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


Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire is the first chapter in Zack Snyder’s planned new franchise for Netflix, dumped straight on their streamer on a Friday afternoon with little promotion and will likely end up abandoned for the next great big project when it doesn’t meet their viewer metric; as Snyder has a hardcore fanbase but beyond that? He’s not exactly a crowd-pleaser director. But in an age of safe bets that can be a good thing – and in this hybrid of Star Wars, Seven Samurai and the grim darkness of the far future of the Warhammer 40k universe, Rebel Moon feels like anything but.

It’s a wild swing for the fences in a movie that employs most of Snyder’s tropes dialled up to eleven. The slow mo is there. The exposition is there. The poor writing and dialogue is there. The violent; if cut from an R rating action is there. The beautiful, majestic looking scenery that puts everything else to shame is there – A Child of Fire looks more beautiful than most films out this year but its appeal as a desktop wallpaper or a comic book cover art is where the limitation almost ends – it’s a simple plot that feels far too stretched out to be worthy of a part one, let alone an entire universe – and the story ends up feeling far too slow as a result with barely any attention given to the characters or narrative beyond the clunky exposition.

A Child of Fire is your classic Magnificent Seven set-up. Originally planned as a Star Wars movie before being turned into an original IP its influences of the Empire are clear to see – combined with that of the Imperial Guard of the Warhammer ‘verse. The ruthless evil ringleader of the armies, Admiral Atticus Noble, played by a wonderfully typecast Ed Skrein, is shown how evil he is by killing a peaceful village tribal leader after being invited to dinner in a bid to beat any subtlety to a pulp, drag it out the back – and leave it there. But it’s a Zack Snyder film: subltey was never on the cards: and the wild swings for the fences that Rebel Moon makes almost elevates this into a watchable epic of a journey – Sofia Boutella’s soldier, Kora – is tasked with assembling a team of rebels to overthrow their oppressors with the agency of someone with an axe to grind. It isn’t about redemption – it’s about revenge.

The cast is mostly good – Boutella finally gets to prove her action chops as a lead star after being wasted in so many supporting roles but the choreography is lacking the clearcutness of something like Mission Impossible or John Wick. Charlie Hunnam does his best Charlie Hunam things, and Djimon Honsou makes a formidable impression as a rebel leader. Snyder also reunites with Ray Fisher and casts Bae Doona; a likeable cast given little to do. But casting has always been one of his strengths. Storytelling – maybe not. This is the galaxy’s fighters who have about as much characterisation as the group in the 2016 Magnificent Seven remake; and maybe more would have been welcome given the film’s lengthy 134 minute runtime, but when you consider much of it is slow motion – a Snyder trademark, you feel like that could have maybe been sacrificed here in favour of something that doesn’t quite have the bland aesthetics of a video game; or feel like an NFT turned into a feature length product.

And yet because it is Zack Snyder you know there is a director’s cut on the way. You know there is more coming – and you know it will be even more unrestrained than before. That means Rebel Moon Part One: A Child of Fire ends up feeling like a 134 minute trailer for something that may not be any greater to come – with the uncomfortable hint at more overt sexual violence being held back enough to turn most people away – this feels like a swing and a miss; yet at the same time for all its strengths and weaknesses you can’t help but wish this had gone to anything but Netflix: a proper cinema release for Rebel Moon feels like a missed opportunity.

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