After crash landing on a moon in the furthest reaches of the universe, Kora (Sofia Boutella), a stranger with a mysterious past, begins a new life among a peaceful settlement of farmers. But she soon becomes their only hope for survival when the tyrannical Regent Balisarius (Fra Fee) and his cruel emissary, Admiral Noble (Ed Skrein), discover the farmers have unwittingly sold their crops to the Bloodaxes (Cleopatra Coleman and Ray Fisher) – leaders of a fierce group of insurgents hunted by the Motherworld.
Tasked with finding fighters who would risk their lives to defend the people of Veldt, Kora and Gunnar (Michiel Huisman), a tenderhearted farmer naive in the realities of war, journey to different worlds in search of the Bloodaxes, and assemble a small band of warriors who share a common need for redemption along the way: Kai (Charlie Hunnam), a pilot and gun for hire; General Titus (Djimon Hounsou), a legendary commander; Nemesis (Doona Bae), a master swordswoman; Tarak (Staz Nair), a captive with a regal past; and Milius (E. Duffy), a resistance fighter. Back on Veldt, Jimmy (voiced by Anthony Hopkins), an ancient mechanized protector hiding in the wings, awakens with a new purpose. But the newly formed revolutionaries must learn to trust each other and fight as one before the armies of the Motherworld come to destroy them all.
I have been waiting patiently for Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child Of Fire for quite some time; waiting to be transported to an entirely new and wondrous universe. Now, I’ve absolutely loved all of Snyder’s projects. There’s something about his style, aesthetical choices, and storytelling process that just grabs me, and Rebel Moon is a project that has basically given him a sandbox to experiment in. Regardless of my thoughts, I am just overjoyed that he’s been given the opportunity to explore and develop an idea that clearly means a lot to him.
So, what did I think of Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child Of Fire? Unsurprisingly, I loved it. However, there were some glaring issues that prevented it from truly soaring. Similar to Dune, A Child Of Fire suffers heavily from “Part One Syndrome” whereby the entire film is fundamentally a set-up for the next act. Following a Seven Samurai -esque formula, Part One takes us on a recruitment journey, so we don’t actually see that final showdown, and we won’t until Part Two arrives in 2024- luckily, it isn’t too long of a wait. As a result, there are some pacing issues. It is a very full on movie that darts from place to place in quick succession in order to assemble this elite and diverse team, so you don’t really have that time to enjoy some of the weird and wonderful environments.
Having said that though, as a fan, this sort of build up just makes me even more excited for Part Two. There’s a reason Part Two exists and this first installment completely justifies the necessity for two movies. The scale and scope of this new universe is simple too big for one film, so it is important to bear that in mind. It is also equally important to acknowledge the issues two-parters can exhibit, especially for films such as Rebel Moon that require a great deal of context and explanation. So while this film does take a hit, it is easy to see how and why.
In terms of issues, they were the major ones that I walked away with. As someone who simply loves this sort of sci-fi magic, it really didn’t derail my enjoyment, but it’s definitely something that could diminish someone else’s. Now onto the fun stuff…
Outside of the pacing issues, Rebel Moon is just a visual blast from start to finish. Snyder is completely unapologetic in his approach to world-building. What makes this universe so appealing and mesmerising is how it all blends together. The planet Veldt feels very Nordic aesthetically, while some of the other worlds look more futuristic with their vibrant floating cities and towering skyscrapers. It’s a wonderful concoction that takes elements from sci-fi and fantasy, which results in a very rich and plentiful exploration with oddities and curiosities at every turn. It is a shame that we don’t get to spend a lot of time at particular locations, but every second is packed with detail, and each location has a distinct atmosphere which makes the universe feel incredibly vast.
In terms of action, Snyder has his own signature method that is epic, fluid, and hard-hitting. While the slightly excessive use of slow-motion feels a tad heavy, each shot is cleverly used to enforce the characters of his world. Each character has their own style and, in a way, their presence in battle is a reflection of their experience and history. Sofia’s Kora is a clear stand-out in this regard with her utterly vigorous and merciless fighting spirit. The close-quarters combat, while absolutely awesome, reveals an interesting layer that is part of Kora’s identity, a necessary trait that allows us to get closer to her. It’s subtle storytelling that’s embued with both style and purpose.
Explosive and brutal, even with it’s tame rating, Snyder’s Rebel Moon captures the essence of science-fiction with it’s outstanding visuals, epic action, and top-notch worldbuilding. There has been a lot of talk about how this compares to Star Wars, and while there are definitely some similarities, Snyder’s visual approach feels completely fresh, and he’s created a spectacular and boundless mythology ripe with opportunity. Yes, there may be issues with how the narrative unfolds, but every moment is beautifully and carefully utilised to take us on a journey unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before.
Snyder’s endeavour into his imagination wouldn’t have hit so hard without the predictably epic soundtrack by Tom Holkenborg. Loud and triumphant, Junkie’s score elevates the action and exploration tenfold. With familiar hints of Alita and Justice League mixed in, Junkie brings his unique flair to this new universe and transforms each scene into something truly special. Combined with Snyder’s vision and involved cinematography, Rebel Moon becomes a treat for the eyes and ears.
While Rebel Moon is a visual feast, it’s the characters that make this whole experience truly worth it. Ensemble movies are difficult to perfect, and you can definitely see Rebel Moon struggle. Not all characters get an equal amount of screentime, but they each get their moment in the spotlight, whether it’s facing off against a giant spider, riding the magnificent flying Bennu, or taking on a giant spaceship head on. However, these character’s don’t just exist to enhance the action. This group of misfits are hindered by their own insecurities and past mistakes, it makes them instantly compelling as heroes because we’re dealing with characters who are at their most vulnerable. Through this union, they build each other up, become more open, and form new bonds. Some characters don’t feel completely fleshed out, but with Part Two approaching there’s an exciting element of mystery as to how these characters will continue to grow and evolve. With some surprising character arcs that I genuinely didn’t see coming, who knows what else awaits us in Part Two…
Sofia shines as Kora, the multifaceted heroine whose past allows her to exist on both sides of this galactic revolution. There’s a great sadness to her when the peace is disturbed, it’s almost as though Pandora’s box has been opened and she’s afraid of what joining the fight will do to her. On the other side of this war is Ed Skrein’s Admiral Atticus Noble, who is deliciously evil. Skrein dominates as the primary antagonist. He carries himself with authority which allows his cruelty to go unquestioned. He’s an absolute powerhouse, and he steals every scene with his cunning and slightly unhinged demeanor. With such a wide cast, it’s difficult to reflect on everyone, but they were all fantastic. They filled Snyder’s world with life and an energy that made it abundantly clear that everyone was having a blast being on set.
While Rebel Moon is by no means perfect, there’s no denying its enormously ambitious and explosive attempt at introducing fans to an entirely new IP. This film definitely won’t be for everyone, which is absolutely fine, but I walked away with the biggest smile on my face and a deep hunger for more. Rebel Moon is pure escapism with a compelling and fun cast that help guide us through the mythology and mechanics of this universe. Filled with awesome visuals, exhilerating action, and a surprising tenderness, Rebel Moon is simply a blast.