From his critically maligned however fan-favorite Sucker Punch to his notorious web darling “Snyder Cut” of 2017’s Justice League, Zack Snyder isn’t any stranger to drumming up discourse each time one in every of his movies nears launch. His newest effort for Netflix, Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire, has already sparked discussions of an R-rated, three-hour director’s reduce to provide his followers an alternate style earlier than Rebel Moon — Part Two hits the streaming platform early subsequent 12 months. But whereas Snyder might do his finest to invent a darkish, gripping universe to engross viewers, Rebel Moon is a limp, soulless regurgitation of tropes stolen from way more formidable movies.
Written, directed, produced, and shot by Snyder, Rebel Moon follows Kora (Sofia Boutella), a battle-hardened soldier with a tragic previous. Though she’s making an attempt to reside a low-profile life on a peaceable farming colony, Kora is compelled to as soon as once more take up the mantle of warrior when the Motherworld sends a army contingent led by the brutal Admiral Noble (Ed Skrein) to occupy her new house. With the assistance of a humble farmer (Michiel Huisman) Kora units off on a galaxy-spanning journey to recruit a ragtag group of fighters to defend her homeland.
Attempting to ascertain an authentic, engrossing science-fiction world isn’t any small job, even for probably the most adept of writers, and it’s painfully clear that Snyder took heavy aesthetic and stylistic notes from style classics like Star Wars and Dune, with out understanding the story and emotional beats that made these aforementioned franchises so beloved. Certainly, there’s all method of science-fiction spectacle in Rebel Moon to gawk at: the characters are all wearing tattered greyscale robes, wielding retrofuturist weapons and speaking in regards to the “Motherworld” and the “Imperium.”
But whereas each factor of manufacturing design, costuming, and worldbuilding is definitely particular, none of them are impressed or purposeful. Instead, Rebel Moon’s stylistic sensibilities really feel like Snyder merely tossed all of the sci-fi greats right into a blender and known as it a day. Extensive consideration is paid to plotting out lore and historical past, however Snyder forgets to flesh out the characters that populate his meticulously detailed universe.
Aside from Kora, whose tragic backstory and brutal upbringing are delivered completely by way of clunky monologues of exposition that bleed into in depth flashback sequences, the remainder of Rebel Moon’s sizable ensemble solid are eacg allotted 5 minutes of dialogue, if that. Kora and her crew flit to a brand new planet, are handled to a stunning show of their new ally’s fight prowess, given the CliffsNotes model of their tragic backstory (is there another type?), after which that character merely falls in among the many ranks, by no means to be examined or explored with any actual intentionality once more.
As for Kora herself, Boutella brings the customary energy and stoicism anticipated of a YA dystopian protagonist with not one of the coronary heart or ardour. Constantly glowering out from beneath her darkish crop of hair, Kora is a painfully uninteresting hero whose stoicism is definitely comprehensible given her historical past, however whose character couldn’t make for a extra tepid protagonist. Though she’s loads ferocious in fight, Kora is indifferent and distant when not embroiled in a struggle, giving the complete movie a distant, inaccessible emotional core. At two hours and quarter-hour, Rebel Moon is a laborious moviegoing expertise—why ought to the viewers care in regards to the movie’s occasions when the protagonist herself barely appears to?
Rebel Moon’s lack of curiosity in exploring its personal characters is made all of the extra irritating by the merciless, visceral nature of its villains—whereas we don’t get a lot character from Kora, Gunnar, and the opposite wannabe heroes, we are handled to a number of prolonged sequences that revel within the cruelty and violence of the Imperium. The vaguely fascist ruling faction is clearly an underbaked stand-in for Star Wars’ Empire, however Snyder errors onscreen brutality for efficient writing. The movie’s first act topics viewers to an prolonged sequence of Imperium troopers making an attempt to rape a villager, a scene that serves no different objective than making explicitly clear to the viewers that the authoritarian army occupiers are, in actual fact, dangerous guys.
The world Snyder has created is a chilly, brutal one, completely missing in any type of attraction, whimsy, or pleasure. The closest Rebel Moon ever involves eliciting any type of emotional response is through the action-packed, slo-mo heavy fight sequences. Stories like Star Wars and Dune soar by utilizing far-fetched worlds and fantastical settings to interrogate relatable, deeply human concepts. Rebel Moon, however, trades within the aesthetic trappings of these classics with out making the hassle to have interaction on any emotional or philosophical stage.
Though Rebel Moon ends on a relative cliffhanger with the promise of a sequel on the horizon, it’s troublesome to think about why one would need to topic themselves to one other two hours on this soulless slog of a universe. Certainly, Snyder is a grasp of his specific model of extremely stylized motion sequences, however the sheer lack of emotional stakes and memorable characters renders Rebel Moon toothless.
Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child Of Fire begins streaming on Netflix December 21.
This overview initially appeared on The A.V. Club.