Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon: You’ve Seen It All Before…

There’s not much to say about Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon — Part One, so I won’t spend a lot of time on it.

If you can stand to sit through the two-ish hour runtime, which, since it’s on Netflix, you can pause for more alcohol (and boy, is alcohol required for this one), you’ll spend most of the film going “Hmm… I know I’ve seen this before somewhere…”

If you’ve watched any science fiction movies, or westerns, but specifically: Star Wars, The Magnificent Seven, The Avengers: Infinity War, Battle Beyond the Stars, Seven Samurai, Harry Potter, or even A Bug’s Life, maybe read or played some Warhammer 40K, etc, then there’s a LOT about this film that will feel familiar.

The problem though, is that Rebel Moon feels like a copy of a copy of a copy, and none of it brings anything new to the table. You’d be better off watching one of the other films instead.

At its basic level, Rebel Moon is essentially Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven in space, and that’s not even fully realized because Snyder wants you to wait until April 2024 to see Part 2 and watch the rest of the story.

Or, if you’re truly dedicated, wait until March and watch the R-rated extended “Snyder cut” of Part 1. There’s an interview with Snyder where he admits that Netflix “forced” him to put out a PG-13 version of the film, so he had to cut some things out, but the “complete” vision of the film is his R-rated version.

Supposedly, Rebel Moon was originally pitched as a new Star Wars script to Disney/Lucasfilm, and it was so bad that even they wouldn’t touch it. And, considering the current state of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise, that’s saying a lot.

Yet, despite creating mega stinkers for movie studios, Zack Snyder has somehow cut a deal with the devil where studios/streaming services STILL continue to throw millions of dollars his way to do whatever he wants with it.

You’d think Netflix would have learned after he made that zombie stinker Army of the Dead, but, nope. They threw more money at him to make this “space franchise” that I’m sure he promised would be as big as Star Wars.

Honestly, I’m going to spoil the movie from here on out. If you are desperate to kill two and a half hours, then maybe watch Rebel Moon, but you’d get more enjoyment out of watching the 4K movie of a fireplace (yes, there really are fireplace vids on Netflix).

The movie is about a space empire that’s reigned for 1,000 generations having conquered the galaxy and have enjoyed a relatively long time of peace and prosperity. But, recently, the ruling family was assassinated, and now there’s a power vacuum. The main military leader decided to set himself up as regent, but that has not stopped some worlds from deciding maybe it’s time to strike out on their own. So, the new regent has sent his armies to the farthest edges of the realm to strike down anyone who dared to call themselves “rebels” — (roll credits)

Anyway, so out in BFE, we find a small farming community that is meant to be either Space Vikings or Space Amish. Their buildings looked like Viking buildings, and they liked using “old” tools, like horses and plows, to farm the land. They’re okay with electricity, though, so shrug

We are introduced to Kora, a “mystery girl” who has been in the community for a couple of seasons and is farming the land. There’s a big celebration that night in the main community building because two local hunters have killed a local beastie, so there’s a feast. Again, the whole community vibe is medieval/Viking/fantasy blah blah blah. We’re introduced to Gunnar, who Kora has “friend-zoned”, and just follows her around. The elderly man who took Kora in seems focused on getting Kora married off and out of his house, so she can “be part of the community.” But, Kora is a strong female character and “don’t need no man.”

The next day, the bad guys show up on a massive ship with the leader dressed in his best Space Nazi uniform. They need food for their troops. It’s not explained why a high-tech society that can build massive spaceships with “space-vagina” warp technology needs local farmers for crops, but whatever. We learn shortly before the bad guys arrived that whatever surplus the community had, Kora’s buddy Gunnar sold to the rebels. That may not go over well with the bad guys, who are looking for rebel factions, right?

But, the bad guys don’t know about any of this. They want food for the troops. But, the community leader lies about the surplus, so he’s murdered for it. Now, the bad guys are willing to wait for the next harvest, and then they’ll want most of it, leaving the community with not enough food to survive.

Oh, and for good measure, they leave a small garrison of troops behind to keep an eye on things.

The farmers decide they should just do what the soldiers want. Kora wants no part of it and decides to leave.

Before she gets a chance to leave though, the soldiers decide to get rapey with a young village girl (as soldiers do), so Kora reluctantly decides to stop them.

Kora is played by Sofia Boutella, who is 5’5″ and probably weighs less than 110 pounds. We know nothing about her background at this point, other than she’s not originally from here. We’re treated to a SLOOOOO-MOOOOOO extended fight sequence where the bad guys conveniently wait to fight her one at a time and where she easily handles 7-8 men twice her size without much effort.

SIDE NOTE: If you want to watch an action flick with a female protagonist with better fight choreography, check out Ballerina on Netflix. It’s a Korean film, and she’s probably even smaller than Boutella, but the fight sequences are much more “realistic” in that she has to struggle when fighting men twice her size. The plot’s not much better than Rebel Moon, but at least it’s entertaining.

