Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver (2024) Review

Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver (2024) Review

Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver (2024)
Director: Zack Snyder
Screenwriters: Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, Shay Hatten
Starring: Sofia Boutella, Djimon Hounsou, Ed Skrein, Michiel Huisman, Doona Bae, Ray Fisher, Anthony Hopkins, Staz Nair, Fra Fee, Cleopatra Coleman, Stuart Martin, Ingvar Sigurdsson, Alfonso Herrera, Cary Elwes, Rhian Rees, Elise Duffy, Sky Yang, Charlotte Magi, Stella Grace Fitzgerald 

Is Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon – Part Two better than the opening instalment? Marginally, but only because all the boring setup is now out of the way and we can more-or-less get straight to the action. This is, after all, the sci-fi epic version of the big battle that ended Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven and any number of reimaginings over the decades. 

Right off the bat you get some portentous choral singing to set the moody tone that director Zack Snyder usually goes for. Then robot knight Jimmy (Anthony Hopkins) gives us the recap narration. The battle for the agricultural moon of Veldt comes to a head with former Imperial soldier Kora (Sofia Boutella) rallying the small band of warriors she has gathered to fight against the far more advanced and numerous invading forces of The Motherworld under the command of the back-from-the-dead fanatic Admiral Noble (Ed Skrein).

We have some similar issues to last time from the start, when characters first start opening their mouths, because most of the dialogue is still as clunky as hobnail boots. From the evil cyborg doctors saying out loud of the soon-to-be resurrected Admiral Noble: “We don’t know what’s left of him when we bring him out of the chrysalis” to Kora’s leaden, expository pillow talk: “Remember how I told you I was raised by Balisarius, regent of the Imperium, and how I was a bodyguard to the Princess Issa?”. With talented production design teams who worked on projects like Avatar and Rogue One, you can make your space opera look as convincingly spectacular as you like, but if the spell is broken each time someone feels they have to explain something for the people at the back then you’re never going to be on to anything remotely compelling. 

We killed the big bad, that means we win, right? Right? Even though this particular dead archvillain got better, it’s nice that they acknowledge that coming as he did from a totalitarian industrial-military complex, Admiral Noble could be very easily replaced. It seems at times like they are setting up the bad guys to do more, beyond all-purpose oppression and a flashback to a royal massacre accompanied by an intentionally jarring string quartet, but that might have to wait for Part Three, whenever that materialises. One of the villains does get a well-deserved gasp-inducing and brutal death, if you could actually see it between the cuts that is. 

Doona Bae is still the best thing in this as the near-silent assassin Nemesis, conveying more with a subtle change in expression than any amount of rote dialogue ever could, and just like last time she gets the best action scene in the movie. Djimon Hounsou comes a close second as the charismatic disgraced General Titus, and proves he should be given more opportunities to give inspirational speeches and sing. Our nominal leads Sofia Boutella and Michiel Huisman, who have both been good in other projects, are less inspiring here and it’s really difficult to care what happens to most of this unlikely band of fighters, few of whom are distinct enough to make an impression, even after swapping war stories the night before the final battle. 

The obvious Star Wars comparisons continue when this film has its very own Lando selling out the good guys, a lightsaber duel that’s not a lightsaber duel, a Death Star arming sequence, and a plan to blow up the enemy flagship from the inside. Like with Part One, Snyder’s genre movie reference points aren’t limited to a galaxy far far away. At one point, cries of victory are abruptly cut short when our fighters catch sight of something deadly lumbering towards them in the distance  – not giant elephants, but this couldn’t be more Lord of the Rings if it tried.

When Snyder calms down and takes a breath between the action, he can bring some beautiful moments of monotony-breaking tranquillity to the screen. A robot lying back, listening to a song and taking in the stars or a grain harvesting montage in luxuriant slow motion are lasting images, they’re just few and far between. 

When the long-awaited battle does finally arrive, it’s pretty cool to witness, is creative, has clear scene geography and momentum, and allows Snyder and his art teams to indulge in creating some particularly mean-looking futuristic weapons of war. 

The closing of this particular chapter of Rebel Moon definitely sets up more movies in this universe, maybe some that will be able to do more of their own thing, but for now Snyder has given us both parts of his new action-space opera and neither will stay particularly vividly in our minds. This looks as good as the rest of the director’s projects but there still isn’t enough to make it stand out from any number of genre films aping what has come before. The movies definitely don’t need to be longer, but perhaps when he adds back in all the gore and adult material later this year for his extended cuts, the footage might include some much-needed character beats as well. It would be nice if each hero’s main personality trait couldn’t be summed up so easily by a villager sewing an appropriate animal onto a poncho.

Score: 11/24

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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