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Rebel Moon Part 2 review: A slow-mo sci-fi slog

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Rebel Moon: Part 2 – The Scargiver is an empty feast. It’s a relentless onslaught of explosions, sci-fi tropes and meaningless exposition that amounts to nothing. And yet somehow it’s still better than the first film in Zack Snyder’s wannabe sci-fi epic franchise for Netflix, Rebel Moon: Part 1 – A Child of Fire. (What do these titles really mean? Who cares.)

With all of the dull table-setting complete, Snyder is able to let his true talents soar in Rebel Moon: Part 2 by delivering endless battles filled with slow-motion action and heroic poses. It looks cool, I just wish it added up to something. Anything.

Spoilers ahead for Rebel Moon: Part 2.

If you somehow missed the first Rebel Moon film, the basic setup is that it’s Star Wars meets The Seven Samurai. Sofia Boutella stars as Kora, a former elite soldier of an evil empire who is hiding out in an all-too idyllic farming village, just planting and harvesting her days away. When a group of military baddies kills the chief of the village and starts threatening a young girl, Kora goes on a murdering spree (in defense!), leaving the community open to a retaliatory attack.

She spends the first movie recruiting potential warriors to defend the village, including a fallen gladiator (Djimoun Hounsou) and a bad-ass swordswoman (Doona Bae). (Their names are Titus and Nemesis, respectively, but those don’t really matter because the characters are paper thin.)

Full disclosure: I tried writing a review for the first Rebel Moon and just gave up in disgust. It was a shockingly boring epic, so much so that it took me several days to watch without falling asleep. By the end, I was only left with a feeling of dread, knowing that there was still another two hours of Rebel Moon ahead of me.

It’s somewhat empty praise, but at least I didn’t fall asleep during The Scargiver. Mostly, that’s due to the film actually having a sense of momentum and a lot more action. You can turn off your brain and enjoy the pretty pictures, much like you could for Snyder’s Sucker Punch, Justice League and Watchmen adaptation. He’s more a stylist than a natural storyteller, but occasionally Snyder’s visuals, such as a baffling montage of our heroes harvesting wheat, can be almost poetic.

Rebel Moon Part 2

Netflix

It’s just a shame that I didn’t care much about the film’s characters or any aspect of its story. James Gunn’s Guardian’s of the Galaxy trilogy made us fall in love with a band of misfits and screwups, with storylines that directly led to their personal and emotional growth. The crew in Rebel Moon, instead, feel like cardboard cutouts from better movies, and the overall plot feels forced (there’s even setup for another film by the end).

Hounsou tries to sell the pathos of Titus with his eyes, but he can only do so much. And while Bae’s warrior woman exudes cool (and has a very compelling flashback), she’s mostly wasted when the action really heats up. Then there’s Jimmy, a robot voiced by Anthony Hopkins, who is briefly introduced in the first film and pops up for a few minutes here to kick butt. Why? It doesn’t matter. Somehow that character is also important enough to serve as the narrator for both Rebel Moon films (but really it seems Snyder just wanted Hopkins’ voice adding gravitas).

Perhaps the only real saving grace for Rebel Moon: Part 2, much like the first film, is Ed Skrein as the villainous Atticus Noble. As a sadistic baddie, he’s really nothing new, but Skrein’s heightened scenery chomping makes the character interesting to watch. Where Darth Vader exudes a calm sense of dread, Skrein’s Noble is entertainingly chaotic, like the Joker crossed with Christoph Waltz’s Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds. He just has a lot of fun being bad — that’s something!

Given how popular the first film was (according to Snyder and Netflix, anyway), we’ll likely see more Rebel Moon down the line. Snyder previously said he’d like to do a six-hour director’s cut of both films, and he recently told Radio Times that he’d like to stretch the Rebel Moon series out to four or six films. Somehow, that just feels like a threat.



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