Thank The Maker: The Acolyte Requires Zero Star Wars Homework To Enjoy

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is currently confronting a problem that was once a feature of the franchise's success. All of the movies (and TV shows) from Marvel Studios share the same universe, allowing characters to cross from one superhero franchise into another. This is what made the evolution and rise of The Infinity Saga so exciting, as Marvel paid off an ongoing story arc with the culmination of an amazing two-part finale in the form of "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame." Unfortunately, since then, audiences and even dedicated fans have become burdened by the interconnectivity of the MCU, much like the comics that inspired it — and it seems "Star Wars" has been having the same issue in recent years, albeit in a different way.

Beginning with "Star Wars" in 1977, the "Star Wars" franchise was primarily defined by what is known as the Skywalker saga, focusing on the stories of Luke Skywalker and his father Anakin Skywalker. In the years that followed, there were made-for-TV movies, an unfortunate holiday special, and countless books, comics, video games, and other media that turned "Star Wars" into an Expanded Universe with tales that continued the adventures of characters like Skywalker and friends like Han Solo and Leia Organa, as well as many tertiary characters, both familiar and new. But when Disney took over Lucasfilm in 2012, almost all those stories were designated as non-canonical Star Wars Legends, and a new through line was established, along with the execution of a sequel trilogy that began with "The Force Awakens" and concluded with "The Rise of Skywalker." 

But under the Disney banner, Lucasfilm expanded the reach of "Star Wars" more than ever, especially when Disney+ brought the franchise to the small screen in a big way. Shows like "The Mandalorian," "Obi-Wan Kenobi," and "Andor" have enhanced stories from both the movies and the beloved "Clone Wars" animated series that created an even richer narrative within the timeframe of the prequels. However, this has now also given Lucasfilm the same hurdle that Marvel has to overcome, by giving audiences a lot of homework to stay entrenched in what modern "Star Wars" has become.

Thankfully, when it comes to the new series "The Acolyte," that's not a problem.

No Skywalker threads? No problem for The Acolyte

"The Acolyte" takes place 100 years before the prequel trilogy that began with "The Phantom Menace." In fact, here's the opening crawl that begins the "Star Wars" series (albeit without the usual pomp and circumstance that the movies offer with John Williams' iconic theme):

"A hundred years before the rise of the Empire, it is a time of peace. The Jedi Order and the Galactic Republic have prospered for centuries without war.

But in the dark corners of the galaxy, a powerful few learn to use the Force in secret.

One of them, a lone assassin, risks discovery to seek revenge..."

There's no Rebel Alliance against the Galactic Empire. There's no Trade Federation or clone army. We're even further before the time of the First Order and the Resistance. It is a time of peace, and even the Jedi don't have a common enemy like the Sith to contend with (at least before this series begins).

Basically, "The Acolyte" only requires that you know the most basic of "Star Wars" knowledge: You're aware that the Jedi are generally considered to be the good guys, wearing robes from the beige and brown color spectrum and wielding colorful lightsabers. Meanwhile, the bad guys are often defined by red lightsabers, dark clothing, and armor, and maybe some kind of helmet or facial apparatus. Whether the villain teased in the series premiere of "The Acolyte" is actually Sith or not remains to be seen. But honestly, it doesn't matter. This makes for the perfect clean slate for any viewer to jump in and enjoy a compelling sci-fi mystery.

Lessons to be learned

While it's fun to have a familiar sandbox like the "Star Wars" universe to play in, especially when it's so vast, sometimes what's already been built in that sandbox looks so established and carefully plotted that it can be intimidating to just come in and play for a little bit. That goes for audiences and filmmakers alike. But when you have a filmmaker like Leslye Headland, who is not only a fan but a writer/director who is given a corner of the sandbox that has gorgeous, untouched sand just waiting to be molded into a new castle, there's a lot of potential there. 

At the risk of taking this sandbox metaphor too far, while Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and chief creative officer Dave Filoni are busy sculpting the ever-growing, luxury five-star hotel side of "Star Wars," Headland was granted a new development where she gets to build a really nice apartment complex that could increase in both value and size before all is said and done. Not only that, but she doesn't have to worry quite as much about some kind of homeowner association or strict zoning laws that would require her sandcastle to shoehorn in a character from the fourth season of "Clone Wars" or a reference to the Death Star. Okay, we've gotten out of the sandbox metaphor now.

"The Acolyte" offers an exciting new entry point for potential new "Star Wars" fans and a refreshing new direction for fans who might be exhausted by trying to keep up with the ongoing lore established by years of Disney's revamp of the universe. Perhaps this is what the "Star Wars" universe needs to find even more success on the big screen, too. 

For more about "The Acolyte," listen to our latest episode of our /News Daily podcast below:

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