All sound and fury but it also signifies something... familiar?
An intergalactic fascist empire rules the galaxy with an iron fist. Its military threatens farmers on the distant moon. A former soldier seeks out a rebel faction to make a stand against the empire. This is Star Wars- I mean, Rebel Moon.
Watching Rebel Moon: A Child of Fire, you might be immediately clued into director Zack Snyder's film inspiration—Star Wars. To be fair, films about the little guy going up against a group of baddies will follow a narrative thread similar to Star Wars... but then again, even Star Wars took inspiration from Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. So, yes, if we want to pick nits, Snyder took inspiration from Star Wars and Seven Samurai. There will be similarities but Snyder wanted to create something wholly original so you gotta respect the man's hustle.
It's that timeless tale of the Motherworld, who controls the galaxy. They have a military aka the Imperium, that threatens a farming colony on the moon of Veldt. Kora (played by Sofia Boutella) is an ex-Imperium soldier who was trying to get a second chance at a normal life as a farmer, now has to return to a life of violence to protect the colony. She does so by putting together a supergroup to fend off the Imperium before they return to Veldt. You've grand sets and world-building; there's lore and details. This has all the trappings of an epic; a many-chapter saga. A franchise that can spawn toys and merch; spin-offs even! The sky's the limit.
And with Snyder at the helm, you can expect gorgeous slo-mo action sequences that can make John Woo nod in approval. Like that scene with ex-military Kora first facing off with the Imperium in the farmhouse.
Look, no one goes out to make a bad movie. Snyder had the idea to make Rebel Moon in 1997. That's 27 years of gestation. He had plenty of time to mull over this.
But it's boring. I don't know how a US166 million dollar movie can be boring but there you go. A bulk of the humdrum stems from the characters; I don't care for them. It's a huge cast and because of the number of personalities, you don't get development or much of a backstory. They are extraneous, which is a pity because they all have potential. You've Tarak (Staz Nair), who is a royal-turned-slave. He talks to animals and looks like he has a cool backstory but no, that's never explored. There's Bae Doona's Nemesis, who is a cyborg swordsperson. That's cool, right? But we don't go in-depth about her motivation.
Maybe all of their origins will be covered in the sequel (Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver coming out on 19 April, 2024) but if I didn't know there was a second instalment, you'd lose me as a viewer on this chapter.
The protagonist Kora has a reasonable amount of history but that's told through clunky exposition. Her stoicism paints her as a reluctant hero but without an emotional anchor, she's just going through the motions. And I, as an audience member, am just going through the motions of waiting until the end credits.
Anthony Hopkins voicing Jimmy, an android of the Mechanicas Miltarium. He's arguably the best character in the film. Despite not having any human features, Jimmy displays more personality than some of the other actors. It's fascinating what a little voice acting and movements can bring to a character.
Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire is now out on Netflix. Watch out for Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver coming out on 19 April, 2024 to see if it can redeem itself.