— 20 March 2024

Can ‘The Acolyte’ Pull The ‘Star Wars’ Franchise Out Its Slump?

— 20 March 2024
Garry Lu
Garry Lu

With the exception of Andor, the Star Wars franchise’s recent output has been entirely immemorable (at least from where we’re sitting). Thankfully, the galaxy far, far away may soon revive our collective interest with the mystery-thriller series The Acolyte.

Set at the end of the High Republic era in a world of “shadowy secrets and emerging dark side powers” — approximately 100 years before the events of The Phantom Menace (1999) — former Padawan Mae (Amandla Stenberg) reunites with her Jedi Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) to investigate a series of crimes, but the forces they confront are more sinister than they ever anticipated.

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Stenberg and the Squid Game star are joined by Manny Jacinto as Qimir, a former smuggler; the legendary Carrie-Anne Moss as Indara, yet Jedi Master who clearly makes good use of Moss’ The Matrix training based on the first trailer; Dafne Keen as a young Jedi known as Jecki Lon.

Jodie Turner-Smith also features as Mother Aniseya, the leader of a coven of Witches; along with Rebecca Henderson as Jedi Knight prodigy Vernestra Rwoh; Joonas Suotamo, who portrayed Chewbacca in Solo and the sequel trilogy films, as Wookie Jedi Master Kelnacca; and plenty more.

The space opera’s influences have always been clear: Japanese cinema — particularly Akira Kurosawa’s masterpieces — and in certain cases Spaghetti Westerns. This time around, however, Emmy Award-nominated creator Leslye Headland (Russian Doll) has chosen to borrow elsewhere. And it promises to deliver the most epic combat sequences since Revenge of the Sith.

“I actually went more toward martial arts films and storylines that are a little bit more personal and less global and galactic,” Headland — who has also written, directed, and produced The Acolyte — revealed to Vanity Fair.

“Wuxia films and martial arts films from King Hu and The Shaw Brothers — like Come Drink With Me and Touch Of Zen. They’re monks that are also martial arts heroes.”

For the uninitiated, wuxia (which literally translates to “martial heroes”) is a Chinese genre of fiction where martial arts meets fantasy. Often, the protagonists come from humble working-class origins, following a code of chivalry and travelling the lands to fight for justice. All very Jedi-like, if you ask me.

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Hollywood was briefly fascinated by wuxia in the early 2000s thanks to Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Zhang Yimou’s Hero (presented by Quentin Tarantino). Although you’d be mistaken in thinking the hype died right there and then.

In the years since, releases from House of Flying DaggersFearless, to Wong Kar-Wai’s gorgeous Ip Man biopic The Grandmaster starring Tony Leung have made a splash. Hell, in the past few years, even the likes of Disney’s Mulan and Marvel’s Shang-Chi & The Legend of The Ten Rings have furthered wuxia’s mainstream legacy.

Star Wars: The Acolyte is scheduled to hit Disney+ on June 4th, 2024 with a double-episode premiere — check out the trailer above.

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Garry Lu
After stretching his legs with companies such as The Motley Fool and the odd marketing agency, Garry joined Boss Hunting in 2019 as a fully-fledged Content Specialist. In 2021, he was promoted to News Editor. Garry proudly retains a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, black bruises from Muay Thai, as well as a black belt in all things pop culture. Drop him a line at [email protected]


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