Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire (2023)

by | Dec 21, 2023 | Movie Reviews, New On Streaming/Digital | 0 comments

Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire is Zack Snyder’s ambitious Netflix space saga that sees a hardened group of rebels uniting to fight horrifying evil! What once was pitched to Disney as a mature Star Wars spin-off with new characters eventually turned into the director taking his idea and story of decades over to his new partners at Netflix. Capitalizing on the success and online outcry for Zack Snyder’s director cut of Justice League (Zack Snyder’s Justice League), Netflix allowed Snyder the ability to shoot this film as he would have and then edit a PG-13, shorter version that they could release on the platform first. With the knowledge that there’s a longer cut of this film out there, I can’t say that didn’t impact me after watching the film as I felt the 135-minute runtime wasn’t nearly enough time with these characters.

Rebel Moon

After crash-landing on a distant moon called Veldt, Kora (Sofia Boutella) immerses herself among the planet’s natives and aids them as they grow crops leading lives as simple farmers. When members of the galactic Imperium arrive in orbit and demand information about rebel uprisings in distant planets, Kora must help assemble a group to fight back against evil before Admiral Noble (Ed Skrein) finds the resistance members he seeks.

Bringing his trademark Snyderisms to a galaxy far from us, Zack Snyder crafts a truly unique feeling science fiction space opera as compared to what we’re used to. Realism and violence is something Snyder has never shied away from showing in his films, as they’re tools for the audience to really engage deeply with the heroes or villains of the story. On top of that, he also shows us the realities of our world that many tentpole and comic book films try to shy away from as they strive to keep things light and jokey. For this reason, many have been turned off to the projects Snyder creates and while I can understand his style may not be for them, I believe the seriousness of his stories and the tones of his films create an experience that feels far more dramatic and intense than what anyone else is doing.

Netflix has made both a great and problematic decision in offering up multiple cuts of Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire at different times, and I say that largely because while I enjoyed the film I watched, I could feel that it was edited down from a longer version that actually spends more time with the band of misfits it’s assembling. I really enjoyed Charlie Hunnam and Michiel Huisman in their vastly different supporting roles and there’s chemistry that exists on-screen that doesn’t always feel influenced by what we’ve seen. Doona Bae’s laser sword wielding Nemesis clearly has a troubling backstory of which allusions to are made, however I didn’t totally feel satisfied with the little time spent exploring her character. It’s my hope and understanding that the longer “directors cut” of this film will solve most of my own issues with this film, as well as the issues many others are feeling.

For all that’s left to be desired as we await a longer version of Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire, I’m happy to dispel the notion that this film plays like typical two-parters do as I believe it did a fine job wrapping up a portion of the larger narrative by the end of the film. Truthfully, I was almost shocked by the end that there weren’t a few dozen scenes setting up teasers for Part Two coming out next April, but I was pleasantly surprised that they didn’t force much. While certainly borrowing from some of the best film’s known to man, Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire manages to subvert your expectations at every turn and almost leans into the idea that you’re expecting certain beats because of what you think it’s imitating.

Where Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire spoke to me the most is how it treated the world and the stakes of the universe all the characters inhabited, grounding their stories in the reality of the very world we inhabit today. It’s easy to neglect the ugliness of war and the atrocities of man committed across thousands of years, but it’s another to blatantly avoid showing conflict or evil in movies and opting for more light-hearted, humor driven approaches to dealing with evil. It feels like in the last couple decades movies and media are afraid to show villains being punished or killed for their heinous crimes and it’s been increasingly rare that we see characters fight and battle to the death believing so much in the cause they support. Rebel Moon lets you know early on that it’s not going to sugarcoat what an Empire does to those unwilling to bend to its will and it also shows you the people brave enough to stand up to such awfulness. In classic Snyder fashion, sexual predators and genocidal warriors get exactly what they deserve and then some in a world that says sometimes revenge is necessary.

Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire in its current state is an enjoyable film that sews the seeds of some incredibly rich characters and worlds that feel bright and fascinating. It delivers sensational action and incredible sound effects which feel refreshingly awesome in the genre, though it does take some hits on the visual effects side from time to time. While most of the film looks terrific, there are some moments with noticeably shoddy CGI that looks somewhat unfished. While it’s not enough to take you out of the film, it does lead me to wonder how much of the film is still being worked on knowing that the director’s cut is about a year away for Netflix subscribers. I believe audiences will enjoy this bold new world and my hope is that like me, they too call for the release of the director’s version in an effort to continue to build on hype as we move forward towards Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver!

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