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‘The Acolyte’ Premiere Review: A Much Needed Fresh Start

The following review will contain minor spoilers for The Acolyte.

After years of releasing projects perpetually stuck in the confines of the Skywalker Saga, Disney has finally broken free of their own imaginary restraints and released The Acolyte, an original story with both unique and familiar elements that expand on lore, showcase new abilities, and create perhaps the most intrigue in the Star Wars universe to date. The first two episodes of the show do all that and more, bringing stability to what has been an increasingly faltering franchise. 

‘The Acolyte’ Premiere Review: A Much Needed Fresh Start
Star Wars: The Acolyte  / Image Courtesy of Disney

A hundred years ago, in a galaxy not so far away…

It is a period of relative peace and prosperity. The High Republic era is in its waning days, but the resolve of the Jedi has never been stronger, and their power remains omnipresent throughout the galaxy. Deep in the untouched corners of the galaxy, however, several people have been tapping into the more dangerous side of the Force in order to use it for malicious purposes. One such wielder, Mae (Amandla Stenberg), is hell-bent on assassinating four Jedi who she deems responsible for the loss of her family and the destruction of her home.

She goes on a Kill Bill-esque murder spree and finds her first victim on the distant planet of Ueda—a Jedi Master by the name of Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss). Their encounter literally kicks off the series with a hard blow, immediately showcasing fantastic hand-to-hand combat and martial arts choreography not typically seen from Jedi. Up until now, they have traditionally been portrayed with lightsabers as their primary form of attack and defense. This new style of fighting is just a small sample of much more incredible action that is yet to reveal itself.

Star Wars: The Acolyte  / Image Courtesy of Disney

Precision Ev-egg

Fans of the Jedi video game series will be delighted to see a potential nod to one of the Force abilities used in the game by Cal Kestis. During their duel, as Mae tries to reach for Indara’s lightsaber, Indara performs what looks like a precision evade (something that Sol does later on as well) to slide out of Mae’s reach and disorient her. Intentional or not, this move is a great easter egg (for those who want to believe it) and further reinforces the bridge between these two mediums, helping maintain a sense of continuity.

Star Wars: The Acolyte  / Image Courtesy of Disney

Aesthetics of the High Republic

Through Mae’s quest for revenge, many new locations are unearthed, bringing about fantastic world-building opportunities for the universe as she ventures across the ever-expanding galaxy. The production design is incredible—every set piece is impeccably detailed and feels lived-in—from the pristine purity of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant to the unexplored lush, green forestry of Khofar. The inhabitants of these worlds don appropriately designed costumes that not only denote the status of their character but also make great adaptations of their source material. Classy High Republic Jedi robes, in particular, finally manifest into a live-action realization. The tangibility and physicality of both the environments and wardrobe lend themselves to the immersion, unlike other recent projects—such as Obi-Wan Kenobi—whose backgrounds look rather flat and synthetic. 

Star Wars: The Acolyte  / Image Courtesy of Disney

The Fugitive(s)

Upon learning that Mae is targeting members of the Order, Master Vernestra Rwoh (Rebecca Henderson) dispatches fellow Jedi, Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae), on a mission to detain her. This moment is where the mystery finds its footing and creates an interesting predicament for Sol because, without delving too much into spoilers, the person behind the murders may not be who it seems, which presents a moral dilemma for some parties involved.

It’s not actually that much of a mystery to the viewers though as the answer is spelled out pretty early on but it’s the in-universe thriller aspect of it that makes it so intriguing. Besides, many more questions are revealed as the story progresses, and that’s what keeps the audience in their seats; once one is solved, another one is uncovered. This seemingly never-ending cycle of new puzzle pieces gives fans something to look forward to as the story unfolds, hopefully paying off in an epic series finale.

To accompany him on his mission, Master Sol recruits his padawan Jecki Lon (Dafne Keen) and Jedi Knight Yord Fandar (Charlie Barnett), both of whom bring some lightheartedness and humor into the setting without disrupting the tension or the story. There’s a good collective balance of emotions that keeps the story from stagnating in any way, and the ensemble of performances come together to create some extremely likable dynamics. 

Star Wars: The Acolyte  / Image Courtesy of Disney

A New Golden Age

There’s a lot of promise that this show holds with its new characters, locations, story, and an era full of untapped potential. Leslye Headland gives the franchise what it has desperately been needing the most for the past few years: something new and unique, something that’s never been explored, and something for everyone. There’ll definitely be people who feel alienated by this show, but part of developing a taste for something is allowing yourself to open up to it. The Acolyte is that acquired taste, and over time, it will unravel itself as a mouthful of rich, indulgent lore that brings new meaning to our understanding of the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars: The Acolyte  / Image Courtesy of Disney

Episodes 1 and 2 of The Acolyte are now streaming exclusively on Disney+. It stars Amandla Stenberg, Carrie-Anne Moss, Lee Jung-jae, Dafne Keen, Charlie Barnett, Manny Jacinto, Rebecca Henderson, and Dean-Charles Chapman.

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Artist by nature, music maker by choice, film enjoyer by force. You can always find Vincent stuck in gridlocked LA traffic.