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

I can’t fault Zack Snyder for essentially giving us a sprawling remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” when he seeks to build a new “Star Wars” for the modern generation. “Star Wars” was, as many know, a quasi-remake of “Hidden Fortress.” Another by Kurosawa. It all comes full circle, as Snyder seeks to build a massive mythology in the vein of “Star Wars.” He really wants “Rebel Moon” to be “Star Wars”; at the end of “A Child of Fire”—well—he creates a movie that has been done before but to a much better effect (ahem–“Firefly”).

When a peaceful colony on the edge of a galaxy finds itself threatened by the armies of a tyrannical ruling force, Kora, a mysterious stranger living among the villagers, becomes their best hope for survival. Tasked with finding trained fighters who will unite with her in making an impossible stand against the Mother World, Kora assembles a small band of warriors, all of whom have their own motives to for redemption and revenge against the evil tyrant Admiral Balisarius.

We have an oppressive government, space cowboys, a rag tag group of rebels, a war torn hero with a shady past, it’s all here. Except it’s over two hours. But that, again, is no surprise as Snyder pretty much takes bits and pieces from a ton of science fiction, fantasy, and storytelling tropes and mixes and mashes them together. So many instances feel reminiscent from better epics like “Lord of the Rings,” “Heavy Metal,” “Avatar,” and the like. In effect, Snyder creates a tonally confusing and painfully predictable stew that is never quite sure if it’s thought provoking science fiction or a silly action serial. For a director who is a very good visualist (some scenes are just absolutely striking), Snyder spends too much time with characters dropping huge dumps of information and exposition on the audience.

Snyder is deadest on establishing this lived in universe, thus every character has a story or legend to tell and it falls victim to monotony almost immediately. When characters aren’t sitting down to offer testimonials as a means of setting the stage for the sequel, “Rebel Moon” spends a lot of time staging action scenes as a means of setting up characters. These individuals feel more like players in a video game more than anything, never allowing us to fall in love with them. There’s the humble shaman, and the quiet sword wielder, and misanthropic war veteran, all of whom basically check off boxes in the grab bag of plot elements from the genre.

Beneath a lot of the action there’s what is basically a paper thin premise involving a Nazi-like government, and the rising rebel tide. Sophia Boutella is a beautiful and striking actress, but her heroine Kora feels so old hat, and transplanted out of a C tier early aughts scifi film. Meanwhile the villainous Belisaurius appears every so often to remind us of the stakes in the story. Snyder spends a majority of “Child of Fire” setting up storylines and propping sub-plots for the follow up, which distracts from any momentum the current narrative tries to build. And what makes it all feel so fruitless is that he’s promised a Director’s Cut with even heavier focus on mythology.

The sad aspect is that “Rebel Moon” just isn’t interesting enough to venture in to the deeper more comprehensive mythology as there’s not a lot of reason to return to any of it. Snyder die hards might end up loving it, but “Rebel Moon” is boiler plate scifi slop that just doesn’t make an impression at all.

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