Zack Snyder’s Netflix follow up combines his signature style with classic sci-fi elements. We encounter a peaceful settlement of farmers, housing a stranger living amongst the villagers. The army of the Mother World, an authoritarian ruling government, comes to the planet in search of their crops. Once their military threatens the villagers, the stranger must travel across the galaxy to find an army willing to combat the regime. She must do so before the Mother World returns for the supplies.
At this point, I wouldn’t expect a Zack Snyder movie to release without polarizing responses. Sure enough, “Rebel Moon Part 1” fulfills that trend. Snyder leans into his signature stylistic choices here, where a bleak tone is soaked with a grim color grade. It also features many slow motion sequences during the battles. This combined with riveting fight sequences and a unique pairing of characters. Snyder also adds another great score to the film. It is epic in proportion and fits the weight of the premise. I understand some loath Snyder’s style, but I am thrilled to see him return to form after the disappointing “Army of the Dead”. Snyder is at the point where he isn’t trying to appeal to anyone new, which comes at a cost. But I found myself enjoying the premise, waiting to see where these characters go next. Bring on “Part 2”!
Snyder also has a knack for crafting stories on a grand scale. He creates villains worth hating and protagonists worth exploring. Sofia Boutella gives a good performance here, crafting a mysterious character that unfolds as the film goes on. Her troubled past with the Mother World was fascinating. She also kicks butt when she needs to. This is a good example of how to create a strong female character that doesn’t beat down the men in the film. Good on Snyder for doing that the right way! The world building is also a plus. There are so many characters and creatures that fit this dark world well. The visual aesthetic was also a highlight. Snyder’s characters often thrive in hardship, so the visual style creates a world that yearns for hope amidst a world full of pain. The first twenty minutes set up the premise in such an engaging way. There is plenty of tension, establishing the villains as a formidable threat. I’m very curious to see where the story goes from here.
I won’t fault those who clash with Zack Snyder’s films. He has established himself as a niche filmmaker who (for better or worse) has extremely divisive reception. Those who dislike his films probably won’t enjoy “Rebel Moon”. As I mentioned before, his signature style is amplified here. It seems Netflix is cutting Snyder loose and letting him make the film he wants to. Unfortunately he is going to alienate a lot of people who don’t like his slow motion scenes, grim tone, and overlong runtime. So just be aware before going in that he doesn’t do anything new here. The film also takes inspiration from many other sci-fi movies. “Star Wars” and “Seven Samurai” are the clear inspiration for the blueprints of the plot. Many seem to think Snyder uses too many elements from these films, so fans of those movies might view “Rebel Moon” as a knock off.
The visual effects were a mixed bag for me. Certain sequences looked seamless, where we feel as if we’re inside this world with the characters. Others are evidently shot with a green screen behind the actors. Hopefully “Part 2” cleans that aspect up. But the most disappointing part of the film is that another “Release the Snyder Cut” gimmick is teased. The film released to Netflix is the choppy PG-13 version where the violent scenes are neutered to appeal to a younger audience. I’m not sure why this continues to happen to Snyder when his style clearly leans into the brutality of the premise. He’s even gone on record saying the true R rated version is a very different film that has action scenes that include the violence. Perhaps Netflix should let Snyder create the R rated version he envisioned if they want this franchise to be successful. But I’m worried they might have alienated their audience already.
Zack Snyder’s return to form will be met with division. Being a fan of his style, I enjoyed the film. However, it is not without flaws, and certainly won’t win over any new fans. But if a new space epic with inspiration from the classics garners some interest, I recommend checking it out. The action, cinematography, premise, and tone all worked for me. I do hope the visual effects and template of the story improve by the release of the next film. “Part 2” will likely carry over the PG-13 characteristics of this one, but hopefully Snyder’s cut reveals his full vision…if viewers care at that point.