REBEL MOON - PART ONE: A CHILD OF FIRE Review: Lovingly Unoriginal Space Adventure

Contributing Writer; Chicago, IL (@anotherKyleL)
REBEL MOON - PART ONE: A CHILD OF FIRE Review: Lovingly Unoriginal Space Adventure

There's no denying that Rebel Moon - Part One: A Child of Fire, which follows a pair of farmers as they seek aid from fighters to make a stand against the space imperials who would rob their village of its harvest, is derivative of other films.

Beyond the fact that the film is an obvious Seven Samurai and Star Wars fusion, there's also the fact that Battle Beyond the Stars did the same thing more than 40 years ago. But does that really matter? And if it does, why can't it be a good thing?

Like Sucker Punch more than a decade ago, A Child of Fire feels like a playground for story writer/director Zack Snyder to mix and match elements from things he loves in what can just as easily be called a celebration of influences as an uninspired pastiche. Like the multiple fantastical sequences in Sucker Punch, the many planets in A Child of Fire allow Snyder to freely play with varied and seemingly disparate aesthetics.

Early on, sleek, dark metal, multiple rocket propelled landing ships of the villainous Motherworld land at protagonist Kora's (Sofia Boutella) adoptive home village that looks very much like the medieval Scandinavian inspired Rohan in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings series. Later a flashback draws on a different city in Jackson's adaptation, the blue gray city of ruins Osgiliath, and fills it with bright red laser gunfire.

Another sequence has the aid-seeking characters stop at a classic Western ranch, but instead of horses, the corral is home to a jet black griffin, or rather "bennu," a creature that gives the film its greatest scene of true movie magic wonder when it takes a human character for a ride. There's also an entirely wooden city plucked out of any jidaigeki and a city evocative of the Blade Runner films where the farmers witness one of their recruits battle a humanoid spider monster played with relish by Jena Malone.

The only worldbuilding problem with the Rebel Moon universe is one that applies to Star Wars as well: that the main players are all human. When Kora and her companion Gunnar (Michiel Huisman) begin their search for fighters, they visit a bar in the nearest city and as with the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars, A Child of Fire takes the opportunity to show off a variety of creative alien designs. But in both, these imaginatively designed alien characters highlight that the core cast of these films are humans who don't require hours in makeup chairs or hours of post-production to render fantastical.

As in Star Wars, those frustrations are forgivable, though, especially when the film delivers on the action that Snyder has become famous for, sometimes comically so. The fights are full of the slow-motion and speed-ramped combat Snyder perfected in 300. The sound for hand-to-hand blows are deafeningly heavy thumps whether the visual calls for level of sonic impact or not. Laser gunfire is even louder and farther down the low end while blade cuts offer some of the sharpest sounding slice sounds accompanied by blood soaring through the air. It's joyously over the top stuff in the best way.

Similarly over the top, or at least overly on the nose, is the majority of the dialogue that brings to mind the "I know writers who use subtext and they're all cowards" joke. But it's all delivered with such sincerity, both from the very game A-list actors and from Snyder's framing of them as they speak, that it's impossible to be cynical about.

Like the aesthetics Snyder's playing with, you can feel his adoration for the narratives he's pulling from and just how seriously he takes their themes of redemption and hope in the face of oppression. That adoration makes it clear that A Child of Fire is a movie from a filmmaker who loves movies and just wants to make movies for other people to love. And we certainly can't hold loving movies against him or the film.

The film now streaming worldwide on Netflix,

Rebel Moon - Part One: A Child of Fire

  • Zack Snyder
  • Zack Snyder
  • Kurt Johnstad
  • Shay Hatten
  • Sofia Boutella
  • Djimon Hounsou
  • Ed Skrein
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NetflixSofia BoutellaZack SnyderKurt JohnstadShay HattenDjimon HounsouEd SkreinActionAdventureDrama

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