Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire
Written by Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad and Shay Hatten
Directed by Zack Snyder
Starring Sofia Boutella, Djimon Hounsou, Ed Skrein, Michiel Huisman, Bae Donna, Ray Fisher, Charlie Hunnam, Anthony Hopkins, Staz Nair, Fra Fee, Cleopatra Coleman and Stuart Martin
When a peaceful settlement on the edge of a distant moon finds itself threatened by the armies of a tyrannical ruling force, a mysterious stranger living among its villagers becomes their best hope for survival.
Writer/director Zack Snyder has returned with a new sci-fi adventure that has an interesting back story. Apparently, Snyder pitched this new film as part of a new trilogy of Star Wars films and you can definitely see that in the final product, but there are also elements of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 masterpiece Seven Samurai in it as well. So Snyder took two visually stunning and entertaining stories and managed to get close to half of that equation right in the first film.
The Seven Samurai elements are glaringly obvious to anyone who saw the original film because the premise of A Child of Fire follows it almost exactly. A small farming community is being menaced and they need a small band of warriors to teach them how to defend themselves. A Child of Fire casts Sofia Boutella’s Kora as the main character and sends her out with fellow farmer Gunnar to search for the warriors that they need. The Star Wars elements come from the fact that the villains the planet faces are part of a galactic empire who (for some reason) need this specific farming communities goods to sustain their forces.
The first problem with the film is basic, why? Why does this powerful empire whose forces reach across the galaxy need this particular planet and its grain. Snyder never explains why this planet is so important. Is the grain special? Does it only grow on this one planet? Answering these simple questions could have given some much needed context to the film and the struggle of its characters and connecting with the characters is the next big problem with this film.
I will admit that after watching this movie twice, I had to go to its IMDB page to remember the names of any of its characters. None of these characters stand out either in performance or personality and once a scene with them ends, you instantly forget them. Even Ed Skrein’s villain is forgettable beyond his actions and his name was almost never mentioned. The only character I could remember was Ray Fisher’s Bloodaxe and that was mostly because of the name. He’s given almost nothing to do and his character is supposed to be the biggest menace the empire faces.
Getting past the recognizable actors and their forgettable characters, the action is pure Snyder. It looks amazing at times and rough at others. One of Snyder’s signature visual tricks is the slow motion shot and there are moments where that shot works beautifully to emphasize the action and power of the characters. Unfortunately, it’s so overused that it became predictable. Bae Donna’s Nemesis has probably the best action fight scene in the film and it gives Snyder the excuse to introduce his version of lightsabers into the mix. A move that neither looks compelling or means anything either for the characters or the narrative.
The movie is visually stunning. There are some great effects shots and the cinematography is amazing. Zack Snyder is brilliant at creating impressive and visually stunning scenes. Unfortunately, he can’t seem to fill any of those scenes with anything of substance. If all you can remember are scenes and not characters, motivations, conflict or story, then what ultimately do you have to be entertained by?
Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire is a visually stunning and deeply flawed movie that relies too heavily on the visuals that it sacrifices both the story and the characters. It suffers from huge logic problems that cripple its ability to connect with the viewer and characters so wooden and and unremarkable that they and the film are ultimately forgettable.
Editor’s Note: There is supposed to be a director’s cut of A Child of Fire coming to Netflix that many are claiming is better than the version currently released on the streaming service. Considering Netflix pursued this deal with Snyder after the success of Army of the Dead, I have to ask myself why didn’t Snyder just release his cut initially? It sounds like the streaming service and production company knew the film was not particularly good and are trying to retain the interest of Snyder’s hardcore fans by teasing them with another version of a deeply flawed film on order to get them to watch the next one.
My hope is that we will not have to endure multiple releases of all three films, but I’m sure that’s exactly what is going to happen.