THE ACOLYTE, or Star Wars like a milk bar serving yesterday’s food [review of 2 episodes]

So imagine “Kill Bill” without swearing and bloody violence, with a sisterly intrigue copied from “Frozen,” and you’ll get two episodes of “The Acolyte.”

Odys Korczyński

6 June 2024

the acolyte

The first two episodes of “The Acolyte” are now available on Disney+. And honestly, I’m not so much embarrassed by them as I am surprised, although given the actions of the creators under Kathleen Kennedy’s leadership in the post-Lucas Star Wars universe, I shouldn’t be. The story takes place 100 years before the prequel trilogy. There’s no Empire yet, but the setting hasn’t fundamentally changed aesthetically, just like in films from big, iconic series that have run out of ideas for the depicted world, merely recycling past glories like pieces in a kaleidoscope. The series features the usual bunch of unsuccessful Jedi, with the dark side looming in the background. The pieces have just been rearranged. When I saw the small age rating in the upper left corner of the screen, everything should have been clear to me.

the acolyte

And I saw the number 12, the most popular age rating to cram everything into safely. Disney hasn’t learned. It doesn’t want to change anything. Leslye Headland marketed “The Acolyte” as a completely new quality, a series packed with action so much that we would experience such incredible sensations for the first time in the entire universe. Moreover, it’s supposed to be a mix of “Kill Bill” and “Frozen.” During the presentation of the series concept, supposedly Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy even cried with delight.

At this point, I could only cry with laughter because after two episodes, I saw a technically well-executed template for further filling with mature content. Instead, I saw a cantina with aliens, a mascot (a droid named PIPA) speaking a strange language that the main character Osha (Amandla Stenberg), a rebellious former Jedi, of course, understands, a distant antagonist resembling Ben Solo, and a set of dirty worlds on various planets – unfortunately, nothing new. There’s little blood, safe language, predictable battle and dialogue premises, all very much in a western convention. There’s indeed no shortage of action, as the showrunner assured, but the comparison to “Kill Bill” is bizarre, wild, and indicates a complete misunderstanding of viewers’ needs. Unless Star Wars fans expected this, which I find hard to believe. The series is crafted like a typical product preying on sentiment and targeting fans with weaker experience with George Lucas’s old saga. I have never been a hardcore, psychotic fan of his work, but still, I was raised on this world, it’s important to me, and it hurts to see predatory franchising devouring the remnants of this archetypal legend.

“The Acolyte”. The main slap in the face

Its strength has always been the ability to create timeless heroes, and in the 21st century, only Ben Solo has achieved any success in the Star Wars universe. The rest of the new characters are paper creations, insignificant, contributing nothing, but generating profits by deceiving the viewer into thinking they’re more. Besides Ben, only the series’ Obi-Wan Kenobi and Cassian Andor deserve attention. If “The Acolyte” were as sharp as a “Kill Bill” katana, I might see some potential in Sol (Jung-jae Lee). I haven’t met the main antagonist yet, so I won’t make any predictions here. However, he would need to be powerful and wouldn’t fit into the 12+ age category. And that’s the main slap in the face for the series, blocking any development of the universe. The showrunners, and Kennedy herself, talk so much about production courage and “The Acolyte’s” originality. So, dear creators at Lucasfilm, hiring an Asian, an African American, and a non-heteronormative person is not an act of bravery. It’s a sign of cultural changes and general progress. By the way, “The Acolyte” received a lot of flak for its inclusivity even before its premiere. I even mentioned it in my column about the Black George Lucas. The problem is, I tried to spot the discord and unnaturalness akin to those in “Doctor Who,” but this multiculturalism in “The Acolyte” is done without loud banners, as if the world naturally looked that way. In a word: Disney messed up everything else, but did inclusivity with class. Thus, I don’t understand why “The Acolyte” is so hated for its multiculturalism, while “Doctor Who” is left alone. Maybe “Doctor Who” was treated as a culturally insignificant product, and everything related to Star Wars is much more noticed and analyzed generally, and by typical psychofan communities that have grown around George Lucas’s saga over the years.

the acolyte

The treats, however, are one reference to “Alien” (did you notice it?), and Carrie-Anne Moss joining the universe, which was probably quite unexpected for many, and I hope her appearance in the first episode of “The Acolyte” won’t be her last in the series. Yes, despite the milk bar comparison, I intend to watch the series to the end because I’m curious about who the master of acolyte Mae is. How much is he copied or surprisingly good amidst the sea of mediocrity Disney surrounded him with, like sugar on a kurtosh at the Krakow Market during the Christmas fair. Besides, as always with Star Wars productions, there are no visual complaints. The series is a goldmine of potential desktop wallpapers. And I’m not writing this sarcastically, having a “Blade Runner 2049” wallpaper on my screen, and once from SWTOR. Wallpapers are important; they help set the mood while working, increasing dopamine levels. But for a reviewer, these are all small elements that ultimately contribute to the final evaluation. And since content-wise it’s so derivative, these secondary details may determine whether “The Acolyte” should be considered a complete sham or just an average, marketing-minded product for a one-time watch and forget. I’ll probably decide at the end because in the following episodes, the action may indeed become as meaty as in “Kill Bill.”

For now, it’s not even like “Frozen.” It all depends on how the relationship between Mae and Osha, that is, Elsa and Anna, develops. And wise and conciliatory Sol will join them as the element disrupting the balance. At this moment, I think I’ve let myself get carried away by dreams because the reality will probably be more derivative. So imagine “Kill Bill” without swearing and bloody violence, with a sisterly intrigue copied from “Frozen,” and you’ll get two episodes of “The Acolyte.”

Odys Korczyński

Odys Korczyński

For years he has been passionate about computer games, in particular RPG productions, film, medicine, religious studies, psychoanalysis, artificial intelligence, physics, bioethics, as well as audiovisual media. He considers the story of a film to be a means and a pretext to talk about human culture in general, whose cinematography is one of many splinters.

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