Star Wars Review – The Acolyte Without Spoilers

Star Wars Review - The Acolyte
Star Wars Review – The Acolyte

With varying degrees of success, the newest Star Wars series on Disney+ transports us to a bygone period.

The first four episodes of Star Wars: The Acolyte, which debuts on Tuesday, June 4 at 6 p.m. PT / 9 p.m. ET on Disney+, are reviewed here ahead of time without giving any spoilers.

The way The Acolyte introduces us to a hitherto unexplored age of Star Wars has an inherent excitement to it. As shown in contemporary books and comics, this is the conclusion of the High Republic era, around a century before the advent of the Empire. It lets us explore a radically different galaxy, where the Jedi Order is prospering and operates more like what we’ve seen in the prequel trilogy, and where no one has ever heard of Skywalker or Palpatine. Disney+’s newest live-action Star Wars series shifts things up from the outset—there are no Stormtroopers in sight!—and that timeframe, along with some intriguing story ideas, provides a strong hook after five consecutive series set either in the midst of or after the Empire’s rule. However, it isn’t nearly enough to restore equilibrium to the first four episodes, which lose much of the iconic epic character of Star Wars and feel more like “TV” movies from a directorial perspective.

Amandla Stenberg does a fantastic job of creating the two separate personas who are twin sisters Mae and Osha. She gives each part of her dual role unique traits and energy without going overboard. Mae received her training in the teachings of the Force from an enigmatic Sith teacher, whereas Osha had her training at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant (before departing from the Jedi order). Stenberg, who has been a captivating onscreen presence from her breakthrough performance in The Hunger Games and forward through films like The Hate U Give and Bodies Bodies Bodies, is given a good platform in addition to a wonderful spotlight.

Star Wars Character Posters: The Acolyte

Leslye Headland, best known for co-creating Netflix’s fantastic Russian Doll, is the creator of The Acolyte. She clearly loves Star Wars, and her portrayal of how a typical Jedi Knight or Master maintains order in our day and age is admirable. Her new show centres on individuals who must negotiate both the Republic Senate’s external and the Jedi Council’s internal power system. The Jedi Council is mentioned but not shown in the first four episodes. One such individual that the Acolyte finds another anchor in is Jedi Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae), who pulls Osha into the search for Mae following the killing of a Jedi in an exciting fight scene that opens the series. Lee delivers a remarkable portrayal, capturing the regretting Jedi knowledge and serenity that seem naturally to Sol. Without uttering a word, the Squid Game star tells us a lot about Sol and the weights he bears through his facial expressions.

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An important subtext in George Lucas’s prequel trilogy to Star Wars was the Jedi’s conceit and haughtiness, which developed inside the Order to the point that it was turned against them. The Acolyte exposes these shortcomings and discovers that some of the most fascinating content comes from subjects covered in those films. It turns out that not everyone loves or accepts the Order’s procedures for locating and adopting Force-sensitive infants as much as Qui-Gon Jinn made them seem.

It is unrealistic to expect the franchise to stick to a single methodology for every project; the distinctions between Andor and The Mandalorian, for instance, highlight the advantages of experimenting with various narrative strands within this world. However, there is still a core Star Wars flavour to both of those programmes. The Acolyte has an odd feeling about it when it comes to both its plot and visual aesthetic.

Star Wars: The Acolyte Review: A Star Wars Murder Mystery | Image Credit: slashfilm.com
Star Wars: The Acolyte Review: A Star Wars Murder Mystery | Image Credit: slashfilm.com

Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Book of Boba Fett both received criticism for being more “artificial” and having cartoonish images, but The Acolyte is the first Star Wars series that truly seems like a TV programme. The settings, clothing, and makeup frequently have an obvious artificiality to them, which highlights how this series lacks the cinematic production elements we are used to from Star Wars. (Moreover, The Acolyte didn’t employ ILM’s divisive video walls, also known as The Volume, before you accuse them.) It’s important to note that this is a brand that has always worked on a different and bigger scale than this. It’s not that it seems low budget; after all, this is a very costly series full of spectacular effects. Compared to Star Wars, The Acolyte’s interpersonal interactions and flatter visual language are more reminiscent of Star Trek, the long-running sci-fi institution they most immediately evoke. Furthermore, a few of the story components appear clumsy; for example, characters abandon positions they were strongly held about far too fast or miraculously avoid harm. Certain attempts at lighthearted repartee fall flat.

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The majority of the time, The Acolyte excels while addressing the rivalry between the two sisters and Sol’s relationship with them. It also features some amazing and creative battle sequences. The first few episodes don’t include the typical lightsaber vs. lightsaber combat; instead, they centre on Mae, who wields a knife, facing off against other Jedi, such as Sol or Indara, played by Carrie-Anne Moss. This demonstrates to us how proficient Jedi characters are in non-laser sword fighting by showcasing their fascinating and well-choreographed use of martial arts. Moss makes excellent use of her knowledge in the Matrix to demonstrate how easily Indara can parry Mae’s blows.

In other scenes, Manny Jacinto from The Good Place has a lot of fun as Qimir, who gets to play the role of a scoundrel/smuggler in Star Wars, while Dafne Keen warms up to Stenberg as Osha develops a relationship with Jecki Lon, Sol’s padawan. In the first four episodes, Charlie Barnett, who previously collaborated with Headland on Russian Doll, plays the by-the-book Jedi Yord, who feels unimportant to the plot. However, we’ll see whether this changes in the second half of the season.

Final Words

The Acolyte seems new and distinct from other recent live-action Star Wars series because it sets its narrative in a galaxy far, far away and has a fascinating plot that seems to be laying the groundwork for the Sith’s impending return. A lack of visual flare and a lot of corny moments aside, the execution of the film occasionally feels odd, adding to the persistent worry that the grand scope of the Star Wars property and what makes it unique has been undermined by all these streaming series. When viewed alone, The Acolyte has some engaging character interactions and a captivating mystery, but its first four episodes fall short of being really outstanding. However, there is a wookiee Jedi, which is always a bonus.


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