‘Rebel Moon: Part Two – The Scargiver’ review: Can Zack Snyder save his space epic?  from Mashable

Here we go again. It’s been just four months since Zack Snyder dropped Rebel Moon: Part One – Child of Fire on Netflix. The project — originally pitched as a Star Wars movie — failed to thrill critics or audiences. (It currently holds a 21 percent rating from the former and 57 percent from the latter on Rotten Tomatoes.) But Netflix bet big on Snyder, who has long had DCEU fans in a tizzy over his dark visions of grim heroics and perfume-ad glamorous protagonists. By the time the first Rebel Moon movie was getting slammed online, the sequel had already been made. So, Rebel Moon: Part Two – The Scargiver arrives, too soon for the failure of the last film to be forgotten.

But here’s the surprise: This sequel — which really feels more like the second act of a Snyder cut that could use a generous edit — is better than what came before. Or at the very least, it’s less doggedly dour, giving its talented supporting cast, which includes Djimon Hounsou, Bae Doona, and Elise Duffy, the chance to flex.

How does Rebel Moon: Part Two connect to Part One? 

Credit: Netflix

Rebel Moon: Part Two – The Scargiver picks up immediately at the clumsy end of the last movie. Steely heroine Kora (a stiff Sofia Boutella) returns to her village with her lackluster love interest Gunnar (Michiel Huisman) and a band of outcasted warriors at her side, willing to help her adopted community fight back an evil empire. Meanwhile, the vicious Admiral Atticus Nobel (Ed Skrein in Deadpool smirk mode), who nearly died in their last battle has healed up, and is coming for round two. 

Bizarrely, the character development that critics begged for in Part One is wedged into Part Two ahead of this climactic confrontation. With five days until the villainous space forces will descend on the humble farming planet of Veldt, Kora and her crew not only have to prepare for battle — they have to harvest the crops! It’s a bit comical to see Snyder’s love for slo-mo action applied to Hounsou wielding a scythe or Doona tossing grain. But undeniably, it is a pretty sight, in part because their characters clearly relish this moment of peace and communal harmony. Later scenes involving a village celebration bring further warmth to the film — that is until these warriors party foul by trauma dumping their tragic backstories in silent gold-tinted flashbacks.

The placement of these revelations is confounding, coming a full movie too late. But each performer understands the two-part assignment of them. In physical performance, their actions carry a slight theatricality, capturing the severity of these events on their psyches. In voiceover, one by one, they speak with regret, grief, and growling determination, detailing their motivations. Even as the CGI that swirls around them feels more suited to the slight hokiness of Doctor Who than a Hollywood blockbuster, these earnest deliveries ground their heartbreak.

It’s a good sequence, but feels outrageously out of place. Imagine if George Lucas Took three hours before explaining who Princess Leia is? 

Sofia Boutella can’t shoulder Snyder’s stodgy space opera. 

Credit: Netflix

As inexplicably as Rebel Moon as a whole is structured, its second part is stronger for its richer inclusion of the other warriors. Korra, with her background as an orphan refugee turned heel for the evil empire turned rebel, is an arc we’ve seen in Star Wars with Finn and recently in Fallout with Maximus. But Snyder and his fellow screenwriters Shay Hatten and Kurt Johnstad bring nothing new to this archetype. And Boutella’s performance is so steely that she’s out-emoted by a robot. 

Credit: Netflix

Voiced by Academy Award-winner Anthony Hopkins, Jimmy the battle droid is still woefully underused. Aside from once more intoning the opening exposition dump (instead of the iconic Star Wars crawl), he spends most of this movie stealthily looking on — while wearing antlers — as the organic characters scurry about in preparation for war. When he finally touches down in the action, it is thrilling — but also easy to want more.

Elsewhere, others carry emotional weight where Boutella’s stiffness fails to. Doona, playing a lone swordsmaster finally embraced by a community, offers a heart-warming arc alongside committed fight sequences. As an intimidating war hero, Honsou, who was astonishingly underused in the last film, gets a chance to give a rousing speech, ooze pathos, shed tears, and even raucuously cheer. And when it comes to slo-mo kicking dudes in the chest, no one does it better. Elise Duffy, who places the face-painted rebel Milius, brings a grounded earnestness, while Skrein huffs and puffs, relishing the role of wolf. (Sadly, MVP of the first film, Charlie Hunnam’s douchebag space pirate, is long gone.)

This is not the space epic you are looking for. 

Credit: Netflix

While The Scargiver finally brings character and fun into the mix, it still falls short in terms of a satisfying action epic. It’s a too little and too late, I’m afraid. Whether this is a Star Wars movie or simply inspired by George Lucas’s world-changing epic franchise, it’s impossible not to compare them. And Snyder doesn’t have what it takes to compete. 

Some of it is a matter of scale. While Rebel Moon boasts an array of sets, special effects (including Snyder’s flat-bladed version of lightsabers), crowd scenes and scads of costumes, these movies feel stingily budgeted when it comes to stunt scenes. For instance, a much-anticipated sequence of betrayal is finally revealed, and its ruthless regicide shot chiefly in frustrating close-up, robbing us of the grandeur of this horrid moment. Other fight scenes are similar confined, bleeding away the awe that might be had over bombastic, big spectacles. Thankfully, in Doona’s sword battle, wide shots give us an encompassing view of her sweeping fight choreography. But within these moves, there’s nothing show stopping. 

The big climax — it seems — is where the bulk of the budget is employed. Here, laser guns spray bright red flames. Smoke blooms from plummeting spaceships. A long-awaited warrior finally has his super cool spotlight moment, while others nobly risk annihilation for the cause. Good and evil clashes on land and in the skies, with fire, fury, and laser sabers. This finale is where you can most clearly feel Snyder’s passion for his own galaxy far far away.

Still, walking so dedicatedly in the shadow of Star Wars, Rebel Moon cannot shine.

Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire is now streaming on Netflix.

Rebel Moon — Part Two: The Scargiver is now streaming on Netflix.

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