Eventually, we learn that Kora was a soldier in the empire. The empire slaughtered everyone on her planet, including her parents, but the main military leader guy found her, spared her, and took her in (ala Thanos). She’s trained as a soldier, and because her adopted “father” is part of the elite and close to the royal family, she’s had a life of privilege. She even gets to become part of the royal guard and is assigned to protect the princess (more on her in a bit).

This is science fiction. They could have easily added something to Kora’s story to give her abilities to help explain why she’s such a capable fighter: genetic manipulation, cybernetics, something. It’s not Star Wars; this is a new Snyderverse, where he can do whatever. But, nope, she’s just a soldier with the same training as the other men.

Anyway, Kora has now put the village into a situation where they’ll have to fight the bad guys. Nobody seems to object to this one way or another, but Kora decides she’s going to fly off and try to find some people to help fight on behalf of the villagers, even though they can’t pay much (sound familiar?) She knows of a general who rebelled against the empire, and maybe he would be willing to train the villagers and lead them into battle.

They end up in the nearest spaceport town to find Gunnar’s rebel contact and arrive just in time to see him being carted off by the bad guys. So, they go into a nearby bar (a wretched hive of scum and villainy) and run into trouble. A smuggler helps them out. He conveniently has a spaceship, and he immediately decides to help fly them around the galaxy and recruit more people. If that seems suspicious, and that he might betray them if the right opportunity comes along, then — well, you’ve seen that story before, too. Even Gunnar wonders “Should we trust this guy?” but Kora’s decides “Nah, it’ll be fine.”

With that, the rest of the movie is Kora going to different locations that look completely different from one another to find recruits for the cause. It’s so stark that it feels like they’re jumping into completely different video games each time they switch locations. I can’t say much about any of the recruits because the plot is the same: a brief introduction to the location and the person, one slo-mo action sequence involving the potential recruit (while everyone else stands and watches), Kora makes a 30-second pitch, and bam, they’re in.

We go to a barren world where they encounter a Conan-wannabe. He’s enslaved by a dude, but he’s willing to part with Conan (none of these idiots are the least bit memorable so I’m not bothering to look up their names) if he breaks in his pet hippogryph (as you do in sci-fi movies). After a slo-mo sequence, he’s in the gang.

Next, we go to a quasi-futuristic-Asian-Blade-Runner-looking world where we find another fighter with swords. We get to watch her in a sloooo-mo fight with a wicked-looking spider-woman who is kidnapping local kids. There’s a brief blah blah backstory about the environment that explains why spider-lady is doing what she’s doing, but it doesn’t matter.

Oh, and sword-lady has two swords that “ignite” with plasma? that looks not entirely unlike lightsabers (but totally not lightsabers — the second it happens – you can almost hear Snyder in a voiceover saying – no these are not lightsabers). They are physical swords that ignite somehow. They’re only there for one “cool” shot that Snyder puts in, and outside of that, they’re not any different from normal swords.

Then, we get to go to Gladiator-world, where we find the general, Titus? If you’ve seen the trailers, this is probably the character everyone wants to see because he’s played by Djimon Hounsou. We’re told he’s a “badass” and a “master strategist”, even though he also rebelled against the empire and got all of the troops who joined him slaughtered. So, you expect there to be some bad-ass slo-mo gladiator fight with Titus in it, right? WRONG. He’s just the local drunk.

Mind you, as an aside, it’s funny that our smuggler guy has no trouble finding where the general is. You’d think that the empire would be looking for him (and as it turns out, they were). Why any empire, government, etc., would face off against a rebellious general, defeat him, and then decide to let him go on his merry way makes no sense. If they didn’t outright murder him, you’d think he’d be locked up in a gulag somewhere where he can’t cause any more trouble. But, nope, he’s just free to do whatever he wants.

He gets a bath and a quick revenge speech from Kora, and Generalissimo is in. Maybe he gets to do more in part 2, but he gets to do almost nothing in this part. I don’t even remember if he got some bad-ass fight sequence in the finale. He did get to make a general-y speech about how the final fight is going to be super-important.

There’s also a brother/sister duo that are the leaders of the rebels. The sister passes on helping Kora, but the brother joins up and takes some of their troops with him.

It’s all a rush to get to the big, dumb slo-mo final battle. where Kora and her new “team” are betrayed by our smuggler guy (gasp!). It’s here we probably get the most exposition about all of these characters because they’re all “most-wanted” by the empire. Conan turns out to be a prince. Which prince? is he part of the royal family? Why didn’t Kora know who he was? Or is he just a prince in some random world? It’s never explained. Sword-lady is also wanted by the empire because she’s been taking out her revenge on them for killing her family. Of course, we have the super bad-ass rebel general Titus.

