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Movie Review: Zack Snyder's Rebel Moon Parts 1 and 2 (2023/2024)

Rebel Moon Part 1: A Child of Fire Poster

I
f you've ever wanted to see quasi-early nineteen hundreds, Irish farmers fight off high tech space Nazis, in slow motion, over two feature length films then Rebel Moon Part 1: A Child on Fire (2023) and Rebel Moon Part 2: The Scargiver (2024) could well be the movies you're looking for.

Plot-wise that's really all they're about. There's some sub story inspired by Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (1954) movie, and some other subplot about our main character, Kora (Sofia Boutella), being 'the one' person the Space Nazi's must apprehend for 'reasons' (she's some kind of murderous deserter, I think, but that doesn't seem reason enough to me for our main bad guy, Atticus Noble (Ed Skrein), to be so obsessed with apprehending her). 

I think I've come to the conclusion that writer/director Zack Snyder, while great at casting, spectacle, cinema photography, and visual effects, he just doesn't know how to tell a story to people who aren't inside his head.

By that I mean, he does have strong ideas for high concept stories that could be epic, but he doesn't seem to realize that we're not inside his head. We need a lot more story detail to not just know what's going on but to also, more importantly, care about what's going on.

Rebel Moon could have been something more than forgettable but, aside from the main idea of Space Nazis attacking a farming village on some out of the way moon, I can't tell you any of the character names (without looking them up on IMDB), what any of them were about, or why that droid at the start, Jimmy (Anthony Hopkins), was even in the film as the narrator. Then we don't really see him again until part 2 where he unleashes a few surprises.

It's not even clear why this needed to be a Sci-fi movie. If you took out all the high tech space weapons and ships, and just had an army of regular Nazis (all in the same production and costume design) it would be a World War II film.

The only memorable bit of future tech in the film was Nemesis' (Bae Doona) light swords, largely because they're clearly meant to be this film's version of lightsabers. As cool as they were, why the space Nazis all suddenly used swords when fighting her, and guns for everyone else is mystery?

Rebel Moon Part 2: The Scargiver poster
It's not until the second movie that you really learn anything about our main good guys, outside of Kora. Zack Snyder tries to get us on board with a blatant round table backstory swap, that exists for no reason than to tell us who each person is, and to try and get us to care about them, far too late in the story.

For example, Nemesis is probably the most memorable character of our good guy line up, after Kora, because she has the light swords. We learn almost nothing about her in the first film - she barely has any lines (as far as I recall). 

In part two Zack tries to give her a young farm friend who looks up to her, and we get her backstory at the round table, just prior to the big, final act, battle. There's no time to sit with any of it before the battle is on. Granted a lot of the battle is in slow motion but that's still not enough time to care about her or her young friend.

In the end both of these movies are a collection of recycled ideas as seen through Zack Snyder's lens. There's no really outstanding new ideas, world building, or production design.

Kora is the most developed and memorable of the heroes, and that's not saying much since she gets the most screen time.

The action is fine, with plenty of 90's slow motion, if you like that sort of thing.

I don't dislike these movies but they're just okay. They certainly look good in terms of cinematography, and they had a lot of potential to be something great.

If Zack Snyder would just write his scripts understanding that we don't know anything about these characters that he's probably been living with for years. The journey of getting to know a character is arguably more important than the overall journey of a film. Fights and epic battles don't mean anything if we don't care about who might not make it out.

That's the problem with these two films for me... I just didn't care about anyone. Either I missed the cues that was supposed to draw me in to each character, or they just weren't there in the first place.

That said, Part 1 and 2 are worth a watch. I'm not compelled in any way to rewatch them. Nor am I excited by the prospect of a possible 'directors' cut that keeps in the more 'adults only' scenes (can I get a super cut of just those scenes maybe?).

I do maintain that Zack Snyder is a great film maker with great ideas. The trouble is, he makes the films in his head, filming only the scenes he likes, rather than including scenes that are needed because we're not in his head.

We want to go on the journey but Zack's so far ahead he doesn't realize we can't see him.


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