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Rebel Moon – Review

Call me cynical, but I always find reviewing bad movies far more enjoyable than good ones. Dissecting Tommy Wiseau’s ‘so-bad-its-good’ reverse masterpiece The Room, for example, is a joyous caper due to its unending stream of foibles. The chance to review Zack Snyder’s new Netflix blockbuster, Rebel Moon, was therefore not something I could pass up, having seen the torrent of dreadful reviews and the poor scores from Rotten Tomatoes (22%) and Metacritic (31%). The problem with this anti-genre is to do with intent. The Room is funny because it wasn’t meant to be; the damnable dialogue written earnestly for what Wiseau hoped was a good film. Rebel Moon is another; the enjoyment I got from its crap-ness does not detract from the blunt truth that the film is not good.

One phrase summed up my thoughts after watching-slash-trudging through this film: why? What was the point of it? Synder’s pet project defied cliché in how cliché it was. Often my dad and I, with stunning success, found ourselves predicting character’s lines before they actually said them. The plot was staid, its story beats hitting with clockwork timing. The simple village folk of the rebel moon in question, Veldt, have their innocence shattered as the Evil Empire threatens to blow them to smithereens. The film quickly becomes The Magnificent Seven in space, as Sofia Boutella’s anti-heroine protagonist Kora assembles a ragtag crew of reluctant adventurers to foil the comically wicked Space Fascist commander, played by a scene-chewing Ed Skrein. Kora, along with Michiel Huisman’s lunar bumpkin Gunnar, resolve to gather a team to fight back, leading to a brain-melting slog consisting of meeting each character and convincing them to move the plot along. This culminates in a final showdown between Kora and Skrein’s Atticus Noble. The only unexpected part about the ‘twists’ is how foreseeable they are; Charlie Hunnam’s roguish cad Kai turns out to be a roguish cad and betrays our heroes, Atticus Noble survives the final fight and is revealed to be a pawn of the next film’s antagonist, who himself raised Kora as an imperial soldier before she defected to become a farmer on Veldt. 

The characters are non-existent, with Synder pulling the old trick of substituting meaningful character development with a tragic backstory. The obvious romantic subplot between Kora and Gunnar, for example, has no impact when they are both so forgettable. Rebel Moon is left with pallid etch-a-sketches of characters from other, better films. If I seem uncharitable, it is because there really is vanishingly little that can be enjoyed in this film if not through the lens of irony. Even the fight scenes, often what many look forward to in space opera after wading through clunky exposition-laden dialogue, were just dull. Slow-mo, used to great effect in films such as X-Men: Days of Future Past, was used here as a crutch rendering all the fights uniform and uninteresting. 

I hear your cries of protest: you’re not meant to take it seriously! This kind of film is a fun, brainless romp à la Marvel! Sadly not. Snyder’s DCEU offerings were notably lighter than its rival on humour, and this film takes that lack of levity even further. I can’t remember one joke throughout its hefty 2 hour and 14 minute runtime. Don’t get me wrong; like everyone else in my generation, I am tired of the lazy millennial-esque quips that prevail in blockbusters. Serious films given space to be serious, like Oppenheimer or Joker, have proven they can achieve stellar success with audiences and critics alike. But Rebel Moon is not a serious film. While Snyder clearly tried hard to uprate the movie to a more adult version of Star Wars, with the supposedly morally muddled protagonists and implications of sexual violence in an early scene, it cannot escape its absurd premise. The film’s “heaviness” weighs it down rather than giving it an added punch. Watching it feels like a chore with no reward.

‘I have never courted popularity’, intones John Cleese in a Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch about a homicidal stockbroker. If Netflix viewing figures are anything to go by, my scathing acid for Snyder’s movie will not resonate with public opinion. Rebel Moon topped the charts for Netflix in the coveted post-Christmas week, and its audience scores have far exceeded the consensus from critics. Some fans even took to social media to demand an extended edition. Rebel Moon is basically enjoyable if you switch your brain off, but we deserve better blockbuster movies. While not every sci-fi has to be the strange, uncomfortable and masterful 2001: A Space Odyssey, for example, light entertainment should bring something new and original to the table.  If you want a rubbish film to while away a few hours, and some chuckles at inept dialogue, then Rebel Moon is worth a watch. But I’ve had my fill.

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