Then, there’s Kora. It’s finally revealed that she’s the daughter of the new regent, and daddy wants her back. Why? The film never tells us. There’s zero explanation for why Kora left, why the empire wants her back, or how she ended up on the backwater moon. However, smuggler guy considers her to be the “most valuable prize”.

Well, she’s the most valuable person next to the princess (who’s dead — or is she?). The princess is “magical” or something. Kora reveals at one point while guarding the princess that she saw the princess’ dog kill a bird, and the princess was able to bring it back to life. She’s also important to the robots, who somehow sensed her specialness and pledged to fight for her.

Anyway, Gunnar helps them escape and hilarity ensues. There’s a big slow-mo battle that is super dumb. The rebels have some small ships, but the bad general shows up in a capital ship. It’s a big ship. The dumbest part of the fight comes when the rebel dude grabs a shaft of metal and makes for a slo-mo jump to a gunner pod. The guns are killing his troops you see. The shot looks like something directly out of 300. The rebel dude sacrifices himself to kill the gunner guy. And, as it turns out, the gunner pod also conveniently has the steering controls of the massive ship, so as he dies he knocks the steering wheel over to the right causing the big ass ship to crash and be destroyed.

No, I’m not making that up.

We see a long drawn-out fight between Kora and the main bad guy of the film (general whatever). Plenty of SLOOOOO-MOOOOOOOO action to the point that you just wish one of them would finally die.

She appears to kill the bad guy, so they all decide to go back to the village to collect their reward. There’s a magnificent seven scene where we see them all on space horseback riding to the village, but the movie’s over, right? Why did they all go back? Why not pay them something on the world they were on previously, and then everyone could go their separate ways?

Well, no, of course not, because it’s only part 1, you see. The bad general guy isn’t completely dead, just mostly dead, and they’re able to retrieve him. He has a chat with the regent in a “holodeck”? and he tells the regent guy that Kora is alive. It’s not clear if the general guy is a guy or some sort of robot or construct or whatever. And, of course, the regent dude tells the general guy to use whatever means necessary to get Kora and her allies.

Roll credits. That’s the film.

Obviously, there’s going to be a part two. We’ve seen the other movies, so you know they’re going to help build up some defenses and train the villagers to fight, etc. Oh yeah, part one also shows us a scene where the bad guys’ big-ass ship has some big-ass guns where they can effectively destroy cities from orbit. So, yeah, how the villagers are going to stand up against that might? be interesting.

The whole thing is just dumb. At least the village in the other films served a purpose. There was a reason for the bad guys to want stuff? But here, if anything, Kora has stirred things up, and by rounding up this group of characters, she’s just given the empire even more of a reason to hunt them down and put the villagers in even greater peril.

I mean, the character with the most interesting story is the robot guy. He shows up at the beginning of the film. They were intelligent robots, and they used to be soldiers for the Empire. But, after the king/queen/princess were killed, they stopped fighting. For reasons, the soldiers keep them around? Anyway, he shows up long enough to be bullied by the soldiers, hangs out with a local girl to do an exposition dump about his back story, and then helps Kora briefly in the fight with the rapey soldiers. And then… he fucks off. He’s gone for the rest of the film until the very ending where he’s in one of the last shots standing in a field carrying a staff and wearing “antlers”.

I can’t blame any of the actors for being in this. I can’t argue whether Boutella has the presence to be a lead because there’s so little for her to work with. I don’t know if anyone else would have better luck. Then again, she has an acting range of two facial expressions.

Kora is another “strong female character”/Mary Sue, and I don’t know if that was Snyder’s intent as much as it was just lazy writing. For all of this so-called worldbuilding, Snyder couldn’t be bothered with giving Kora, or any of his protagonists, enough of a personality to make them interesting.

Everyone else in the cast is just wasted. Maybe they get to do more in part 2, but the characters are never given any chance to bond or anything, so why would anyone be invested enough in these characters to see them in part 2? Sir Anthony Hopkins probably got the best deal since he just provides the voice of the robot and the opening narration that happens in place of a text crawl (totally not Star Wars).

Rebel Moon is just a hodgepodge of every movie that Zack Snyder has ever liked that he’s tried to jam together into a single incoherent mess of a film. I could show you individual scenes from each of the worlds they visit and you’d never guess that they were in the same film outside of the slo-mo and Snyder’s love for muted palettes.

I would like to think this would eventually end his career, or, at least, Zack Snyder’s going to run out of studios willing to piss away millions of dollars on his creations. He’s burned Warner Bros. Netflix will surely learn their lesson now.

Maybe Apple will be next?

Regardless, Rebel Moon isn’t worth the two-plus hours to watch, much less however long the “Snyder cut” might be. It certainly isn’t worth watching for part 2, which is the second half of the Magnificent Seven.

You’re probably better off watching one of those, or Star Wars, or hell, even Battle Beyond the Stars than wasting time on this.