Although Zack Snyder’s new space opera Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire is ‘derivative,’ it’s uplifting that a notion he had as a child has made it to the big screen.
In this scene from the opening of Zack Snyder’s upcoming space opera Rebel Moon (also titled Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire), an obliging farmer travels to a filthy cantina with an enigmatic warrior wearing a hooded cloak. The farmer is harassed by one of the pig-faced, ugly aliens there, but the warrior defends him with some impressive combat moves. Later, they encounter a roguish mercenary who offers to transport them off-planet in his spaceship. Rebel Moon takes place in a galaxy that isn’t too unlike from the one in Star Wars, despite the fact that the mercenary is called Kai instead of Han Solo.
According to Snyder, he really began imagining the movie when he was eleven years old and had just watched Star Wars in a theater. However, it’s evident that he hasn’t done anything with it since then since, in the 46 years that have passed, all he has thought of is one question: “What if Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai was crossed with Star Wars?” Beyond that, Rebel Moon is nothing. Snyder reworked the idea after Lucasfilm rejected his official Star Wars project pitch ten years prior. This time, the idea would have its own unique mythology. It’s not all that distinct, though. The movie is replete with robots and combines future science fiction with medieval fantasy.
The sight of disheveled spaceports, hordes of uniformed soldiers, and bounty hunters seems uncannily similar.
Plus, it’s a lot less enjoyable. Rebel Moon is more teenage than the Star Wars canon, despite the impression that it is more “adult” than that. Its concepts and world-building aren’t very nuanced or intricate. The good guys are just plain good guys, and the evil guys are just plain bad guys. You can generally tell which is which just by looking at them.
Definitely not Darth Vader, but the jackbooted Admiral Atticus Noble (Ed Skrein) is the major antagonist. He is the Regent’s (Fra Fee) right-hand man, not the Emperor; he is a mysterious despot who governs the Realm, not the Empire. The protagonist is a soldier named Kora (Sofia Boutella), who left the Realm and is now working with Gunnar (Michiel Huisman) in an agricultural community on Veldt, a moon that is most definitely not Tatooine. Kora and Gunnar decide to form an outlaw gang and engage in combat when Atticus, on the lookout for rebels, stops by Veldt in his enormous space ship and demands that the villagers turn up their grain after the next harvest, like the robbers in Seven Samurai.
They fly with absurd speed and ease to a series of worlds that happen to have Earth-like gravity and atmosphere after hooking up with Kai (Charlie Hunnam) in the closest hive of scum and villainy. Then, with even more absurd speed and ease, they find the exact people they are looking for and convince them to join their crew. Tarak, a doppelganger for Conan the Barbarian who doesn’t wear a shirt, is played by Staz Nair. Nemesis, played by Doona Bae, is an assassin who carries blazing swords that are unquestionably not lightsabers. The disgraced General Titus, played by Djimon Hounsou, appears in a Roman amphitheater, reminding us of his role in Gladiator. And Bloodaxe, a character played by Ray Fisher, is Cyborg from Justice League.
The plot is surprisingly unimportant, despite the film’s opulent, theatrical tone.
That’s about it, as far as the plot is concerned. One of the film’s flaws is that once Kora has got her ragtag gang together, they don’t do or say anything significant. It’s a waste. The costumes are cool, Boutella has a potent combination of toughness and sexiness, Skrein is enjoyably slimy, and all of the actors do what they can with what they’re given to work with. But nobody has the chance to demonstrate their abilities or personality.
Nothing exciting happens. There are no challenges to meet, no obstacles to overcome, no Death Stars to destroy. Despite the grandiosity of the film’s bombastic tone, the story turns out to be disappointingly minor, presumably because Snyder’s main aim was to introduce the cast and to set the scene for Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver, which is due next year. Part One itself ends up feeling a bit pointless.
That’s about it in terms of the plot; one of the film’s shortcomings is that once Kora has gathered her motley crew, they don’t say or do anything noteworthy. It’s a waste. The costumes are great; Boutella strikes a powerful balance between toughness and sexiness; Skrein is delightfully slimy; and each actor does the best they can with the material they have to work with. However, none of them get the opportunity to showcase their personalities or talents.
Nothing noteworthy occurs. There are no impediments to go over, no problems to solve, and no Death Stars to take down. The narrative is rather little despite the grandiose tone of the picture, perhaps because Snyder’s primary goal was to introduce the actors and set the stage for Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver, which is scheduled for release next year. In the end, Part One itself seems a little bit meaningless.
Nevertheless, Rebel Moon has an oddly charming quality. It is so obviously a work of gushing fan fiction that it makes you want to travel back in time to 1977 and shake the young Zack Snyder by the hand. It is straight-up, shamelessly foolish, derivative pulp tosh. It never occurred to him that someone would pay him hundreds of millions of dollars to have the notes he made in his notebook appear on screen, yet that is exactly what did happen. It’s endearing. While the movie itself may not be very good, its backstory demonstrates that even the most fantastical childhood fantasies may come true.
Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire is available on Netflix starting on December 22 and in select theaters throughout the US, Canada, and the UK starting on December 15.
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