Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire review: Zack Snyder’s Star Wars rip-off is a trap – LSB

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There’s something insidious about a bad movie that has a lot of crazy stuff in it. In the words of Admiral Ackbar, who is not in this Star Wars ripoff, “It’s a trap.” Because you’re going to hear about all of Zack Snyder’s weird trinkets Rebel Moon – Part One: Child of Fireand as much as I warn you that they are put together in a boring and disappointing way, you won’t believe me.

Jenna Malone as a revenge-seeking Spider-Woman? Charlie Hunnam as a hipster space pirate? A chubby prince who hates shirts so much you’d guess his parents were killed by them? A robot named Jimmy who is voiced by Anthony Hopkins? A ripped villain who loves Nazi aesthetics and tentacle porn equally? “What don’t you love?” I hear you wonder. So, so a lot!

Indeed, Netflix’s latest gimmick for big-budget genre thrills isn’t as funny or daring as bad-but-good movies like A Winter’s Tale, Jupiter Ascending, or even Cats. Worst of all, it’s boring.

Zack Snyder’s Star Wars is boring.

Gunnar (Michiel Huisman) and Nemesis (Doona Bae) c "Rebel Moon."

Meet Gunnar (Michiel Huisman) the farmer and Nemesis (Doona Bae) the fencer.
Credit: Netflix

Originally pitched to Lucasfilm as a Star Wars film and understandably rejected, Zack Snyder’s film Rebel Moon tread very familiar ground, beginning with a humble but hot-headed farmer who—despite their reluctance—is destined to be a major figure in the rebellion against a fascist interplanetary regime. Although the names and jargon have been changed to avoid lawsuits, this film still feels so close to George Lucas’ copyrighted universe that Snyder is practically challenging Disney’s legal team to sue.

Instead of an initial crawl, Rebel Moon lays out its exposition in a lengthy voiceover by Jimmy (Hopkins), who explains that an evil empire is gobbling up the resources of unsuspecting planets while destroying the rebels who work to stop them. Snyder then throws us into a vulnerable world of dirt farmers, where a stern-browed Cora (Sofia Boutella) warns her neighbors not to trust the soldiers whose massive ship has begun to hover ominously over their fields. Sound familiar?

Deadpool villain Ed Skrein enters the scene as Admiral Atticus Noble, and from his SS-like military gear to his menacingly sharp smile, he’s clearly anything but. His army of invading baddies predictably brings violence, but since it’s Snyder’s version of Star Wars, they also carry a very clear threat of rape. There’s a crude and tedious sequence in which every soldier except one jokingly prepares to sexually assault a local girl (Charlotte Magee), who may have a name but is mainly defined by being pretty while carrying water.

Ed Skrein as Admiral Atticus Noble c "Rebel Moon."

Ed Skrein in a costume that screams, “I’m the bad guy.”
Credit: Netflix

Fortunately, Korra and some unlikely allies stop this onslaught through battle. However, to defeat the reinforcements that are sure to come, the peaceful villagers must bring warriors to their defense. So Cora and Gunnar (Michiel Huisman), one of the hot farmers who has a crush on her, set about putting together a team. This process makes up the majority of the film, featuring familiar figures such as a disgraced general named Titus (a criminally underused Djimon Hounsou), a disillusioned samurai Nemesis (Duna Bae), the imposing but actually noble revolutionary Darian Bloodaxe (Ray Fisher), the aforementioned prince shirtless named Tarak (Staz Nair), and Kai (Charlie Hunnam), a space pirate who looks like Han Solo came from girls” version of Brooklyn.

It’s not just the archetypes of its heroes and villains that are borrowed from Star Wars. It’s also the requisite cantina scene with bizarre alien creatures, the vaguely Western sci-fi storyline, the gentleman droids (who won’t be called droids) and the lightsabers that could generously be rechristened laser knives.

From there, Snyder simply piled on other influences, ranging from the spear vs. spaceship game of Avatar to the names in Legend of Korra to the fashion of Vampire Hunter D and the 1984 psycho-sexual tube game Dune. And while too much of it all could, could have made an exciting and rich pastiche, there’s so little connective tissue between these things that Snyder’s vision instead feels like a lazy collage stealing from richer, original genre works.

Snyder hits all his traps Rebel Moon.

Anthony Hopkins voices the robot Jimmy.

This is Jimmy, a droid voiced by Anthony Hopkins.
Credit: Netflix

While the influences are as varied as the settings in this universe-expanding war drama, everything is painted in Snyder’s signature color scheme. Dreary grays and greens cover empty fields, a bustling port city, spaceships and palaces. Accents of orange and red come in bursts of violence, from explosions to the thrust of a red lightsaber—sorry—laser knife. This color scheme smoothes out these worlds, as does Snyder’s grid, relying on CGI backgrounds that feel fake, even when Snyder’s cinematography is otherwise picturesque.

