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Review: What Went Wrong With Rebel Moon?

During film school, a young Zack Snyder envisioned the groundbreaking films, The Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven set in space. Unfortunately for Snyder, someone arrived at that idea before him – someone with a much grander vision and much more originality: George Lucas. Now, decades later, Snyder has partnered with Netflix to put his concept onto the small screen with Rebel Moon: Part One – A Child of Fire.

Revolving around a galaxy (undoubtedly far, far away), the plot of Rebel Moon takes its shape in the form of a poor farming community based on the moon, Veldt. When the royalty that rules the galaxy, living on the Motherworld, is struck down by assassins, a senator rises up to take the role of Regent (sound familiar yet?) and sends forces out to the fringes of the realm to wrangle in any opposition to his rule. This is where humble farmer Kora, whose origins remain a mystery until a quarter of the way through the film, fights back, killing the moon’s would-be oppressors and going on a mission to gather rebel forces to start a revolution. It doesn’t sound too bad on paper (although incredibly unoriginal), but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

Image: Netflix @2023


Rebel Moon: Part One – a Child of Fire, despite its shortcomings, somehow procured a lot of on-screen talent. The terrific and always action-ready Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service) takes the central role of Kora. The charismatic Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) plays the roguish Kai, and Ed Skrein (Deadpool) is the big bad Admiral Atticus. Even the great Sir Anthony Hopkins somehow got roped into this mess as the voice of a compassionate robot. Plenty of other recognizable faces grace the screen, but none of them are utilized to the best of their abilities.

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Ed Skrein as Admiral Atticus. Image: Netflix @2023

All the characters feel like echoes of better characters in better sci-fi flicks. Even Boutella can’t seem to make Kora that likable or someone to root for, although her action sequences are exquisite. The characters’ dialogue is flat and banal, and way too reminiscent of hundreds of monologues and speeches given by characters far superior to them. Rebel Moon is simply a case of a poor product being sold as franchise gold for actors to invest in. Unfortunately, they took the bait.


As if it needed to be pointed out, Rebel Moon cribs much of its content from the Star Wars universe. In fact, it started off as a pitch for a film to be added to the Star Wars brand. It was rejected. This should have been a sign to Snyder that the narrative needed work. A lot of work. Instead, Snyder cut a deal with Netflix to stream the Rebel Moon movies as their own IP. In this form, it just comes off as a cheap Star Wars wannabe.

The similarities between the two properties are hard to miss. We have an Empire, now ruled by a devilish Senator, taking action to rope in all its domain’s peoples by force. We have the simple farmer with a mysterious origin in the form of Kora, taking up the call to fight against the Empire and acquire rebel assistance to do so. We have a defeated big bad brought back from the brink of death through technology. We have trips to seedy intergalactic bars, where the locals start trouble with the heroes. We even have a Hopkins-voiced robot going beyond its duties to help the cause, although he lacks the Odd Couple charm of an R2-D2 companion.

Jimmy the sentient battle robot, voiced by Anthony Hopkins. Image: Netflix @2023

Essentially, Rebel Moon is Snyder playing George Lucas and failing. Most of the plot and characters are far too close to those in the Star Wars universe for audiences to think anything else. Sadly, it has nothing original to offer to take the spotlight away from George Lucas’s earlier creation.


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Much of the story of Rebel Moon is told through exposition. Too much. The state of the galaxy and the ruling body are explained through voiceover. Kora’s background is told completely through exposition, which is still a snore, even when accompanied by visuals. Her story could have easily unfolded at the beginning of the film or through a flashback, but that was not the path taken. The golden rule of “show, don’t tell” is completely ignored here, and the movie suffers for it, but not as much as the audience.


One of the saving graces of Rebel Moon Part One, apart from the casting, is the action sequences. Once again, Zack Snyder dips into his bag of visceral tricks to offer exciting fight scenes and set pieces, complete with his signature slo-mo and sped-up camera work. However, it feels a lot like too little, too late. We’ve seen him use these tricks before in movies of a much higher-caliber. Here, they just feel like cheap gimmicks meant to salvage the movie from its own destruction. Certainly, they can be enjoyed in their own right, but they are too few and far between to distract viewers from everything else that’s going so badly.


In essence, Rebel Moon is a poor Star Wars knockoff. There’s no other way to say it. All the elements of Luke’s hero’s journey are here, but in lesser form. Even worse, it lacks the very things that made Star Wars so great: a higher concept of heroism and spirituality in the form of The Force, and the groundbreaking action prop that is the lightsaber. Actually, there is one character that wields weapons that look an awful lot like lightsabers (Bae Doona as Nemesis), but without opposition using the same weapons, the movie is without the spectacle that is a lightsaber duel. As such, Rebel Moon sure could have used a few original concepts of its own to break away from the shadow of Star Wars. Sadly, there are no such innovations present in this film.

Bae Doona as Nemesis. Image: Netflix @2023


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Zack Snyder has said himself that Rebel Moon Part One – A Child of Fire is mostly the set-up for the second movie and possibly further franchise entries. As most people know from movies such as Dune Part One, this is a terrible strategy. Boring and alienating audiences with a poor first entry to a series rarely works out well. Viewers need to be compelled to want more after sitting through the first in a franchise. Otherwise, they very well may not come back.

Worse, it seems that Snyder is taking a page from Justice League and crafting a Director’s Cut of Rebel Moon Part One to be released in the future. Apparently, it will be rated R (instead of its current standing as PG-13) and feature many more violent and explicit scenes. If this version is as different from its current incarnation as sources are saying, it should have been released that way in the first place. As it stands, it seems like little more than a publicity stunt and cash grab based on the popularity of the Justice League Snyder Cut.

Whatever the case, Rebel Moon is a film that is bound to be mocked for its unoriginality and soon forgotten by sci-fi fans. Perhaps Part Two can pull this franchise out of the muck – crazier things have happened – but it seems quite doubtful. If you’re a Snyder fanatic, the film might be an entertaining enough romp for an otherwise uneventful night. But those who treasure the sci-fi genre and the bricks that built it will no doubt find the movie to be far too familiar without any of the magic that came before.



Jason Robbins is a features editor and writer, attorney, computer scientist, bio-exorcist and inventor of the piano key necktie.



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