Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child Of Fire Review

Zack Snyder’s new film Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire was once a story meant for Star Wars but instead has become its own story with similar elements of the gargantuan franchise. Inspired by other sci-fi tropes with Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, Snyder’s epic space opera blends the genre with his signature film-making style that fans of his work are all too familiar with. What results is a vision that is deeper and grander than what the platform is allowed to show? The film presents some big ideas inspired by other sci-fi fare that has a structure and shows something much greater. Even with its visually stunning landscape and design, it leaves a lot to be desired.

Rebel Moon takes place in a distant galaxy known as the Motherworld where it is ruled by a military regime after the fall of the royal kingdom that resided over it. Because of this change of power, has led to a rebellion that’s been formed by two siblings looking to take down the Imperium that has taken over the galaxy. At a farming village on a moon known as Veldt, the story focuses on a deserted soldier named Kora (Sofia Boutella) whose idyllic life away from war is being destroyed by the Imperium’s forces. As her past catches up with her, Kora and another farmer named Gunnar (Michiel Huisman) go on a journey to track down some fearless warriors to join their group to stop the Motherworld military from destroying their home. As the military tries to get one step ahead of them, Kora and her band of rebels must put a stop to this treacherous regime from destroying the only place she calls home.

Rebel Moon taps into some familiar territory by leaning into dystopian and fantasy settings to create a world filled with political intrigue and civil unrest. Snyder pulls out from storyline ideas that audiences may have heard of, particularly a totalitarian organization taking over poor citizens in a movie filled with a setting that is filled with saturated colors, flared lights, and a group of unlikely characters. People may seem to catch some things that they’ve seen before, coming off as a bit too familiar and not fresh. Once the film goes deep into the story, there’s something that works if it is built with structure and given more time to develop.

There are many parallels to the Star Wars franchise, from the vast worlds and characters to the tone. Many characters may seem familiar, but they are given a fresh coat of paint and in some ways different. Charlie Hunnam’s Kai can be described as a Han Solo-type character who’s a bounty hunter only looking out for himself so it’s difficult to know what side he’s truly on when things get serious. Djimon Hounsou as a former general who is filled with guilt is pretty much shown punishing himself by being a gladiator and pitting himself for death’s door. Staz Nair portrays a barbarian warrior who has a tender side to animals while Doona Bae’s Nemesis is a hardened warrior who looks out for the little guy. Anthony Hopkins also plays a role as a robot named Jimmy who may have some similarities to C3PO but does have some human characteristics that aren’t fully explored.

At the center of it all is Boutella’s character Kora, who has a past and tries to break out of it by protecting those she considers dear to her. She comes off as a character who doesn’t want to get involved with problems and just wants to tend to her farm. Audiences get to see where she came from, showing a transition from being a victim of the Motherworld to a soldier who becomes disillusioned by war and decides to desert everything. However, she decides to become a hero that the galaxy needs. Boutella plays off the character well, showing not just as a skilled fighter but someone willing to make things right.

With every hero, there has to be a villain, which is where Ed Skrein comes in as the vicious Admiral Atticus Noble. Skrein excels as the villainous Noble who is evil in its purest form and lusts for a good kill. He shares some great scenes with Kora, especially during their climactic battle. The same goes for Huisman’s Gunnar, who plays a common man whose own act of rebellion starts a revolution that shakes the Motherworld to its core. He is the audience’s eyes we see him grow and change with the group of rebels.

One of the biggest flaws of Rebel Moon is the flow of the story. The film has a lot going for it by world-building and creating the lore that shapes the background of this galaxy. As epic as this story is with a lot of characters to juggle, and many worlds to discover, having this told in just two hours isn’t enough. Despite knowing that this is envisioned as a two-part film, perhaps having this as a series would’ve benefited to development of these characters better. We get introduced to these rebels, but there isn’t enough time given to flesh out their backstories and personalities. Unfortunately, those opportunities weren’t given, even with how beautiful and visually stunning these worlds are. 

The action sequences are stellar and show just how great Snyder is in directing them with his style. There are times when the slow-motion angles work well in those action scenes with the characters, but it would be better if more time were given to invest in these characters. Sometimes it can be derivative that the camera style is used in regular shots when it isn’t necessary and adds to more of the film’s runtime. It even shies away from the intense violence, making it less of an R-rated film and more PG-13. There’s also a director’s cut coming in the new year, so perhaps audiences will get to see the movie in all its glory. CGI is heavily used throughout the film, but the practical effects are what truly make the film impressive to look at. Some actors are given prosthetics and mixed with visual effects to make it artistically well crafted. However, the lighting and much of the heavy use of green and blue screens can be quite distracting after a while, hindering what makes the film visually appealing.

Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire has a lot going for it when it comes to creating a beautiful and complex universe filled with characters that audiences can root for. There’s potential for an epic story and a lore that everyone can invest in. What holds it back is the run time, and insufficient space to explore these characters and what makes them who they are. Hopefully, the second part will give viewers a better understanding of what Snyder is trying to create. Despite the lack of narrative and over-reliance on CGI, there’s something fun to be had when it comes to this vast universe that Synder has made here. It’ll be interesting to see if viewers will stick around to see the second part, but so far there’s potential. 

Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire is now streaming on Netflix. Part Two is scheduled for release on April 19, 2024.

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