Rebel Moon: Part 1 - Child of Fire
Zack Snyder's space epic is a barrage of exposition and slow-motion
Zack Snyder’s jump from Warner Bros. to Netflix seems to have allowed him to deliver on the ambitious stories he’d been restrained from telling. We first got a grimy zombie spiritual sequel to his Dawn of the Dead (2004) with Army of the Dead (2021), and now we have the unofficial Star Wars film that Zack Snyder was never able to make in Rebel Moon: Part 1 – Child of Fire (2023).
Rebel Moon: Part 1 – Child of Fire is set in a Star Wars-like setting, of a farming moon ruled by an evil galactic empire. We have the Nazi-like Admiral Noble (Ed Skrein) terrorizing farmers. A mysterious villager, Kora (Sofia Boutella), showcases admirable fighting skills and a knowledge of how the empire works. She sets out with farmer Gunnar (Michiel Huisman) to recruit fighters to protect their village.
The film is Zack Snyder’s second at Netflix and a supposed plan for a film franchise (hence the “Part 1” in the title). While Netflix is undoubtedly piling money into Snyder’s vision in hopes of a new franchise, viewers are getting a derivative film that isn’t even trying to hide its emulations to Seven Samurai (1954) or Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977).
Snyder is very taken with his world and lore, sadly his script is once again a barrage of exposition and flashbacks, seeking to explain the backstory of his world and characters until the credits roll. This leads to a stilted story that feels like Cats (2019) in that it’s simply stitched sequences of characters introducing themselves and their quirks. There is little chance at banter, character development, or even plotting before the over 2-hour film wraps up. The episodic structure of Rebel Moon: Part 1 – Child of Fire and the macro view of its story also means that intriguing threads, such as that of an ancient droid voiced by Anthony Hopkins, are never visited again.
As with any Snyder film, Rebel Moon: Part 1 – Child of Fire is visually stunning, with Snyder acting as his own director of photography. Albeit his overuse of slow-motion is parodic at this point (he even has grains of rice falling in slow motion), Snyder still retains a visual flare and ability to capture imagery in his unique way. His action and ambition get the better of him though, as the demands of CGI and greenscreens begin to make themselves seen in increasingly noticeable sequences with poor rendering.
Snyder assembles a talented cast, yet the material they’re given doesn’t allow for much depth or salvaging to occur. Skrein as the villain is one of the few who juices out his material to a satisfying degree. The rest, from Charlie Hunnam to Djimon Hounsou, are lost in the barrage of exposition and flashbacks.
In the end, Rebel Moon: Part 1 – Child of Fire is an ambitious start for a space saga, yet the blocky writing, derivative plotting, and inexistent character development has it become a dense and dull watch. Snyder retains his attractive cinematic visuals, but sadly without a compelling script this can only make each scene so digestible.