REBEL MOON- PART ONE: A CHILD OF FIRE (NETFLIX) (2023)
SYNOPSIS: From Zack Snyder, the filmmaker behind 300, Man of Steel, and Army of the Dead, comes REBEL MOON, a 2-part movie event decades in the making. After crash landing on a moon in the furthest reaches of the universe, Kora (Sofia Boutella), a stranger with a mysterious past, begins a new life among a peaceful settlement of farmers. But she soon becomes their only hope for survival when the tyrannical Regent Balisarius (Fra Fee) and his cruel emissary, Admiral Noble (Ed Skrein), discover the farmers have unwittingly sold their crops to the Bloodaxes (Cleopatra Coleman and Ray Fisher) — leaders of a fierce group of insurgents hunted by the Motherworld. Tasked with finding fighters who would risk their lives to defend the people of Veldt, Kora and Gunnar (Michiel Huisman), a tenderhearted farmer naive in the realities of war, journey to different worlds in search of the Bloodaxes, and assemble a small band of warriors who share a common need for redemption along the way: Kai (Charlie Hunnam), a pilot and gun for hire; General Titus (Djimon Hounsou), a legendary commander; Nemesis (Doona Bae), a master swordswoman; Tarak (Staz Nair), a captive with a regal past; and Milius (E. Duffy), a resistance fighter. Back on Veldt, Jimmy (voiced by Anthony Hopkins), an ancient mechanized protector hiding in the wings, awakens with a new purpose. But the newly formed revolutionaries must learn to trust each other and fight as one before the armies of the Motherworld come to destroy them all.
Rebel Moon-Part One: Child of Fire is initially Zack Synder’s idea for a new Star Wars movie but it got turned down by Lucasfilm. Since ideas never die in Hollywood, Netflix came to the rescue and dumped in the moolah to bring Synder’s vision to the small screen.
Right from the tedious voiceover by Anthony Hopkins (also voicing a former army fighting droid, Jimmy), we more or less know Rebel Moon is a copycat version of Star Wars: A New Hope where the galaxy is ruled by a militaristic empire named the Motherworld under the evil Balisarius (Fra Free). His forces are led by a ruthless Admiral Atticus Noble (Ed Skrein) and they aim to rid the galaxy of any rebels.
Noble’s next target is the planet of Veldt where he forces the farming village to sell him grain. In the end, the treacherous methods employed by Noble and his men ignite the fire in an dispirited, ex-elite military soldier, Kora (Sofia Boutella) who then decides to recruit a bunch of warriors to fight against Noble and his invading army.
So what follows is a prolonged recruitment exercise where an ex-Prince, Tarak (Staz Nair), a swordswoman, Nemesis (Donna Bae), a rebel warrior, Bloodaxe (Ray Fisher), a fallen General (Djimon Hounsou) and smuggler, Kai (Charlie Hunnam) is persuaded by Kora and the village’s head farmer, Gunnar (Michiel Huisman) to fight against the Motherland.
Unfortunately, despite the numerous colourful characters assembled, there isn’t a lot we know of the motley crew, their abilities and their motivations for joining the rebellion. Most of the screentime is devoted to backstories of Kora and the old empire led by a benevolent King and his Princess Isa who was supposedly believe to have the power to unite the galaxy. It’s like Synder trying his very best to map out the entire universe timelines and happenings and explaining them to the audiences.
By doing so, Synder forgot the need to tell a compelling story. The characters are mostly one dimensional and dull. Even Kora doesn’t seem to be that interesting for a lead character. Hunnam attempts to be the next Han Solo but the narrative fails to play on that dynamics. There’s little to Huisman’s character as he might eventually just end up as Kora’s token love interest. Djimon Hounsou and Donna Bae are mostly wasted here as the climactic battle involves mainly Kora and Noble.
On the other hand, if you are a big fan of Synder’s trademark visuals and slow-mo, there’s plenty to savour in Rebel Moon. Clearly, the man has incorporated several ideas from anime, fantasy pop-cultures and mythology into the movie. It’s visually stunning with impressive creature effects and vast planets (though the various starships design are indistinguishable) to behold except the action stuntwork seems poorly handled and choppy. The CGI for the most part is distracting as it ranges from superb to mediocre to poor.
Netflix and Synder has since released the trailer for Part two and a longer, R-rated cut is apparently in the pipeline. Rebel Moon-Part One: Child of Fire isn’t a bad commercial movie nor is it a good one. You are left wondering if Synder’s so-called world-building, sci-fi opera epic literally needs more streaming hours to justify its presence. Maybe we need to learn more about the General or the mysterious Swordswoman. Or why Kora abandons her post and her “father”. Maybe tell me more why Nobel ended up in the same predicament as Darth Vader. As a standalone, “original” sci-fi adventure, Rebel Moon-Part One is merely passable.
Review by Linus Tee