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Star Wars The Acolyte Review: Spirit Of The Prequels

The High Republic is a new untapped era with lots of potential in the Star Wars franchise. After several years of books, comics and games, the High Republic is finally getting the live-action treatment with Star Wars The Acolyte, which is also the first series led by showrunner Leslye Headland.

A Shiny New Era

(L-R): Vernestra Rwoh (Rebecca Henderson) and Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) in Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

The High Republic era takes place several hundred years before the events of Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace and that’s reflected in Star Wars The Acolyte (which is set 100 years before that movie). This series offers something new that we’ve never seen before in the franchise, including new ships, new characters and new worlds. What that also means is that there are no empty cameos and fanservice for the sake of fanservice in Star Wars The Acolyte, though there are still some easter eggs and references for eagle-eyed fans. That being said, don’t expect Cad Bane or Darth Nihilus to suddenly show up out of nowhere. The performances of the characters are good as a whole, but the best is probably Lee Jung-jae as Master Sol, who feels as wise as he should (though his English line deliveries can be awkward and distracting).

The premise of Star Wars The Acolyte is an intriguing one because the story is kickstarted when a Jedi is murdered and they’re on the hunt for the murderer. It’s not exactly a whodunnit or murder mystery because from the very first episode, the series already establishes who the killer is. Hence, the narrative and plot are mostly focused on entangling the mystery of the protagonist played by Amandla Stenberg and her role in all of this. Star Wars The Acolyte sometimes suffer from some pacing issues and choppy editing, but for the most part, everything is compelling enough to follow, with each episode ending on a cliffhanger of some sort. It’s just that the four episodes devote the majority of their time to setting the next scene and so on, so there’s not much of a payoff for anything and some things happen too abruptly without necessary buildup.

Mae (Amandla Stenberg) in Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

The pinnacle of Star Wars TV is still perhaps Andor, and while the writing and narrative of Star Wars The Acolyte are nowhere near the levels of Andor, one thing they’re pretty similar with is that they both look good. It’s clear that Lucasfilm devoted and dedicated a lot of the budget (the entire first season reportedly cost a whopping US$180 million) to the VFX and sets of the series. There are a wide variety of locales and settings too, such as forests, the interiors of Jedi Temples, small towns, snowy places and more. Thankfully, it’s not all just sand or Tatooine (like cough The Book Of Boba Fett cough). Despite the lavish production values, the way the scenes are shot in Star Wars The Acolyte can sometimes seem amateurish and not as cinematic as they should be; a far cry from Andor or even Ahsoka.

There’s a lot of action in Star Wars The Acolyte, but in the four episodes that I’ve seen, there are no lightsaber duels yet. Most of the action scenes in the series are hand-to-hand combat and fight scenes that look inspired by martial arts. It sort of makes sense in the context of the world and era because the Jedi wouldn’t be using lightsabers willy-nilly against normal enemies that aren’t Sith or stormtroopers and they would treat the lightsaber like something of a last resort. This offers a unique dynamic that’s not often seen in Star Wars, but I won’t lie, as a Star Wars fan, it’s a bit disappointing that there aren’t any lightsaber duels (yet) during a time when the Jedi Order were at their prime and peak. However, I’ve only seen four episodes out of eight, so hopefully the remaining four episodes will remedy that and give us some badass lightsaber duels.

(Center to right): Jedi Padawan Jecki Lon (Dafne Keen) and Master Lakshay (Paul Bullion) in Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

For Light And Life

(L-R, front row): Yord Fandar (Charlie Barnett), Jedi Padawan Jecki Lon (Dafne Keen) and Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) in Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

After four episodes, it’s too early to say if Star Wars The Acolyte will be as good or beloved as The Mandalorian or Ahsoka, since it all depends on whether the series can stick the landing in its last four episodes this season. So far, the series is good enough that I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.

Best of all, the appeal of seeing the High Republic makes it feel a lot like the feeling and vibe of watching Episode I The Phantom Menace for the first time (which was my generation’s introduction to the franchise). It’s a brand new era in a familiar beloved franchise and what’s not to love about that? The beginning of a new journey is always the fun part.

Just like the Prequels, Star Wars The Acolyte has its issues but maybe it will take time to reach its full potential, so let’s see what happens in those final four episodes. Remember, even Andor took its time but it was worth it in the end.

FINAL SCORE: 70/100

We received early screeners of Star Wars The Acolyte courtesy of Disney+ Hotstar Malaysia. Star Wars The Acolyte is slated to premiere on 5 June 2024 on Disney+ Hotstar Malaysia.

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Comment(4)

  1. Star Wars The Acolyte Episode 1 & 2 Breakdown & Easter Eggs

    June 5, 2024 at 9:00 am

    […] The first two episodes of Star Wars The Acolyte is now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar. Check out my spoiler-free review of Star Wars The Acolyte by heading over here. […]

  2. Star Wars The Acolyte: Lee Jung-jae On How Qui-Gon Jinn Inspired Jedi Master Sol

    June 5, 2024 at 3:35 pm

    […] The first two episodes of Star Wars The Acolyte are now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar. Check out my spoiler-free review of Star Wars The Acolyte by heading over here. […]

  3. Star Wars The Acolyte Episode 3 Breakdown & Easter Eggs

    June 12, 2024 at 9:00 am

    […] The third episode of Star Wars The Acolyte is now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar. Check out my spoiler-free review of Star Wars The Acolyte by heading over here. […]

  4. Star Wars The Acolyte Episode 4 Breakdown & Easter Eggs

    June 19, 2024 at 9:00 am

    […] The fourth episode of Star Wars The Acolyte is now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar. Check out my spoiler-free review of Star Wars The Acolyte by heading over here. […]

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