‘Ahsoka’ Cast Roasted for “Cardboard” Acting as Hayden Christensen’s Return Draws Nearer

in Entertainment, Star Wars

Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano in 'Ahsoka'

Credit: Lucasfilm

Disney’s latest venture into live-action Star Wars, Dave Filoni’s Ahsoka show, kicked off with a bang when its two-episode premiere landed on Disney+ last week. So far, reactions have been mixed, with some praising the story and its many callbacks to Star Wars Rebels, while others aren’t as impressed by its slow-burn pacing. But one issue seems to be uniting both sides: to many, the leading cast’s performances are leaving something to be desired.

Ahsoka Tano fighting a Sith Inquisitor in the Disney+ series 'Ahsoka'
Credit: Lucasfilm

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It’s been a long journey for Dave Filoni’s Ahsoka series, and at long last, it’s finally here. Starring Rosario Dawson as the eponymous ex-Jedi, the new show follows Ahsoka Tano as she sets out on what could be her most perilous mission yet: hunting down former Imperial warlord, Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen).

The cast is rounded out by Diana Lee Inosanto, who plays Nightsister Morgan Elsbeth, as well as Ivanna Sakhno and the late Ray Stevenson, who play master-apprentice duo Shin Hati and Baylan Skoll, respectively.

Baylan Skoll and his apprentice Shin Hati looking at a star map in episode of 'Ahsoka' on Disney+
Credit: Disney+

Related: Say Goodbye to Disney’s ‘Star Wars’ Sequel Trilogy as ‘Ahsoka’ Changes Canon Forever

With Thrawn’s henchmen hot on her tail, Ahsoka calls on some familiar faces for assistance: New Republic General Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Mandalorian Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), who made their live-action debuts in Ahsoka after featuring in all four seasons of the animated Rebels series.

When the casting for Ahsoka, who Ashely Eckstein had voiced in animated Star Wars projects since 2008’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars, was confirmed in October 2020, reactions to Rosario Dawson’s take on the beloved character were mixed. While her initial appearance alongside Pedro Pascal in Season 2 of The Mandalorian was brief, many were quick to dub her performance “stiff” and “lifeless” compared to her otherwise bubbly portrayal in animation.

Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano in her own solo series
Credit: Lucasfilm

Of course, there are bound to be issues when translating a character into live-action—something Star Wars is all too familiar with by now having brought Rebels’ Grand Inquisitor (Ruper Friend) into the Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries, Cad Bane (Corey Burton) into The Book of Boba Fett, and Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) into The Mandalorian, all from different corners of the animated Star Wars universe.

But many fans jumped to Dawson’s defense, noting that her iteration of Ahsoka is, in fact, an older and wiser version of the character who’s far from the energetic teen we were first introduced to in early seasons of The Clone Wars. At this point in Ahsoka’s life, she’s left the Jedi Order, born witness to the atrocities of Order 66, fought her former master, Anakin Skywalker (AKA Darth Vader), and rebelled against the Galactic Empire—and this was before she got trapped in the mysterious World Between Worlds.

Ahsoka Tano and Hera Syndulla aboard a Rebel Starcruiser
Credit: Disney / Lucasfilm

Still, criticisms of Dawson’s acting abilities have officially spread into Ahsoka, with many social media users taking aim at her “cardboard” portrayal of the titular Jedi following the show’s two-episode premiere. And Dawson’s not the only leading lady people are targeting, as Winstead’s Hera and Bordizzo’s Sabine aren’t immune from this wave of negative reviews either.

On Twitter, one viewer had a scathing review of the Ahsoka show as a whole, putting the acting, screenplay, casting, and story on blast:

Two episodes down and I couldn’t even make it through that without constant cringing. #Ahsoka, @Disney’s latest train wreck is total trash. Acting SUCKS Screenplay SUCKS Casting SUCKS Story SUCKS WTF were they smoking to churn out this crap.

This user agreed, slamming the acting for feeling “forced,” while also dissing writers for playing into the textbook “strong female” trope:

Well……. Ahsoka is very slow, boring. Looks cheap, acting is terrible. Feels forced that every main character is female and ‘strong’ And lightsabers are no longer fatal, not even an issue really.

Meanwhile, this fan added that the cast’s “wooden” performances were reminiscent of the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, which came under fire for its chunky dialogue and questionable direction following its release:

It’s not just Ahsoka. The acting in general is kind of wooden tbh. Reminds me of the Prequels.

Many Ahsoka fans have come to the leading ensemble’s defense in light of these critiques, with many pointing out that these characters have evolved and drastically changed since we last saw them in Star Wars Rebels. Meanwhile, Stevenson and Sakhno are being widely-praised for their performances as Shin and Hati, meaning that audiences are seemingly all-in on Team Dark Side.

As longtime fans of the franchise well know, similar attacks defined much of George Lucas’ Prequel Trilogy in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with critics essentially bullying actors like Hayden Christensen and Ahmed Best for their performances in Episodes I, II, and III.

sith anakin in revenge of the sith star wars
Credit: Lucasfilm

But is this criticism justified? Well, Prequel Trilogy “stans” will advocate for George Lucas’ slightly bizarre directorial direction by claiming that these “cardboard” performances were indeed intentional. Many claim that Christensen’s slow, flat delivery of his lines was done to mimic James Earl Jones’ Darth Vader voice, meaning Christensen’s take on Anakin Skywalker was actually a subtle touch of genius, and speaks to his abilities as an actor.

Perhaps a similar choice was made with Dawson’s Ahsoka, which would make sense considering this is, again, an older and wiser version of the character we’ve not yet seen much of in Star Wars media. But given fans’ attachment to Ahsoka and her early iterations, it’s not surprising that many are having a difficult time adjusting to this change. There’s an undeniable nostalgia factor for those who grew up watching The Clone Wars, and now that she’s older and perhaps, a little more subdued, the fact that Ahsoka just isn’t the same person we’re used to might be a hard pill to swallow.

Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano
Credit: Lucasfilm

As for Ahsoka‘s connections to the Prequel Trilogy, Christensen’s appearance in the show is imminent. Information leaked earlier this week revealed that fans could likely expect to see the legacy actor pop up in Episode 5 of Ahsoka, in either a flashback scene or an alternate reality where he defeated Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) on the lava planet of Mustafar, leading to his rise as Darth Vader.

Christensen reprised his role for the first time since 2005 in last year’s Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries on Disney+ to fans’ delight, though many were upset with how underutilized the character was throughout the show’s six-episode run. Ahsoka could be the perfect redemption for Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker, where he could appear as a Force Ghost, perhaps alongside his former master.

Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) as a Force ghost in 'Return of the Jedi'
Credit: Lucasfilm

Ultimately, if one thing’s for sure, it’s this: Star Wars fans will always have their opinions. Whether or not Dawson’s take on Ahsoka pays homage to the one created by Ashley Eckstein remains up for debate, but fans shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss this version just yet, as there will hopefully be plenty of chances for Dawson to flex her acting chops as Ahsoka continues to unfold.

New episodes of Ahsoka arrive on Disney+ every Tuesday at 6 p.m. PST.

Are you happy with the acting in Ahsoka so far, or does it leave something to be desired? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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