After decades of work (the original subject originated in film school days and around 2008 was proposed to Lucasfilm as a spin-off of Star Wars) and in the second round streaming on Netflix after the excellent heist-zombie movie hybrid Army of the Dead, the visionary director Zack Snyder, among the most divisive figures in contemporary cinema, had the opportunity and especially the budget to make Rebel Moon, impressive and ambitious new fictional universe which debuts from today, December 22, with the Part 1 – A Child of Fire. Somewhere between science and fantasy and avowedly inspired as much by Star Wars as by the cinema of Akira Kurosawa (who had in turn inspired George Lucas with The Hidden Fortress), the film tells the story of Kora (Sofia Boutella), a mysterious stranger with an enigmatic past.
After starting a new life on the planet Vedt, a peaceful settlement of farmers, he will despite himself become the only hope of salvation for his new fellow citizens when the tyrannical Regent Balisarius (Fra Fee) and his cruel emissary Admiral Noble (Ed Skrein) discover that the farmers have unknowingly sold their crops to the Bloodaxe (Cleopatra Coleman e Ray Fisher), two brothers who are leaders of a fierce group of rebels hunted by Mother World. Just as in the The seven samurai (here’s Japan’s best samurai movies), Kora volunteers to travel the length and breadth of the galaxy for the purpose of gathering the right group of warriors to attempt to repel the invading empire and prepare the people for the looming war on the rebellious moon.
Seven Space Samurai
Totally out of touch and divorced from any logic of today’s Hollywood thinking (Curious, unprecedented, and somewhat confusing is the marketing strategy of releasing Rebel Moon and its sequel Rebel Moon: Part 2, due in April 2024, in two different versions, PG-13 and rated-r with an hour of unreleased scenes, for a total of four films), Rebel Moon is a movie free of all obligations – seems to chase the unruliness of Heavy Metal, a cult animated film from 1981-and Snyder, a total demiurge who is at once producer, director, scriptwriter and even cinematographer of this work, seems to want to overdo it in every sequence: and, thank God, what a pleasure!
By definition film container of multiple imaginaries, melting pot of past and modern legends and mythologies, Rebel Moon: Part 1 encapsulates – in addition to the many works used as references – also all the characteristics of the Zack Snyder cinema itself, a cinema that – like it or not – thinks in images and that in images knows how to bask like few others. On an iconographic level, comparison with the many titles that Rebel Moon is inspired by or refers to is too easy a matter for barroom discussion, but clearly Snyder doesn’t care about any kind of comparison: It had already been taken care of by The Mandalorian, with one of the episodes of the first season, to bring Star Wars back to The Seven Samurai, and that is not the point here.
If anything, for a visual talent like Snyder (one of his main supporters is Christopher Nolan, who recently confessed to inviting his colleague to a super secret preview of Oppenheimer,, for an exclusive cine-club also completed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Todd Phillips and Denis Villeneuve, author of the other space-opera of the moment, Dune), capable of explaining a character’s story through a simple detail, an insert, an image, being able to invent a new world from scratch and squeeze it in the space of two and a quarter hours is a personal challenge on which the director of 300 is betting everything.
Rebel Moon: a tonic for the eyes
Reconnecting with the last lines of the previous paragraph, more than on character development (one of the repeated criticisms made of his cinema: one might also make the effort of intellectual honesty to realize that perhaps the author does not care at all about the ‘character arc’ that is so dear to the hearts of TV series lovers), Rebel Moon is all about the world that these characters live in and face and it really is a tonic for the eyes what is built into these scenes, the gaze used to admire the magnificence of these bodies in motion, the kinetic work to set up a new mythology and the various hyperbolic forms it can take.
The 3-hour director’s cut version coming in 2024 – a move increasingly in vogue for streaming services after Ridley Scott’s Napoleon – promises to bring many never-before-seen scenes, violence and sexual content cut from this PG-13 montage, with Zack Snyder that has promised ‘a completely different movie’ described as ‘Game of Thrones in space‘: given the precedents of the director’s cuts of Watchmen, Batman v Superman and Justice League it will be worth talking about again, but in the meantime the two hours of the ‘smooth version’ of Rebel Moon: Part 1 are two intense hours and of great entertainment.