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411 Movies/TV Fact or Fiction: Is The Acolyte a Great Star Wars Show?

July 7, 2024 | Posted by Jake Chambers
THE ACOLYTE Image Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Welcome back to the 411mania Movies/TV Fact or Fiction. I’m your host Jake Chambers.

We’ve crossed over the midpoint of 2024, so I thought it was time to project some thoughts onto your screens about the big issues in movies and TV this year. Who better to bring along than the maestro of the 411 weekly box office report and general critic at large – Jeremy Thomas!

Statement #1: The Acolyte is another show that proves Star Wars was not made to be turned into “prestige TV”.

Jake Chambers: FACT – The Acolyte is an okay television show so far, but it’s not fun. Look, I’m old enough to have been a kid when Star Wars first came out (and I’m sure there are some reading this that were as well). And that original trilogy was such powerful kids’ content that it was all we wanted to play, talk about or re-enact for years. Like every day. It was fuel for children’s imaginations that I don’t think has ever been matched (maybe Harry Potter and Pokemon came close). And when the prequels came out, sure there were some adults who were disappointed but there was a lot of kids that loved those movies, which is why there is still such a strong fan base for this property in 2024.

Turning Star Wars into prestige TV was not the vision of George Lucas and his team. Those colorful adventures he produced were always fun for kids, and once the sequel trilogy and Disney+ TV shows started without his guidance they targeted an older audience with the hollow promises of emotional character drama and flat martial arts. It’s like they want to make Blade Runner or Dune but with characters from Sesame Street. Either do one or the other, I say.

I find the boundless exposition and dark, horizontal fights in The Acolyte hard to take seriously because these are characters and ideas that were created to make a five-year-old me run around going “pew pew” with my finger guns. No kids are watching this show, clearly. And so this strategy of making mediocre dramas for old people will continue to get middling returns and ultimately cost the next generation of kids the true Star Wars experience. If we really love Star Wars, we’ve got to let it go.

Jeremy Thomas: FICTION – For starters, I don’t think that all the Star Wars shows actually try to be “prestige TV.”  But that’s also the problem with the term; no one has the same definition for it.  Yes, they’re high budget but The Acolyte isn’t trying to be the next Succession or Game of Thrones.  It’s just trying to be an entertaining Star Wars series, which it generally is.  I can quibble with particular moments here or there but I’ve been invested and really enjoying the show so far. Amandla Stenberg is going a great job as are the rest of the cast, it looks great, the fight scenes have been very good and it’s telling an interesting story that is not based around the Skywalker clan.  That’s all I’m looking for.

I definitely get Jake’s standpoint, but with respect to him I want all sorts of Star Wars stories.  And from what I’ve heard from my friends’ kids, the Star Wars shows (including The Acolyte) are resonating with them as much as they are with adults.  I’ve always taken issue with the notion that at the very least A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back were intended to be kids’ movies; A New Hope shows the charred skeletons of the protagonist’s parents and I don’t know how many kids’ films were based of Kurosawa films.  Meanwhile, Empire may have Yoda, but it also has some very adult thematic material floating around in there.

Listen, I’m on the other end of this spectrum, clearly.  Some of my favorite Star Wars content diverges from the more kid-targeted stuff (which is stuff I’m generally fine with).  I got my Star Wars war film and my Star Wars western; now I want a Star Wars horror story.  I want mysteries like The Acolyte, but taken further.  I want a gritty Coruscant-set crime drama.  I want a Top Gun-style X-wing squadron film.  Star Wars is its own genre at this point and there’s plenty of room in that galaxy for more stories.  The only other option is to keep doing the same kind of story over and over and over, and that’s what will really lead to the death of the franchise.

Statement #2: Despite a historically bad start to 2024, the U.S. box office will have rallied by the end of the year and finish up over $8 billion.

Jake Chambers: FACT – People still want to go to the movies, I just think they haven’t been served with the kind of movies they want in 2024 yet. But those movies are coming. Bad Boys and Inside Out 2 injected some adrenaline into the domestic summer box office, and there’s still Deadpool and Wolverine and Despicable Me 4 to come, both guaranteed to do big numbers. And then with Musfasa, Moana 2 and Wicked coming later this year, you really only need one big surprise blockbuster to drag 2024 into respectable numbers, and that could be something like Twisters, the Horizon movies, or the Beetlejuice, Joker or Gladiator sequels.

