12 Years Later, Star Wars is Finally Fulfilling Its Greatest Promise

It’s been 12 years since Disney acquired Lucasfilm. At the time, that deal was met with excitement from Star Wars fans who believed that they were witnessing the start of a promising new era for the franchise.

In the years since its takeover, though, several of Disney’s Star Wars titles have received divisive responses from fans (some of which have been more warranted than others), and almost all of them have been directly tied to the either series’ Original or Prequel trilogies. Even The Mandalorianwhich felt like the most original Star Wars effort Disney had produced when it premiered, has since been reduced to little more than a bridge between its franchise’s live-action and animated properties.

It’s for this very reason that The Acolyte is so noteworthy. Not only is it Lucasfilm’s latest Disney+ original series, but it’s also the first Star Wars project Disney has produced and released that completely and truly stands on its own. It’s the rare show that feels like it’s actually pushing the Star Wars franchise into new places that haven’t been explored before onscreen.

The Acolyte will show viewers what it looked like when the Jedi Order was at the very height of its power.

Lucasfilm

Created by Russian Doll co-creator Leslye Headland, The Acolyte is set around 100 years before the events of Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace. It will begin when the Jedi Order is at the absolute height of its power in the galaxy and will follow multiple Jedi Masters, Padawans, and Knights as they investigate a series of crimes and the death of at least one Jedi. The series is expected to explore the beginning of the Jedi Order’s moral disintegration, a process that paved the way for its eventual downfall at the end of Revenge of the Sithas well as the reemergence of the Sith as a genuinely formidable force in the galaxy.

The Acolyte will not, in other words, connect to the creation of the Death Star, the formation of the Rebel Alliance, the fall of the Galactic Empire, or any of the other Original Trilogy events that far too many of Disney’s Star Wars titles have explored, frankly, too many times over the past nine years. While its story will almost certainly end up shedding some light on how the seeds were ultimately planted for the Jedi Order to be beaten and supplanted by the Sith in the Prequel Trilogy, it takes place long enough before The Phantom Menace that it won’t be able to rely purely on any nostalgic connections between its story and that film’s.

The Acolyteconsequently, feels like the first really original piece of canonical, live-action Star Wars media that Disney has produced since The Mandalorian Season 1 and, if you wanted to be extremely generous, the franchise’s Sequel Trilogy. (Given how frustratingly tied that trilogy ended up being to the events of the first three Star Wars films, though, it feels difficult to call any of its installments outside of The Last Jedi particularly “original.”) No Star Wars movie or TV show since The Phantom Menace has ventured as far into an entirely new time period as The Acolyte. It, therefore, has the chance to open up and actually expand the Star Wars universe more effectively and meaningfully than almost every one of the franchise’s other post-Disney entries.

Dark forces gather in The Acolyte.

Lucasfilm

Over the past 12 years, Disney has remained frustratingly terrified of exploring new eras and spaces of the Star Wars universe that aren’t explicitly tied to the Prequel and Original trilogies. (Who would have ever thought back in 2012 that we’d one day have so many shows and movies set in the 19 years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope?) With The Acolytethe studio has finally worked up the nerve to journey into a time that has never been canonically brought to life onscreen before — in live-action or animated form.

Whether or not The Acolyte is a fully successful creative effort remains to be seen, but its newness is apparent even in its early trailers and images, which have teased a space epic that both owes an obvious visual debt to the Star Wars franchise’s first six films and yet looks completely fresh and unique. It’s been too long since we’ve been able to say that about a Star Wars movie or TV show, and fans certainly seem hungry for some genuinely new stories and adventures.

It looks like The Acolyte is going to give them just that, and here’s to hoping that making the series has given Disney the confidence it needs to keep pushing the Star Wars franchise into new territory from here on out.

The Acolyte premieres Tuesday, June 4 on Disney+.

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