I remember when Annie Leibovitz shot dead those rapturously elegant cover photos of the Star Wars cast Vanity Fair? They seem to have a big impact on Rebel Moon, not only in the way Snyder frames his wide shots with the seriousness and beauty of a perfume ad, but also in how he chooses his characters. from 300 and Sucker Punch to Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, Snyder favors not only his cold color palette, but also a cast that looks plucked from the runways and pages of fashion magazines. Yes, it makes for a very beautiful picture—sometimes even awe-inspiring. But in Rebel Moon, this is perhaps more disturbing than usual. Where the Star Wars movies are certainly full of beautiful people, there are also plenty of characters who feel pretty ordinary, which helps ground a universe full of humans and all manner of aliens, from a hothead to a Sarlacc to Jabba the Hutt .

However, in Rebel Moon, the characters are either magnificent or grotesque. So when Korra scans the cantina, Hunam’s scrupulously neat thief is a stark contrast to the comfortable alien who seems to be made entirely of boils. (Props to the prosthetic actor — he was a jerk!) This incongruity becomes downright comical, as even a character literally presented covered in mud and shit will get a glamorous makeover between scenes. It’s a Snyder movie. No one can go into battle without being ripped and polished.

Perhaps if Snyder’s work had shown some self-awareness of this dark-shiny aesthetic, it might have worked. But true to form, Moon Rebel is stubbornly austere in its tone, forcing its characters to submit to the constraints of grim and battle cries while being magnificent. This is the same suffocating restriction that Disney has placed on its princesses since 2000, limiting their facial expressions in the name of beauty. And it all adds up to a film that, despite its many influences, settings and action sequences, feels flat and emotionally hollow.

Rebel Moon is at its best when Snyder goes beyond dark thoughts.

Charlie Hunnam as the space hunter Kai.

Charlie Hunnam brings some fucking energy as Kai.
Credit: Netflix

Fortunately, not every character in this space odyssey falls into the primary frame of stunning, but also so serious. The Pacific RimCharlie Hunnam is a wacky delight as Kai, who – while undeniably a smoke show – packs an Irish accent with a bunch of red-flag accessories, including a Darren Aronofsky-worthy man bun, scarf, silver chain and what appear to be denim joggers. From the moment he approaches Cora in the cafeteria, he exudes fucking charm. That energy seems chaotic in Snyder’s dark setting, making every moment Hoonam has on screen exciting. Where much of the film is predictable, his sparkling charisma brings fun and spontaneity. But like many of the most intriguing characters in Rebel Moonhis role is too short.

Elsewhere, Corey Stoll is hilarious as the village’s fatherly leader. Anthony Hopkins is absurd but entertaining as a cerebral battle bot. The cloud atlasDoona Bae’s Doona Bae is superb as Nemesis, a two-fisted swordsman who gets the film’s best scene against him The Hunger Games Jenna Malone. While Bay follows Snyder’s stone-faced aesthetic, her eyes carry remorse as she enters a no-win battle. Malone, meanwhile, is almost unrecognizable as a Spider-Man hybrid made believable by superb special effects.

Jenna Malone as Harmada in "Rebel Moon."

Jenna Malone as (checks notes) Harmada in “Rebel Moon”.
Credit: Netflix

Yet behind all these disturbing visual enhancements, Malone delivers a gut-wrenching performance that speaks volumes, with spitted deliveries and growls. This sequence, set midway through the film’s crew-building phase, was so rich in storytelling—from setting up the conflict on a mining planet to establishing Nemesis’ moral code—that I began to hope Rebel Moon can snap out of its tedious spin. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.

Instead, the film flits from one warrior representation to another, sporadically returning to Skene’s villain, who either rests with pipes and tentacles or switches to a boring shirt and tie for the film’s anticlimactic showdown. World building is done in bouts of heavy exposition. And you know for sure this story won’t be complete because “Part 1” is in the title. But you won’t believe how incomplete it is. We do not speak Quickly X or Spider-Man: Through the Spider-Verse, where plenty of story, character building, and stakes are set up to get us excited before we trigger an even bigger final battle in the upcoming film. Instead, the team builds up, has one skirmish, and then the movie ends, with a baffling leap of logic from its surviving characters.

Snyder piles on some brilliant last minute mash-ups and exposition to create his Part 2. But after this film spends two hours and 15 minutes poorly establishing its characters while ripping more out of Star Wars than it does creates its own space, it really is almost impossible to take care of.

Rebel Moon Part 1: Child of Fire premieres in theaters on December 15 and on Netflix on December 21, while Rebel Moon Part 2: The Scargiver premieres on Netflix on April 19.

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