Mladen and Del review ‘Rebel Moon: Part One – A Child of Fire’

Image courtesy of Netflix.

Starring Sofia Boutella as Kora, Michiel Huisman as Gunnar, Bae Doona as Nemesis, Charlie Hunnam as Kai, Ed Skrein as Atticus Noble and others. Directed by Zack Snyder. Two hours, 13 minutes. Rated PG-13. Streaming on Netflix.

Plot summary: A quiet agrarian village on a fertile moon in a galaxy far, far away is forced to provide a Motherworld dreadnaught grain that it can’t spare. One of the villagers, the first to recognize the threat and the only one with balls though a female, scours the system for a motley crew of warriors who’ll fight the dreadnaught and its vicious commander to protect the hamlet. Part One collects the heroes who’ll resist the evil admiral and his tyrant boss.

Are there spoilers in this review: Not really.

Mladen’s take

What can I say about “Rebel Moon” other than it’s an OK film. I didn’t even bother watching it using my home theater.

I thought “Rebel Moon” was rated R. It wasn’t, so the violence is tame, albeit flashy, and there’s almost no cussing. No nudity, either. Shit, the film lacks grit.

The characters aren’t all that charismatic, either. Our heroine is anguished because of who she was and what she did way back when. Her train of misfits are characters we’ve all seen in the past, including the prototypical Asian as ninja.

In short, “Rebel Moon” speeds through character development so that all we’re left with are outlines of personas. There’s the displaced prince, a spiritually wounded mother, a drunken former general, and an insurrectionist who had gone soft returning to the fight against un‑motherly Motherworld.

I’m also tired of hearing the same old voices as droids. In this case, it’s Anthony Hopkins as the latent military bot J-whatever. I listen to the bot talk and all I’m thinking is that’s the king of Asgard.

Because Del is an every-cloud-has-a-silver-lining kinda guy, I’ll honor his frail tendency to try to balance good and bad by noting a couple of the film’s bright spots.

“Rebel Moon” production value is top notch. The film offers very good world building. The CGI is clean, as clean as the meld of real and fake in last year’s “The Creator.” The real people in the movie look like they are a part of the planet, moon, spaceship, city, or field they find themselves in. The creatures depicted in the movie are stylish and one smacks of Greek mythology. The other prominent critter is, oh, “Lord of the Rings-y” and good enough.

I concede that there was a scene or two that absorbed me. I was eager to see how they’d end. Unfortunately, the movie would then return to its mostly uninteresting plot. Dang, sorry about that Del. I inserted a bit of negativity into my silver lining section.

“Rebel Moon” just isn’t that good. And, it just isn’t that bad.

You want to see a very good space opera? Give Star Wars “Rogue One” a spin. Clearly, it was the inspiration, if not outright template, for “Rebel Moon.” Also better alternatives to “Rebel Moon” are “Serenity,” the 2009 “Star Trek” movie, and the new “Dune.”  

Will I see “Rebel Moon: Part Two – The Scargiver?” Sure. Do I care that I must wait until the movie’s April 2024 release? Not one bit. That fact, all by itself, demonstrates my enthusiasm for the “Rebel Moon” storyline.    

Del’s take

Mladen, there’s no need to be positive on my behalf. “Rebel Moon” was awful. And to think: They spent $166 million making that crap? One hundred and sixty-six million would just about cover my homeowner’s insurance and property taxes here in the “free state of Florida.”

Give me a break.

“Rebel Moon” is Star Wars Lite, if such a thing is possible. When I saw director Snyder’s remake of “Dawn of the Dead” I told myself, “Now here’s a guy who knows how to make a movie.” Unfortunately, Snyder is a guy who knows how to make one movie. “Rebel Moon” looks just like “Sucker Punch,” “300” and “Watchmen,” and despite the lofty ambitions, it’s surprisingly bereft of depth.

Let’s not even talk about things like tropes or archetypes – “Rebel Moon” is a bad copy of a bad copy, like that photocopy of the mysterious night shift worker’s ass that turned up on the Xerox machine one morning and now everybody’s passing it around the office.

Dialogue is, well, corny. And not just corny corny, but fanboy at the science fiction convention Dungeons & Dragons icebreaker corny. Characterization is practically non-existent – you’ve seen these people in dozens of movies over the years, starting with Akira Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai,” the same place Snyder got the plot. It would have been hilarious if he’d ripped off J.J. Abrams. Alas, the universe doesn’t have that ironic a sense of humor. FX are not great, either. I should think $166 million would buy you a more realistic-looking spaceship or future city.

It’s all a gussied-up, overhyped pile of same-old, same-old, and I’ll be honest – it actually offends me. The science fiction genre – at least the printed-on-paper part of the genre – has thousands of really terrific stories waiting to be told. Why waste $166 million on this retread?

Part 2 is coming and I could care less. I know how it’s going to end. I’ve already seen it. I don’t need to waste my time watching part 2 of a movie that scored 23 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Mladen’s grade: C (C- if, for a moment, the sci-fi tropes irritate me)

Del’s grade: D

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and writer.


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