It’s well known that Rebel Moon was originally conceived as a Star Wars movie. Refurbished and reimagined, it now arrives as a Netflix original. But watching it, it’s clear this isn’t just Zack Snyder’s Star Wars — it’s his The Matrix, his Blade Runner, his Gladiator. It’s Vikings and Nazis and aliens and lightsabers. This is an exercise in throwing absolutely everything at the wall, and seeing what sticks. Unfortunately, little of it does.
Sofia Boutella, a seriously underrated action hero, is our anchor. She is Kora, a soldier with a traumatic past, trying to find peace ploughing fields on the planet Veldt. Since the galaxy’s king was killed, it lives under the boot of the Imperium. When they arrive, led by Ed Skrein’s Admiral Noble, Kora is drawn into fighting them off — then gathers a team of notorious warriors to protect Veldt when they return.
There’s cheeky smuggler Kai (Charlie Hunnam); permanently topless Tarak (Staz Nair); guilt-ridden badass Nemesis (Bae Doona); and drunk coliseum-dwelling General Titus (Djimon Hounsou). We don’t really know who they are, or why they’d agree to help Kora. It’s hard to care about any of them.
Snyder’s signature slow-motion and lens flare is overbearingly, obfuscatingly present.
Some exciting sci-fi invention is displayed along the way, especially in the character and creature design — see Jena Malone’s vengeful, spider-esque Harmada and the Bloodaxe siblings (Cleopatra Coleman and Ray Fisher). But Snyder’s signature slow-motion and lens flare is overbearingly, obfuscatingly present. Slowing to the point of freeze-frame mid-action sequence does, inevitably, create impressive imagery, but it can feel like that image is Snyder’s only aim, rather than developing a story that would make those moments truly connect. The colour palette is largely dull, too, with heavy use of CGI, and visuals that are genuinely blurry at times.
It’s clear from the earnest tone, enormous budget and planned expansion of the franchise that Snyder’s intention was to create something mythic. He somewhat succeeds, but only at surface level; there’s certainly a sense of scale, but barely anything underneath. The script is both childish in its overly simplistic morality, and tinged with an adult, nasty sexual edge. There are endless exposition dumps, yet you still don’t really understand the bigger picture. There is a lot of talking about grain. The idea of an entirely new galaxy held such promise; sadly, now, the many Rebel Moon projects ahead (in films, books, graphic novels and games) have a little more to prove.