Review of the film “Rebel Moon Part 1: A Child of Fire”
On December 22, one of the most anticipated films of the year was released on the Netflix platform – the ambitious space opera “Rebel Moon Part 1: A Child of Fire” by Zack Snyder. This is just the first installment of a new epic saga, with the continuation expected in April of the next year. In this review, we analyze how successful the start of the future franchise turned out to be and what it represents in comparison to the iconic genre predecessor – “Star Wars.”
“Rebel Moon Part 1: A Child of Fire” Genre: Space Opera Director: Zack Snyder Starring: Sofia Boutella, Charlie Hunnam, Djimon Hounsou, Ed Skrein, Ray Fisher, Anthony Hopkins (voice) Premiere: Netflix Year of release: 2023 IMDb: [IMDb link]
The planet Veldt, as befitting a celestial body in the canons of space operas, is located somewhere in a distant galaxy. Peaceful settlers diligently cultivate the land and live so harmoniously that cartoonish images from Uwe Boll’s immortal works come to mind. However, this pastoral tranquility is not destined to last long, as a terrifying shadow of an imperial ship looms over the village.
The very wicked Admiral Atticus Noble, right hand of the dictator Balizarius, arrives as if to make a deal. In exchange for an imaginary reward, he proposes to supply the imperial army with grain, as the hunt for rebels has dragged on a bit, and everyone wants to eat. In response to the polite refusal from the village elder Sindri, Noble answers with brutal beatings with a stick and, in an ultimatum, orders to provide most of the grain to his army.
Local resident with a troubled past, Cora, plans to leave home while she still can. Instead, she is forced to defend the village beauty Sem, who is about to be assaulted by Noble’s soldiers. Now the farmers have only one option: to seek help elsewhere to resist the local Darth Vader’s tyranny.
The monumental shadow of “Star Wars” that inadvertently falls on the creation of director, screenwriter, cinematographer, and all-around steel-willed individual Zack Snyder plays a cruel joke on him because comparisons are inevitable even with great desire. In terms of pure superpowers, it’s like Batman versus Superman.
Regarding the similarity, we have two pieces of news: good and bad. The good news is that it does indeed resemble the good old Star Wars. The bad news is that it resembles Star Wars a bit too much. And to some extent, also Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.”
The problem is not that Lucas created his cinematic magic in a completely different era, while Snyder has to deal with oversaturated blockbusters and cinematic universes. And it’s not that initially, all this was conceived as part of “Star Wars.” It’s just that this time the visionary director has come out somewhat weak. Even from a visual standpoint, “Rebel Moon” is barely able to amaze.
There’s little to say about other aspects. Here we have resolutely one-dimensional characters without proper development, a maximally standard plot about assembling another fearless warriors’ team, an overly strained pathos that leaves no room for saving irony, plus the usual abuse of expressive Snyderian rapid shots and a few downright cringe-worthy episodes. With this set, eternity is not guaranteed.
Western critics have already destroyed the film in devastating reviews, comparing Rebel Moon with the adventures of the Skywalkers and company. But surprisingly, the film has the right to exist if you don’t expect it to be the next “Star Wars” in the context of a new cultural phenomenon, as much as we might wish for it. It’s better to give up extraneous expectations. To get more from the film, which doesn’t offer much, you can only perceive it purely as another streaming blockbuster for one-time viewing. And that’s it. From this angle, the movie looks more decent and sometimes even captivating.
Snyder tries to avoid the naivety inherent in the cult predecessor, adds gloominess, and suggests that such things as group rape can exist in this universe. But when you watch the debut action scene where the gorgeous Sofia Boutella crushes the would-be rapists, and there’s not even a hint of blood, you realize that all that gloominess is pretentious. The cruelty is felt only in the scene where the indomitable antagonist with prominent cheekbones, played by Ed Skrein, beats an anthropomorphic squid with a stick.
In addition to the global confrontation, Snyder and his co-writers Shay Hatten and Kurt Johnstad managed to write several side quests that slightly diversify the clichéd plot.
This includes a mini-story in the style of “How to Train Your Dragon” (or a flying creature from “Avatar”) with a somewhat caricatured version of Conan the Barbarian, and the battle between the cyborg Nemesis and the spider-like Jenna Malone (lightsabers included, may the Force be with you), and their own Colosseum; it’s just a pity that the creators didn’t spare the gladiatorial battle. At the same time, Snyder once again doesn’t shy away from detailed flashbacks, one of which strongly resembles Thanos and young Gamora’s storyline.
The presence of star actors doesn’t particularly add anything special. Sofia Boutella simply moves beautifully on screen, and that’s more than enough. Charlie Hunnam provides a natural Han Solo, only without Chewbacca. Ed Skrein, the owner of a phenomenal hairstyle, usually grits his teeth, and his Nazi-like uniform gives reason to believe that he came straight from the set of another Netflix project.
The second part, “The One that Leaves Scars,” is already planned for release in April, and we hope it has some surprises in store for the audience. Meanwhile, we modestly state that “Rebel Moon” fails as an ambitious space opera with epic scope but survives as just another streaming blockbuster for a Saturday evening.
“Rebel Moon” is the third consecutive film by Zack Snyder after the director’s cut of “Justice League” and “Army of the Dead,” where he assembles a fighting team that strives for audience favor. If “Snydercut” was a triumph of creative freedom, then something clearly went wrong for the director beyond that.