the alley is a hardworking galactic artist, carving wooden busts of roaring Wookiees and the vulture-like steelpecker birds of Jakku. The blackened bottom of an R2-style Astromech droid serves as the makeshift kiln.

A clear water tank above a drinking fountain nearby sprouts the stalked eye of an aquatic Dianoga beast, which has infested the plumbing, whenever a visitor stops to take a sip.

And these are all just the dressing, the atmosphere, the details of Galaxy’s Edge. On the far side of town, controlled by the First Order, a TIE Echelon fighter rests ominously across from the blue-milk stand, and Kylo Ren and his Stormtroopers are known to make an appearance here, in pursuit of Resistance freedom fighters.

Richard Harbaugh/Disney Parks

By far the most intriguing place to visit is not a ride at all but the merchant shop of Dok-Ondar, a towering “hammerhead” Ithorian alien who was namedropped in Solo as a renowned collector of sacred objects.

The large alien animatronic commands your attention as you enter and browse his wares, but the walls above tell their own stories — the mask from Leia Organa’s Boushh bounty hunter disguise in Return of the Jedi rests amid a collection of helmets, and a type of ax seen in the lair of crimelord Dryden Voss in Solo and the hands of a Knight of Ren in The Rise of Skywalker hangs on the opposite wall.

Christian Thompson/Disney Parks

In the Galaxy’s Edge comic book penned by Ethan Sacks, Han Solo and Chewie ran a mission for the Ithorian collector to retrieve a baby Sarlaac, and now a sandy aquarium sitting in one corner of the shop houses the deadly little thing, showing its stubby body wedged in an open pocket of grit while its tentacles strain for prey above the surface.

For Star Wars completists, the visual scavenger hunt inside this Den of Antiquities is as much a ride as the the Millennium Falcon experience.

That’s what proves to be the most wondrous accomplishment of Galaxy’s Edge. It takes adventures that have been building inside the imaginations of fans for generations and makes them tangible, makes them real.

The galaxy you will truly feel on the edge of is our own, leaving it behind, if only for a day, to visit another world.

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