Disney Has a Star Wars Problem: The Acolyte Reception Among Fans Has Been a Nightmare

Once again, critics and audiences disagree—but rarely have they done so drastically.

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There’s practically no Star Wars series that hasn’t had a controversial reception among fans. With the exception of the first season of The Mandalorian, the rest of the recent TV shows about the franchise have generated complaints. These, though, haven’t always been related to the stories themselves, similar to what happened with the last trilogy of movies and the diverse opinions surrounding them.

Naturally, the same thing has happened with the reception of The Acolyte. However, this time, the show’s problems can’t be blamed exclusively on conspiracies believed only by die-hard fans.

Underappreciated series. The shows Disney+ has released since The Mandalorian have had, at times, a very different reception from critics and audiences. As a guideline, below are the scores they received (the first is the critics’ rating and the second is the audience rating):

  • The Mandalorian, S1: 93%-92%
  • The Mandalorian, S2: 93%-91%
  • The Book of Boba Fett: 66%-50%
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi: 82%-61%
  • Andor: 96%-87%
  • The Mandalorian, S3: 85%-50%
  • Ahsoka: 86%-65%
  • The Acolyte: 84%-13%

The results are clear: Positive unanimity for the first two seasons of The Mandalorian and Andor, and unanimity but with lower scores on The Mandalorian spin-off The Book of Boba Fett. As for the rest, there’s a disparity of opinions between critics and the public, which is extremely evident in the case of The Acolyte... However, it’s probably not due to what it might seem.

The review bombing that wasn’t. No matter how we look at it, review bombing is a real phenomenon. It exists. It occurs when groups of fans from platforms like 4chan, Reddit, or Discord organize to flood a product with negative reviews. This can happen for several reasons, such as political issues or disappointment with the direction of a franchise. It’s possible to detect review bombing through sudden increases in negative reviews, short or similar reviews, and polarized ratings, although it’s not a foolproof method. Overall, the contrast between opinions from the audience and critics can provide a valuable indication that review bombing is at play.

What’s wrong with Star Wars? With the Star Wars franchise, Disney has a hot potato in its hands. Despite the strong box office results, its latest movie trilogy faced criticism from audiences. In addition, Disney canceled Kevin Feige and Patty Jenkins’ Star Wars projects in March 2023. The Star Wars shows were the only hope to secure the future of the franchise. However, the anti-woke politics of some fans didn’t sit well with certain productions. For instance, the female protagonists in The Mandalorian’s third season and Ahsoka didn’t resonate with certain segments of the fanbase, especially Generation X males, according to a Nielsen study.

The Reception of The Acolyte, another bump in the road. The Acolyte’s unique timeline is also its bigger issue. It’s set in the High Republic era, which is relatively unexplored in the Star Wars universe. This provides the showrunners with endless creative opportunities. However, they haven’t used this advantageous position. Instead, the show’s script leaves much to be desired, particularly when it inserts a murder storyline that doesn’t add any value to the plot.

The enigma of not knowing. Unsurprisingly, there was a lot of controversy surrounding series creator Lesly Headland’s claim that not all screenwriters were familiar with Star Wars. What’s more, she said that some of them didn’t even have some basic knowledge of the franchise. Does this explain the show’s biggest issues, that is, constantly breaking with lore and contradicting facts that had been previously well-established? Should this be a priority when writing fiction, or is this just a matter of fan expectations?

A time bomb. In any case, Disney is clearly facing a ticking time bomb. A 13% fan rating is literally unheard of for the franchise. The show is bringing in record audiences. Is that the only thing that should matter to Disney? Funnily enough, there’s been a new plot twist: The most recent episode, episode five, has been well received by fans, especially the lightsaber fight scene between Daphne Keen and Manny Jacinto. Some fans are calling it “the best we’ve gotten since ROTS [Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith].” 

However, it remains to be seen whether this will be enough to improve the overall reception of The Acolyte.

Image | Disney

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