Sofia Boutella as Kora in Zack Snyder space opera Rebel Moon

‘Rebel Moon’ Reviews: Zack Snyder’s ‘Star Wars’ Riff Might Be His Worst Movie Yet

One of the biggest movies hitting theaters this weekend is Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon, the ambitious sci-fi epic based on the filmmaker’s scrapped Star Wars sequel pitch. Snyder’s latest, which will be available to stream on Netflix next week, has already become notorious, earning Snyder the worst reviews of his career so far.

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Rebel Moon: Part One – A Child of Fire currently has a 24% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 41 reviews. That’s the second-lowest score of Snyder’s career, topped only by Sucker Punch. As clunkily suggested by the title, Snyder’s new film is the first in a planned franchise comprised of two-part films, with Rebel Moon: Part Two – The Scargiver set for release on April 19, 2024. Based on reviews of Part One, the title is far from the worst thing about Snyder’s film, which he originally pitched to Lucasfilm as a more “mature” Star Wars sequel inspired by the films of Akira Kurosawa.

Star Wars is frequently referenced in reviews of Rebel Moon: Part One, many of which—even the few positive outliers—call Snyder’s film “derivative” and “contrived.” In his review for The Guardian, Charles Bramesco describes the film’s plot and Snyder’s handling of the genre:

On the humble farming planet of Wherever in the galaxy of Who Cares, the broad outline of a Hero (Sofia Boutella, terse and humorless and physically perfect, just how Snyder likes ’em) must defend her village from a faraway notion of an Evil Empire. They rose to power in some great cataclysm of yore during which our Hero’s family was killed, and the Final Boss took her in to teach her the combat skills she’d one day use to take her revenge. Snyder mistakes exposition for world-building, the lugubriously delivered reams of backstory removing the audience from the fantasy rather than immersing them in it.

Multiple reviews describe Rebel Moon as a movie that feels more like a pitch or unfinished concept than an actual narrative feature. “[Rebel Moon] feels like a million isolated storyboards without a single thing welding them together,” writes IndieWire‘s David Ehrlich. “The film is too invested in table-setting to be fully enjoyed on its own, at times feeling more like a studio presentation deck than a piece of organic storytelling,” says Los Angeles Times critic Mark Olsen.

In his review, The Hollywood Reporter‘s David Rooney writes, “This is a derivative crazy-quilt endeavor loaded with enough plot to plug up a black hole but only the most feebly drawn characters to do the work.” Those characters include plenty of increasingly wacky names and descriptions that definitely sound like Star Wars knock-offs, including a farmer named Gunnar (Michiel Huisman), the villainous Admiral Noble (Ed Skrein), the heroic Kora (Sofia Boutella), a bounty hunter named Kai (Charlie Hunnam), and a rebel leader named Darrian Bloodaxe (Ray Fisher).

Of course, there are morbidly irresistible details, like this one, from Rooney’s review:

Village chief Sindri (Corey Stoll in an unfortunate beaded beard) has barely finished urging everyone to honor the harvest gods with rabid lovemaking, or “thrusting of hips” as he lustily calls it, when Noble’s hulking warships appear in the sky.

… as well as multiple mentions of a squid-faced character named King Levitica, described by Rooney as “a peace-loving monkish ruler with flowing robes and a head like a frozen turkey raised too close to a nuclear reactor.”

If anything, those more ambivalent about Snyder’s filmography were probably expecting Rebel Moon to be a tedious space opera lacking sufficient melodrama and engaging storytelling—par for the course in the Snyder-verse, and nothing worth watching for the uninterested. As IGN‘s Hanna Flint writes, “Zack Snyder’s space opera is let down by a derivative patchwork script, mediocre action sequences and a superficial story.”

What most of us were not expecting is something that sounds like a horrid sci-fi epic, a galaxy-brain inducing trifle of WTF worthy of watching for a good laugh. Still, as critic Jordan Hoffman writes for The Messenger, “Cool capes, shirtless hunks and a squid alien can only get you so far.” Or, as Mashable‘s Kristy Puchko puts it, “There’s something insidious about a bad movie that has a lot of bonkers stuff in it. In the words of Admiral Ackbar, ‘It’s a trap.'”

(featured image: Netflix)

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