Jeremy Thomas: FACT – That is a bit of a tall order, but it’s entirely achievable.  As of now, by my calculations the domestic box office is at about $3.3 billion.  And like Jake says, we have a lot of potentially big films coming up.  Inside Out 2 still has probably a good $100 million to add just by itself and Despicable Me 4 will (as I’m writing this, it’s just had one day in theaters) probably hit a good $120 million by the end of its first weekend, with what I would expect to be at least $350 million domestically.  So those on their own will already get the box office nudging up against $4 billion.  Add some of the bigger films of the year (and tally up the relative nickels and dimes of the non-blockbusters) and I don’t see $8 billion as insurmountable number at all.  Obviously predicting what is going to happen in the next six months requires a wide margin of error.  What happens if Mufasa gets delayed for some reason, or Wicked does what musicals often do and under delivers?  There’s a lot that could go wrong, and some of it will.  But I do think there’s enough juice in the tank to get close to $8 billion, and it’s a good enough chance to go that line that I’ll give a FACT here.

Statement #3: The Bear is a comedy.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – I don’t think we can consider a drama with funny parts or comic relief characters as being in the “comedy” genre. While The Bear might have a few chuckles, mostly due to sarcasm, there are no set-ups, punchlines or one-liners in the script or wacky situations in the story. It’s a serious show, and a good one, but not a comedy.

Just being a single-camera show that’s shorter than 40 minutes also doesn’t make you a comedy, although that seems to be all the criteria award shows need now for their comedy categories. And yet, none of those shows would be considered remotely as funny as some of the most famous dramas of the past 20 years, from The Sopranos to Succession.

These Emmy/Golden Globes should have an objective criteria for the comedy category. Literally, they should count how many jokes there are per episode. It doesn’t even need to be subjective about the quality of the jokes, that can be how the winner is determined, but just to qualify as a comedy a show like The Bear should have to itemize its comedic content so that it’s at least attempting to be as funny as an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati or whatever.

Jeremy Thomas: FACT – I absolutely agree that “30 minutes = comedy” is stupid, especially in the age of streaming where shows aren’t required to fit into half hour/hour chunks of time.  Most of the episodes of The Acolyte run under 40 minutes, and NO ONE is calling that show a comedy.

As to The Bear’s classification?  This is more of a generational thing, to be honest.  The show is certainly not a sitcom by any stretch of the imagination, and award ceremonies have made some strange determinations (mostly the Globes, but no one should be taking them seriously anyway), but it’s also not in any way a straight drama.  And the last thing I want the Emmys to do is add another qualification for “Best Dramedy.”  So do we default to “it’s a drama because it’s not pure comedy?”  No, that doesn’t make sense.  The Bear would probably have been considered a drama 10 to 15 years ago, but the darker and subtler humor is a hallmark of millennial tastes.  Weirdly, despite being Gen X, it’s also a hallmark of my tastes and I do appreciate the show’s subtle approach to its comedy.  It’s not a hill I would die on, but I can understand the classification of comedy for The Bear more than I can of drama.


Statement #4: You are excited for Deadpool and Wolverine.

Jeremy Thomas: FACT – I am a Marvel fan and an X-Men fan in particular with a pulse and brain activity, which pretty much answers whether I’m excited about it right there.  More seriously, I absolutely am.  The first two Deadpool films were a blast, and like most I’ve been very curious to see how the R-rated Deadpool will integrate into the very PG-13 MCU.  Everything that’s come out from the movie looks pretty great and the pairing of Logan and Wade should be a blast.  That’s not to say I don’t have some minor concerns, because it could certainly go wrong in a number of ways.  Deadpool has always done well balancing the meta and the actual story, but with so much to play with in that respect now that he’s in the MCU I am curious to see if they can walk that tightrope again.  And will I adore Emma Corrin, what little we’ve seen of Cassandra Nova has me worried they may be playing the role a little too jokey.  Cassandra is a diabolical character and absolutely has a mischievous, larger-than-life nature, but she’s also a genocidal monster who you can’t not take seriously.

But those are honestly relatively minor concerns.  On the whole I think this has the chance to effectively integrate Wade into the MCU, entertain and delight, and give the MCU the financial shot in the arm it needs after last year’s entries fell short. So yeah, long story short (too late!), I am excited.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – I’m going to say I’m nervously interested, but can’t claim full on excitement. Like Jeremy, I’m a Marvel and X-men fan, but I am not a fan of Deadpool or Ryan Reynolds. I’ve gone through close to every Deadpool issue/series (thanks – or curse you – Marvel Unlimited), and the character absolutely sucks. Most of those comics he’s in are unreadable, especially after the Daniel Way run and the gluttony of cash grab minis that followed. He’s not funny, the meta stuff is rarely used and never works (Gwenpool did it 1000% better), and he is terrible in team books, like his disastrous do-gooder millionaire Avengers benefactor run (although his roll as a stooge on The Punisher’s “red” Thunderbolts team wasn’t bad). He’s not an X-men, plays no part in the greater mutant mythology, and is a washed, uncool character in the comics. No wonder he appealed to that hack Ryan Reynolds.

