Rebel Moon is an underwhelming start to Zack Snyder's new Netflix universe

Zack Snyder rarely does things by halves, so with one Netflix universe already under way with Army of the Dead, he's launching a second universe with Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire.

The space opera has been an idea in Snyder's mind since his college days and almost came to life as his take on a Star Wars movie. That pitch didn't land at Lucasfilm so Snyder paired up again with Netflix to make Rebel Moon into its own unique universe, one that will start with a two-part story before potentially expanding further.

Rebel Moon's opening salvo has now arrived on Netflix, but has it been worth the wait? The answer to that will lie in your tolerance for a Zack Snyder movie.

sofia boutella, djimon hounsou, rebel moon

After an opening exposition dump (the first of many) about the Motherworld, we first meet Kora (Sofia Boutella) on Veldt where she has become a member of the farming community there after crash landing on Veldt previously.

Her hopes of living a life of peace are shattered when Admiral Noble (Ed Skrein), loyal servant of the tyrannical Regent Balisarious (Fra Fee), arrives on Veldt. He wants produce to feed his army as they hunt for a group of rebels, led by Darian and Devra Bloodaxe (Ray Fisher and Cleopatra Coleman).

Unsurprisingly, Noble's request is more of a demand than a request and when Motherworld soldiers take up residence on Veldt, Kora is unwilling to stand by and let another group of people suffer.

Kora can't fight the Motherworld alone though, so with the help of Gunnar (Michiel Huisman), she starts a journey to different worlds to find a band of warriors who are willing to risk their lives to defend Kora's people.

kora and gunnar in rebel moon
Chris Strother/Netflix - Netflix

Given it's an idea that's been percolating in Snyder's head for decades, it's no surprise that Rebel Moon takes place in a richly detailed world. From the worlds themselves to the costumes of the characters, there's backstory to be found everywhere – even if it might not always be obvious.

The problem is that the plot that Snyder has come up for the movie is nowhere near as interesting as the world it takes place in. It's a very straightforward Seven Samurai tale of getting a ragtag group together to fight a bigger evil, and there's almost too much to fit in for a runtime of just over two hours.

It leaves Rebel Moon feeling episodic, as after spending a lengthy time on Veldt in the first act, the movie jumps from planet to planet to pick up the various warriors without really showing us who any of them really are. Kora gets the most development as the lead, but the movie is so much on the move that her backstory is dished out in two lengthy exposition dumps.

We're sure it's a problem that will be lessened in an already-planned director's cut, said to be an hour longer. You'll be left wishing that Snyder focused on one version of the movie though as Rebel Moon – Part One is overstuffed and rushed in its current form.

sofia boutella, rebel moon

Each planet allows Snyder to do his own take on various genres. For instance, the port city of Providence on Veldt where they meet Kai (Charlie Hunnam) is a seedier version of the Mos Eisley Cantina, while Neu-Wodi sees Tarak (Staz Nair) tame a griffin-like creature called a Bennu before joining the team in an Avatar-esque moment.

The impressive world-building means that the planets do feel distinct from one another, and the focus on practical effects where possible do lend them a lived-in feel. However, the set pieces are generally superfluous and then before you know it, you're at the climax of Rebel Moon without really seeing it coming.

That's mostly because this is one story chopped into two, with each of those parts stripped down for the PG-13 releases. The big battle is still to come and Part One would have had a stronger conclusion had Snyder not tacked on a needless coda, revolving around the fate of one important character.

For all of the scale and world-building, Rebel Moon is dramatically unsatisfying and often dull. It means you can't help focusing on familiar Snyder flaws such as the need to show and tell backstories, as well as another lead female character being motivated by sexual assault.

ed skrein, rebel moon

As with Army of the Dead, the bones are there for Rebel Moon – Part One to have been a stronger movie than it's turned out to be. It's visually impressive and the action sequences are well-staged, even if the slow-motion is overused (as to be expected from a Snyder movie by now), while you will be intrigued where it goes next.

The frustration here is that with Netflix seemingly allowing Snyder to do what he wanted, he didn't just go with his planned cut as the only version of the movie, a choice which could have solved its biggest issues.

As it is, Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire bears all the familiar traits of a Zack Snyder movie – from the good to the bad – and if you're not already a convert, you will be wondering what all the fuss is about.

2 stars
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Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire is available to watch now on Netflix.

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