The Disney era of Star Wars begun as, and continued to be, an enigma. The Force Awakens was a solid first entry. Its follow-up, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, is arguably one of the best films of the entire franchise. Things went decidedly off the rails after that with Rian Johnson’s divisive Episode VIII and the marketing and directorial debacle that was Solo: A Star Wars Story. Then came the directionless Rise of Skywalker. Perhaps it’s a good thing Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm have shifted focus to television for now… But is the company about to take its biggest risk yet with Leslye Headland’s The Acolyte?

The Acolyte; Leslye Headland
The Acolyte showrunner Leslye Headland. (Image credit unknown.)

Right now the direction of the franchise is definitely tracking upwards. Where the feature films went off course, Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni seem to have righted the ship with The Mandalorian, the return of The Clone Wars, and The Bad Batch. You can find all of those titles on Disney+. In fact, there’s a veritable cornucopia of content coming to the streaming service, including The Book of Boba Fett and The Acolyte. Questions swirl around the latter, however. That’s especially true considering Headland’s hired a writer who’s never seen Star Wars.

Is The Acolyte Disney’s biggest Star Wars risk yet?

“I literally had one writer that was like, ‘I have never seen any of them. I’ve never seen any Star Wars media….’ And it was so great, because I would really love to know from someone who is not fully immersed in this fandom, what do you think about the pitch we just made? So while she did her due diligence and did a lot of background work and research, at the same time, she was somebody that we would kind of talk to and say, ‘Okay, so if we take all the kind of signifiers out of it, and this is Star Wars version of X, what does it mean to you?’”

~ Leslye Headland to The AV Club

That’s a bold move for The Acolyte, considering one of the chief criticisms of Disney’ direction with Star Wars was the fact that they put it in the hands of people (such as the aforementioned Rian Johnson) that didn’t seem to grasp the franchise’s history and lore. Fresh stories are great, certainly. When they’re told by someone with a deep appreciation of Star Wars? Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have proven just how successfully that formula can be. Sticking to the tried and true does not mean that you cannot still be original.

The Mandalorian panel; Jon Favreau; filoni; lucas; Star wars
Dave Filoni with Jon Favreau and George Lucas on the set of The Mandalorian. (Image: Jon Favreau/Instagram)

Disney betting on The High Republic

The other looming x-factor with The Acolyte is its era. The show will be a “mystery-thriller that will take viewers into a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark-side in the final days of the High Republic era.” For those unfamiliar, the High Republic era is set centuries prior to the events of the Star Wars that we know. Thus far fan response has been lackluster. Even the rollout for “Project Luminous” was a bit of a dud. Likewise, its stories are currently only playing out on the written page (in novel and comic book form). There is still a huge portion of the Star Wars fan base that outright ignores anything they don’t see on a big screen, or at least live-action.

High Republic
Jedi of The High Republic era. (Image: Lucasfilm Ltd./Del Rey Books)

So, we have a story set in an era that’s not particularly catching on with the fan base, and at least one show writer who’s never seen Star Wars. That’s not exactly a strong foundation from which to build. Despite the fact they’ve chosen an amazing and talented showrunner in Leslye Headland, it’s going to be very difficult for Disney and Lucasfilm to build anticipation for The Acolyte.

Here’s hoping we’re wrong, and that Kennedy isn’t setting her director up for failure… Because Leslye Headland deserves all the success Star Wars has to offer.

Source: The AV Club