Darkness rises in an age of light in first trailer for Star Wars: The Acolyte

Amandla Stenberg stars as a former padawan turned dangerous warrior in Star Wars: The Acolyte.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the Galactic Republic and its Jedi masters symbolized the epitome of enlightenment and peace. Then came the inevitable downfall and outbreak of war as the Sith, who embraced the Dark Side of the Force, came to power. Star Wars: The Acolyte is a forthcoming new series on Disney+ that will explore those final days of the Republic as the seeds of its destruction were sown—and the streaming platform just dropped the first trailer.

The eight-episode series was created by Leslye Headland, who co-created Russian Doll with Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler. It’s set at the end of the High Republic Era, about a century before the events of The Phantom Menace. Apparently Headland rather cheekily pitched The Acolyte as “Frozen meets Kill Bill,” which is an intriguing combination. She drew on wuxia martial arts films for inspiration, much like George Lucas was originally inspired by Westerns and the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa.

(Some spoilers for the prequel trilogy below.)

Star Wars fans already know that the evil mastermind behind the demise of the Republic was Sheev Palpatine, but The Acolyte focuses on other Sith who came before him during the Republic’s golden age of peace. Headland will be introducing new characters to add to the existing canon but is also cognizant that some fans might not be open to the new series. (For the record, she’s okay with that, given the diverse breadth of Star Wars stories out there.)

She specifically wanted to address a common fan complaint about certain plot elements of the films (especially Episodes I-III), namely how Yoda wouldn’t sense Darth Sidious’ rise to power or how Palpatine managed to infiltrate the Galactic Senate without a single Jedi noticing. In keeping with the visual style of the prequel trilogy, The Acolyte will sport a sleek-looking, advanced civilization look, before the inevitable decay in the wake of the Republic’s collapse and establishment of the Empire.

Per the official premise:

In Star Wars: The Acolyte, an investigation into a shocking crime spree pits a respected Jedi Master (Lee Jung-jae) against a dangerous warrior from his past (Amandla Stenberg). As more clues emerge, they travel down a dark path where sinister forces reveal all is not what it seems…

In addition to Lee (best known from Squid Game) and Stenberg (Rue in The Hunger Games), the cast includes Manny Jacinto (Jason on The Good Place) as a former smuggler named Qimir; Dafne Keen (Logan, His Dark Materials) as a young Jedi named Jecki Lon; Carrie-Ann Moss (Trinity in The Matrix trilogy) as a Jedi master named Indara; Jodie Turner-Smith (After Yang) as Mother Aniseya, who leads a coven of witches; Rebecca Henderson (Russian Doll) as a Jedi knight named Vernestra Rwoh; and Charlie Bennet (Russian Doll) as a Jedi named Yord Fandar.

In addition, Joonas Suotamo plays a Wookiee Jedi master named Kelnacca. Suotamo portrayed Chewbacca in the sequel trilogy of films (Episodes VII-IX) and in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Also appearing in as-yet-undisclosed roles are Abigail Thorn, Dean-Charles Chapman, Amy Tsang, and Margarita Levieva.

The trailer opens on an appropriately ominous note, with Sol instructing his young padawans to close their eyes because “your eyes can deceive you. We must not trust them.” They meditate on life and balance, but one young padawan sees fire. Meanwhile, a mysterious figure in a long purple cloak strides purposefully through city streets—none other than Indara, who soon finds herself battling a mysterious masked figure.

It seems that somebody is out there killing Jedi, and there is a growing sense of darkness. “This isn’t about good or bad,” Mother Aniseya says. “This is about power and who is allowed to use it.” Naturally the trailer ends with a group of Jedis brandishing their lightsabers against a foe wielding one that is glowing red.

Star Wars: The Acolyte debuts on Disney+ on June 4, 2024.

Listing image by Lucasfilm

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