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

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

PG-13

netflix

Less an actual movie than a thinly derivative and grueling exercise in scene-setting

5.5

Movie

United States of America
English
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction
2023
ZACK SNYDER
Adam J. Smith, Alexander Ward, Alfonso Herrera
134 min

TLDR

A wall-to-wall humorless slog, unless you watch with the subtitles on and can get a periodic chuckle in at captions like “[astral energy crepitates].”

What it's about

When the quaint farming village she calls home is attacked by a ruthless army working for the galaxy’s oppressive imperial rulers, mysterious outsider Kora (Sofia Boutella) embarks on a planet-hopping journey to assemble a resistance.

The take

Less homage to Star Wars than it is a pastiche of that cultural juggernaut, a strong sense of déjà vu hangs over Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon. Unfortunately, in plainly appealing to the memory of its vastly superior inspiration so many times, it inadvertently reminds viewers of how much better its muse is. There are far too many direct copycat scenes here for Rebel Moon to craft anything like an identity of its own, but its derivativeness might be forgivable were it not so self-consciously, humorlessly straining for epicness.

Rebel Moon rises with narration from Anthony Hopkins and an operatic score — a promise of grandness it never lives up to. At two-hours-plus, this dreadnought announces its lofty ambitions for future franchise status at every turn, but never once earns it: the dialogue is creakingly expository and the acting is spotty, ultimately making it feel like the film has lazily assumed it's already secured all the interest it needs to justify a potential two further sequels and a galaxy of tie-in media. Though there are bright spots that suggest an actual movie lurks somewhere deep within its 134 minutes, Rebel Moon instead feels like a laborious couple of hours of scene-setting that arrogantly banks on you returning for more, despite doing little to deserve any more of your time.

What stands out

There are moments when Rebel Moon nearly earns its self-seriousness, like the gripping introduction of Bae Doona’s lightsaber-wielding Nemesis, or the moment Boutella’s Kora rouses Djimon Hounsou’s disgraced, depressed military general with an appeal not to his honor but to his desire for revenge. Unfortunately, these glints of the film redeeming itself are almost entirely diluted in the general narrative sludge that surrounds them, and thus can’t do much to entice you back for the director’s cut that Netflix has cynically already teased, despite having the power to have simply released that instead.

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