If there’s anyone I hate more than the Deadpool character, it’s Ryan Reynolds the actor. Dude fell backwards into Deadpool after failing at multiple franchises, thanks to those goddamned good looks and the lowest bro-smirking common denominator comedic “acting” that would have made him a Paul brother if he’d been born 20 years later. All that being said, the Deadpool movies were okay I guess (I prefered him in Wolverine Origins though, because we didn’t have to hear his nonsense and ended with a way better fight than anything in his own movies). But is this guy/character who we want tossing the Hail Mary for the MCU?

At least we’ve got the return of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, the best casting for one of the best comic book characters ever (except he’s too tall). Can he “slice” through the Deadpool/Reynolds stupidity to bring some genuine weight and interest to future MCU crossovers? While I dread that notebook full of Reynolds Spider-Man web “squirt” jokes, the build to a Wolverine/Ironman fight at some point might just be the thing to re-create that seemingly once-in-a-lifetime Endgame theater experience. So I’m really more interested in what this movie means for the future of the MCU than I am convinced it will be an actual good movie.

Statement #5: If you are in a theater and someone uses their phone during the movie, you will say something.

Jeremy Thomas: FACT – I will, and I have.  Obviously there’s a sliding scale on this; if someone takes their phone out briefly for something and heads out of their seats in the case of something they actually need to do, I’m fine with that.  I hate seeing a light out of the corner of my eye but I’m not going to be an asshole just to be an asshole, and sometimes things happen.  But if someone is sitting in a theater casually scrolling their phone, in a full-on texting conversation, or the like?  I absolutely have been the asshole to approach them and say something, and if they don’t knock it off I will notify a theater employee.  I don’t give a shit; it’s a full day excursion for someone like me to go to the theater and I’m not letting some jackass ruin my attempt to enjoy the movie I paid for (as did everyone else) because they don’t know how to follow basic theater etiquette.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – God bless Jeremy and people like him. I’m way too much of a coward to say anything. I’ll just hope they stop, or move, or position my hand or knee or something to try and block the glow from that phone. Or I’m begging inside that someone like Jeremy says something! Granted, I live in a country where teens are pretty well behaved and there’s a general respect for the theater-going experience. But when I’m in North America, I don’t want to start any shit.

Statement #6: Dune: Part Two is the best movie of the year so far.

Jeremy Thomas: FACT – At this moment I am trying to get a few more films watched before I do by Top and Bottom 10 of the Year (So Far) columns, but year right now it’s #1.  That could change; I absolutely loved Challengers and the line between it and Dune 2 are razor-thin.  Plus there are a few potential contenders I haven’t seen yet for the mid-year in review.  But at this moment, Dune: Part Two is #1, and deservedly so.  It does just about everything right in terms of following the events of the first film with some bigger moments, fantastic performances (my love for Rebecca Ferguson has hit new heights) and a fully satisfying conclusion to the two-film story.  It’s just a brilliant film and right now, it’s sitting at my top spot.

Jake Chambers: FICTIONDune was great, Furiosa I liked even better, and The Fall Guy was pretty badass, but I’m personally always going to default to fun over drama. And the most fun I had in the theater this year was easily Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. The human parts and the general plot – meh – not gonna hold up under much critical scrutiny. But who cares? The silent King Kong journey through the hollow earth didn’t need a single line of dialogue to keep me engaged (CGI Kong out here like Steve McQueen), and that last like 30 minutes of insanity is for every Godzilla fan out there who fist-pumped through the climax of Final Wars and thought Minus One was boring. Godzilla fucking suplexes Kong off one of the Egyptian pyramids – c’mon. Just typing that sentence puts a smile on my face. Make a thousand of these movies, please!

Thanks as always to the unmatched Jeremy Thomas! When it comes to movies, he’s the critic, pundit, chronicler, geek, and voice you need to follow – so do it:

Be on the look out for his upcoming Best and Worst of 2024 so far columns here in the Movies/TV Zone, and keep following the Wrestling Zone for more Fact or Fiction coming soon!