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Review: Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire (2023)

Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire (2023)

Directed by: Zack Snyder

Premise: A peaceful agrarian world is threatened by the army of a tyrannical interstellar government. A farmer with a mysterious past (Sofia Boutella) travels to neighboring worlds in search of help.

What Works: Rebel Moon is a science fiction epic from Zack Snyder and like the director’s other work this movie boasts impressive visuals and production design. If nothing else, Rebel Moon has some great looking images and not just of violence or action. Some of the peaceful scenes, especially at the beginning, are terrifically composed with colors that pop. Part of the appeal of fantasy and science fiction is immersion into the worlds created on screen and the locations and creatures of Rebel Moon are rendered with great detail and imagination. Ed Skrein is cast as the lead villain and he does this kind of sneering, over confident heavy particularly well. He’s easily the most watchable character on screen.

What Doesn’t: Rebel Moon is further proof that filmmaker Zack Snyder has tremendous technical acumen but he is hopeless as a storyteller. This film demonstrates no grasp of character or pacing. Rebel Moon doesn’t really have a story. It’s intended to be the first installment of an ongoing franchise and so it sets up the world and the characters in it but that’s no excuse. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and the original Star Wars also set up multi-film stories but those pictures gave their characters something to do. An obstacle was faced and sacrifices were made and along the way characters were developed and established. None of that happens in Rebel Moon. For a large run of the film, each scene introduces a new character but none of them have personalities. There is no rise and fall of emotion; the whole movie is flat with occasional breaks for action set pieces that don’t actually accomplish anything. Certain moments are clearly intended to be rousing but they’re empty because these characters have no concrete desires. There’s no attempt to create empathy with the audience. Rebel Moon has a lot of exposition. None of it means much and it’s lazy storytelling. Much of the dialogue is on the nose with characters explaining how they feel. As handsome as Rebel Moon looks it is also very derivative. This movie owes a lot to Star Wars but Rebel Moon lacks the fun and storytelling economy of the original trilogy. Rebel Moon also borrows liberally from Dune and The Matrix and all it does is remind us of better movies.

Disc extras: Available on Netflix.

Bottom Line: Rebel Moon is the first installment of an intended franchise but it’s not off to a good start. The movie looks great but it’s empty and boring.

Episode: #979 (December 31, 2023)