Thursday, February 29, 2024
MoviesReviewSci-Fi

Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire Review

There’s been a lot of hype for Rebel Moon: Part One – A Child of Fire. No doubt its origins as a
Star Wars movie play a big part in that, along with the fact it’s Zack Snyder’s first big movie
since he left the DCU behind. Sadly, it’s a huge disappointment and fails in just about every
way, including the most important, being entertaining to watch.


The premise of the movie is the fight against the Motherworld, a large empire which stretches
across thousands of planets, brutally subjugating them. On the small moon of Verdt, a farming
community has its first brush with this brutality when Admiral Noble (Ed Skrein) arrives. He’s a
member of the Imperium, the Motherworld’s military, and wants grain for his troops. Things
quickly turn bad, the village’s leader is killed, and Noble says he will be back after the harvest to
collect his grain. The small garrison left behind start to make trouble and Kora (Sofia Boutella), a
villager who once served in the Imperium, kills them all. Knowing they can’t defend the village
themselves, she sets out to get help, recruiting a team of people who are willing to fight the
Motherworld.


There’s a certain visual stylization that saps the color from the film which seem to have soaked
into every part of the movie. It doesn’t just look bland, everything feels bland, including the story,
but especially the characters. There’s little to no development for any of them save Kora, and
even that’s sparse. The audience is given no reason to care about any of them, so when they
die or turn out to be traitors it just falls flat. None of the team assembled has any importance to
the plot, and it’s never explained why they’re so essential. Going off the trailer for Part Two, it
looks like they might have an expanded role in the second film, but that doesn’t justify their
inclusion here in such a big way, and any chance to really set up their characters has been
wasted. There’s also no chemistry between them. They’re never shown working smoothly as a
team, and there’s no humor or antagonism that forms them into an Avengers-style outfit,
managing to sort out their differences when things get tough.


The whole plot of the film reads like the opening to movies such as The Magnificent Seven,
where a team is assembled to counter some threat. But in these other movies we’re given small
but important insights into the characters’ personalities: why they’re so good at what they do,
what their reasons are for joining the team, what their traits are. It’s often in the small details that
character building really matters, and the extended flashbacks to Kora’s past are a poor
substitute for the subtlety of a well-written line or an emotional exchange.


The fact this long quest to assemble a team forms the center of the plot means there’s no real
danger in the film. It’s not as if Verdt is being oppressed by the Motherworld, which would add
some urgency, they’re just preparing for when they will have to fight in the future. This makes
everything laid back, with every scene dragging on longer than it should to fill the two-hour plus
runtime without adding anything useful to the story.

The lack of a genuine villain doesn’t help either. Admiral Noble is an OK bad guy, but he’s
nothing special and doesn’t have either the power, intelligence, or ability to be the main
protagonist. There are no other villains worth mentioning, no memorable henchmen, and the
one scene we get with the ruler of the Motherworld Balisarius (Fra Fee) doesn’t set him up as a
big threat for the sequel. There’s never the sense that the Motherworld is an oppressive power
that controls thousands of planets. In Star Wars the Empire is everywhere, with the white helmet
of the stormtrooper showing the reach of the Emperor’s power even on the smallest Outer Rim
world. This helps to build a sense of what a huge threat the Rebellion is facing.


It would be interesting to know how close the movie is to Snyder’s original idea for a Star Wars
project. There are moments when it looks a little like a galaxy far, far away, like the saloon full of
weird aliens and Nemesis’s (Doona Bae) red lightsaber-style swords. What it doesn’t have,
however, is an individual sense of style like Star Wars does. There’s no central design themes,
no interesting ships, the locations are dull, and the action is all stylized set pieces filled with too
much slow-mo. There isn’t a memorable line of dialogue or an eye-catching character design
that would be instantly recognizable if placed on a lunch box or made into an action figure. The
movie is derivative, filled with ideas from other stories and being neither a direct copy or a
unique take on its inspiration. It feels cliched and repetitive, but also has a sense of its own
importance, a kind of heaviness as though it’s trying hard to be a powerful movie, while
completely failing to make you care about anything that’s going on.


It’s a shame the film is so badly put together, because it does show its potential on occasion,
such as with Anthony Hopkin’s character of Jimmy, a droid-like character who is badly
underused, and the idea of a small group fighting against overwhelming odds is an old story, but
still a compelling one. On the whole, though, the negatives heavily outweigh the positives,
making a film that’s too long, tedious, and a struggle to watch. It’s possible the second part,
Scargiver, will change the pace when it releases in April 2024, but this film does little to justify a
sequel and fails to prepare enough ground to build a really important franchise.

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