‘The Acolyte’ Review: Another Star Wars Show just for the Young

‘The Acolyte’ Review: Another Star Wars Show just for the Young

@Photo by Lucasfilm Ltd./Lucasfilm Ltd. – © 2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Since Lucasfilm was sold to Disney in October 2012, the target audience for the Star Wars movies and future TV series changed quite drastically, especially in how the new titles would address the viewers’ tastes. Except for a few productions like The Mandalorian Season 1 – a classic western disguised like a sci-fi adventure – narrative structures have become increasingly simplified (if not unfortunately shallow), just to appeal to the younger moviegoers and streaming binge-watchers. 

The Acolyte belongs almost entirely to this bunch of shows that offer magnificent scenarios, action, and rhythm, but in the end not really much more. Or at least anything different. After an entertaining fight sequence that seems to belong more to the Matrix universe than the Star Wars one (not only because played by Carrie-Anne Moss together with the protagonist Amandla Stenberg), everything that comes after is quite discouraging: unidimensional characters, lousy interactions between them, the usual introduction of a funny, endearing mini-robot as a sidekick. It is obvious that the Star Wars world has its internal rules set by the 1977 game-changing masterpiece by George Lucas, but it appears quite pointless to re-propose them in such a sterile way. What’s the point in seeing over and over the same kind of show, just served on a different plate without adding any new spice? 

Must be said that after the disappointing pilot, The Acolyte has a second episode which is way better, especially in screenwriting. The script in fact builds up tension and most importantly some depth to the characters. First of all, the protagonist Osha. It almost seems that the first episode was purposely realized as a way to hook the younger audience to the show because what happens in the next one is quite thrilling, raising the hope that maybe the intent is to appeal to a broader audience other than teenagers.

Such hope is not completely justified, since the next two episodes – especially the third one, entirely shot as a flashback – lower again the quality of the storytelling to levels barely acceptable for an adult viewer. The plot twists are predictable and not entertaining, and the characters are defined by relationships that don’t really mean a lot in terms of empathy.

The Acolyte

Photo by Courtesy of Disney – © Disney

This of course doesn’t help the cast of actors elevate their performances, quite the opposite to be honest. Amandla Stenberg is in our opinion one of the most talented actresses of her generation, but in The Acolyte is never capable of giving her acting that painful grip that we’ve seen in some of her past performances, especially in The Hate U Give and The Eddy. Next to her Lee Jung-Jae (Squid Game), Dafne Keen (His Dark Materials, Logan), and Charlie Barnett (Russian Doll) look to be almost completely lost in characters who seem to be there just to make the story progress. 

Created by Leslye Headland, The Acolyte is a huge step back compared to her previous series as showrunner, Netflix’s Russian Doll. In this specific case, it’s pretty difficult to understand how much the freedom to develop her own ideas and vision about the series had to bend to what Disney wanted from The Acolyte. As written at the beginning of this review it is clear which target of streamers had to be reached through the show.

So the real question is: was Headland able to put something personal in it or she’s just worked on behalf of the Major? No matter which is the answer, the first four episodes of The Acolyte don’t stand as something really meaningful, nor add any new ideas to the Star Wars universe.

Nonetheless, we are actually curious to watch the other episodes because there could be room for improvement, especially because the real antagonist is going to take the stage and elevate the tone of the conflicts. It has always been like this with Star Wars: you need to look into the dark side of the Force to start feeling its power…

The Acolyte

Photo by Lucasfilm Ltd./Lucasfilm Ltd. – © 2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Rate: C-

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