'The Acolyte' review: When Force push comes to shove


'You know, in this light ... you kind of look like a young Cheetara.' Photos: Handout

Who's the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?

That immortal line from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope somehow resonates now, 47 years after audiences first heard and loved it, in The Acolyte. Or, one who follows.

It's not exactly foolishness, however, that motivates the events of this series.

Set about 100 years before the events of Episode I, at the tail end of the High Republic era, The Acolyte kicks off with a kick-butt fight scene that propels its characters on a mystical, murderous mystery.

They are, primarily: Jedi Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae, enough said) and his former Padawan Osha (Amandla Stenberg, The Hate U Give, The Darkest Minds), who finds herself accused of heinous crimes.

Even a long time ago in faraway galaxies, people knew the importance of masking up and... hey, that better be sanitiser in your hand, young lady.Even a long time ago in faraway galaxies, people knew the importance of masking up and... hey, that better be sanitiser in your hand, young lady.

Trekking around the galaxy with Jedi Knight Yord Fandar (Charlie Barnett, Chicago Fire) and Sol's current Padawan Jecki Lon (Dafne Keen, Logan, His Dark Materials) in tow, Sol and Osha learn that current events are tied to a shared tragedy in their past.

And – yeah, that's all we need to say regarding what it's about. If you've seen the trailers and teasers, though, you may be wondering where Carrie-Anne Moss' "Force Fu"-wielding Jedi Master comes in.

Also, who's the dark figure with that unsettling helmet – could it be Darth Plagueis, the supposed master of Palpatine? Or Plagueis' own master, Darth Tenebrous? Or none of the above? But surely, a Sith, given that red lightsabre in the trailers?

Patience, Padawan. All will (most likely) be revealed as showrunner/creator Leslye Headland (Russian Doll) peels away layer after tantalising layer with each new instalment.

 'Just like an acolyte... bringing a knife to a lightsabre fight.''Just like an acolyte... bringing a knife to a lightsabre fight.'

I have to say that I liked what was made available of The Acolyte to reviewers so far, though I'm upset as heck that I'll have to wait several weeks to see what happens next.

Aside from the refreshing setting, a welcome change from all-too-familiar movie-era and post-movie scenarios, there is a lot to savour: from the dark undertones to the well-staged action sequences and terrific performances (Stenberg's role is particularly demanding, and she proves more than adept at juggling its... shall we say, varied requirements), not to mention the gorgeous landscapes on at least two verdant worlds (seen so far).

From the casual arrogance of the Jedi in this era of "peace", and the way they swoop in and separate gifted youngsters from families without so much as a "By your leave" – or consideration for the consequences, or how the act of forced separation tips lives out of balance (for all their fine talk about keeping a balance) – it appears that the groundwork is being laid for a great fall.

Sure, we know that the ultimate fall is around 120 years (timeline-wise) away, but with Sol, Osha and Jecki positioned as sympathetic standouts among their entitled Jedi brethren, we become invested in their struggles here and can only hope Dark Helmet (oops) won't be too hard on them. (Given that Sol seems to be a forerunner in spirit to Qui-Gon Jinn, I... have a bad feeling about this.)

The first half (or thereabouts) of The Acolyte has been solid stuff so far and the signs are positive that the latter portion could be even greater.

So who's the more enthusiastic, then – the crafty storyteller weaving this intriguing tale, or the viewer who devours each new instalment?

New episodes of The Acolyte arrive on Disney+ Hotstar every Wednesday.

7.5 10

Summary:

All that glitters ...

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