Rebel Moon: Part 2 review — Zack Snyder is better than this

Cameron Frew
Sofia Boutella in Rebel Moon Part 2

If the cinema gods had any mercy, they’d ensure that Rebel Moon: Part 2 – The Scargiver is the end of Zack Snyder’s feeble, seemingly interminable Netflix saga; save us.

Snyder is a hard man to root against. His bombastic stylings are undoubtedly influential, and there’s a pure-hearted sincerity to everything he does; is it really so bad that he just wants everything to look as cool and badass as possible, regardless of the dramatic cost?

But Rebel Moon, by some fault of his own, feels inept and corrupt at its core; why should we hand over precious time to inferior, softcore versions of movies before his fuller, gnarlier director’s cuts are released? Time and time again (Watchmen, BvS, Justice League), he’s proven they’re the only ones worth seeing — so why should we even bother right now?

That glaring issue aside, there’s another problem: from Part 1’s first minute to the aggravating, cloying climax of The Scargiver, Rebel Moon feels like a hollowed-out, half-baked imitator of movies we’d all rather be watching.

Rebel Moon: Part 2 is an anticlimax

After the ending of Part 1, Kora (Sofia Boutella) is back on Veldt alongside her brave companions: Gunnar (Michiel Huisman), Titus (Djimon Hounsou), Tarak (Staz Nair), Millius (E. Duffy), and Nemesis (Doona Bae). After killing Atticus Noble (Ed Skrein), Kora believes they’re safe from the Imperium’s wrath — but he’s alive, and those nasty space Nazis have every intention of collecting their grain.

So, Titus trains the villagers in combat; they slice and dice stationary straw-men, learn how to fire plasma weapons, and ready themselves to “fight or die.” There’s also the small matter of Regent Balisarius (Fra Fee), Kora’s adoptive father and of the Motherworld’s tyrannical leader, who’s ordered Noble to bring her to him alive.

It’s a not-so-magnificent rift on the Seven Samurai story that goes almost exactly as you’d imagine, with big, action-packed moments telegraphed well in advance and a truly ridiculous amount of farming in slow motion (just when you think they’ve got enough wheat, Snyder cuts back to more) — and, most frustratingly, it doesn’t come to a resolution. If Part 1 felt like one bloated half of a single movie, together they feel like an overlong trailer for the next part of a story; messy, insubstantial, and weightless.

Part 2 is a slight improvement

Part 2 does benefit from its more straightforward story, after Part 1’s incoherent (if occasionally interesting) planet-hopping. There are well-deployed stuff, too; Nemesis’ cautious relationship with a motherless young boy from the village is cute, the use of “solemn choral music” is overused but still effective (especially compared to Junkie XL’s numbingly loud, braaam-packed score), and it flirts with Dulce et Decorum Est-ish ideas (before succumbing to its boyish impulses).

Snyder has always been a strong visualist, and it shows in Rebel Moon’s action; Kora’s sloping fight with Noble on a spaceship is thrilling, his ‘lightsabers’ (Krypteian oracle steel blades, as they’re officially known) swoosh and cut with dazzling velocity, and one particular flashback of the Imperium annihilating a small village may be the most immersive moment of the film.

Staz Nair as Tarak and Djimon Hounsou as General Titus in Rebel Moon Part 2

But there’s a few issues: the CGI is iffy, the choreography isn’t that inspired (why do so many people hit people with their guns rather than shoot them?), and for the most part, it’s not exciting; the second half is full of explosions, gunfire, fighting, and death, but it’s certainly not a spectacle. It’s not much better than a video game — but one of those budget sci-fi knockoffs doomed to never-ending price reductions on a dusty shelf.

Here’s the biggest problem: Snyder’s cinematography here is categorically, unavoidably bad, an ugly mesh of shallow focus, close-ups, and lens flare that’s incredibly distracting. It worked in Army of the Dead, but Rebel Moon is proof of a larger, unfortunate truth: Snyder thrives when he has collaborators — right now, he’s all yang and no ying.

The star of Rebel Moon: Part 2 doesn’t even make sense

Boutella has even less to do this time, but she’s still a capable, physically impressive heroine, and her hardy band of warriors convincingly grunt and punch their way through every action scene (with the exception of a strained trauma-dump scene). Fee gets even less screen time in the sequel (who knows if we’ll ever see Kora and Balisarius reunite), while Skrein’s wide-eyed villain injects every scene with a bit of manic, keyed-up energy.

Hopkins reprises his role as Jimmy (or James, as he enjoys being called), a cyborg knight who roams Veldt with antlers and a cape (don’t ask why) without a purpose, confused about his urge to fight without a king to protect. As a character, he is utterly baffling; insanely overpowered when duty calls, and clearly more clued up on the royal lore than any of the other characters — but Hopkins’ voice work is charming, and whenever he shows up, there’s at least a baseline of intrigue. If only that could be said for the rest of the movie.

Rebel Moon: Part 2 review score – 2/5

Rebel Moon: Part 2 – The Scargiver doesn’t do anything to justify itself or its predecessor, never mind a franchise. At this point, anything more feels like a threat.

Both Rebel Moon movies are streaming on Netflix now. You can find out more information about the Rebel Moon cast, and other new movies coming out in April.