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Film ● Review: Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire

Title: Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire

Director(s): Zack Snyder

Screenwriter(s): Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad & Shay Hatten

Studio: The Stone Quarry, Grand Electric

Released: 2023

Runtime: 2h 13m

Starring: Sofia Boutella, Charlie Hunnam, Michiel Huisman, Ed Skrein, Bae Doo-na

My Verdict: A rebel’s cheesy recruitment drive against evil imperial forces. Not totally cringe but only because I don’t expect much from Hack Snyder.

Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire

● This is basically Zack Snyder’s Star Wars/Dune/Warhammer 40k with a few images from Gladiator (2000).

● The known galaxy is run by an empire referred to as the “Motherworld”. The king, queen and their gifted princess were assassinated and a man named Balisarius subsequently declared himself Regent. In response to rebellion developing on the fringes, he sends the brutal Admiral Noble (Ed Skrein) to hunt them.

● The plot follows Kora (Sofia Boutella), an ex-soldier of the empire learning to live the quiet life on some backwater farming planet/moon. One day, Noble and his soldiers rock up in his dreadnought demanding grain. They are, of course, pricks and Noble leaves behind a squad, declaring that he will return within weeks for the grain. Kora, like all heroes, is initially reluctant to fight until the mandatory triggering event invites her to bash heads in.

● The premise is simple and not particularly original, which is fine, but then the worldbuilding and plotting don’t go anywhere interesting either.

● After Kora takes out the imperial soldiers, she and fellow farmer Gunnar (Michiel Huisman) then try to find the rebels to defend the village. They go to a bar in the local port town for information with the mandatory bar fight. It’s rather convenient that one individual gives her free information and a mercenary named Kai (Charlie Hunnam) offers a ride. Granted, she is borderline desperate, but as if someone like her is that trusting. There could be more conflict and intrigue between these two.

Kora (Sofia Boutella) and Gunnar (Michiel Huisman)
Kora (Sofia Boutella) and Gunnar (Michiel Huisman)
Commissar, I mean Admiral Noble (Ed Skrein)
Commissar, I mean Admiral Noble (Ed Skrein)

● After the opening act, the film is in essence a cheesy recruitment drive because Kai thinks it’s a good idea to employ people who hate the empire and Kora just goes along with it. And this is accompanied by set pieces because it’s apparently cool to watch these recruits show off by doing cool stuff and… and… and… not much else. It’s not always cheesy to the point of cringe but it does feel forced. For example, Nemesis (Bae Doo-na) is meant to be a mysterious assassin but she just happens to be reachable.

Nemesis (Bae Doo-na)
Nemesis (Bae Doo-na)

● Visually, the execution is inconsistent. The art design is impressive. There is the use of saturated colors so the film generally looks colorful and rich. It vaguely reminds one of the approach adopted by The Fifth Element (1997).

● However, whilst the quality of the CGI is great in some shots, it is lacking in others and the difference is off-putting. It’s tempting to think they might have run out of time to render some of the shots properly.

● In quite a few shots the depth of field is too shallow—that is, too much of the frame is out of focus—and too much lens distortion. I assume this is a deliberate artistic decision but it can be jarring.

● There is the use of momentary slow motion in action sequences. Whilst this is done with good effect in 300 (2006), it comes across as trying too hard in this film. Despite the slow motion, there is still the occasional action that is not entirely clear. This is not the fault of the film editor—the editing by Dody Dorn is excellent as expected—but rather the problem is a combination of the camera angle and the choreography. Slow motion makes the positions and action (movement) more apparent, including its faults, and it appears the filmmakers didn’t pay enough attention to this at times.

● The performances are generally good enough but it’s almost a waste of a decent cast. It’s as if they are all trying to work with what they’ve got and they’re not given enough.

● There are also quite a few characters who are introduced and then don’t do anything (assuming they even appear again). This is understandable with some characters since this is a setup for the next part. However, some of the characters barely do anything in the fight sequence in the final act when they are present.

● Other than the sound of punches that connect, the sound design and editing are good. At least there is else that is nothing jarring. The music by Tom Holkenborg is aptly grand or functional, typical of the genre, without attracting more attention than it needs to.

● Overall, the plot and worldbuilding are somewhat clumsy and come across as forced. Whilst it can look very good at times, it does try too hard and is inconsistent. Personally, I didn’t expect much so, in that sense, I don’t hate it but it’s far from the great epic it is trying to be.

Not-so-subtle all-seeing eye…
Not-so-subtle all-seeing eye…

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