Zack Snyder has made no secret of the fact that Rebel Moon, his two-part Netflix epic, started as a Star Wars project.


Watching it, it's not difficult to tell. Maybe it's the narration at the beginning that was clearly once an opening crawl, or the rather familiar story, or the moment where a character quite literally fights with lightsabers.

But that comparison makes one thing very clear - Rebel Moon is not where it needs to be in terms of a sci-fi epic.

It's an admirably ambitious project. Part One, titled A Child of Fire, and Part Two, The Scargiver (set for release in April), were filmed together, with Snyder immediately proclaiming it a franchise - perhaps slightly prematurely.

Following the success of Zack Snyder's Justice League (famously known as The Snyder Cut), the filmmaker is also releasing director's cuts of Rebel Moon, with higher ratings. It all seems like a lot, for a rather mediocre story.

More like this

Rebel Moon follows Kora (Sofia Boutella), a young woman with a mysterious past who's made a quiet farming colony her home.

But when it's threatened by the armies of the tyrannical Regent Balisarius (Fra Fee), and particularly his henchman Admiral Noble (Ed Skrein), she's forced to take action, seeking out warriors from neighbouring planets to help her make a stand.

Doona Bae as Nemesis in Rebel Moon holding weapons, looking determined
Doona Bae as Nemesis in Rebel Moon. Netflix

It certainly has redeeming elements. Snyder's world-building is impressive - as we're whisked off across the universe for this epic journey, we meet bizarre and brilliant side characters (that would have been great to see more of), with Jena Malone rocking up in a particularly surreal role.

Visually, it's absolutely beautiful, and there's no denying it's an epic offering, particularly when it comes to Netflix's catalogue. It also has some much-needed heart. Boutella is convincing as Kora, the fighter ready to risk it all to save her newfound home.

But, overall, it just needs more. The characters are interesting and have potential but, with the exception of Kora, we're barely introduced to them before we're whisked off elsewhere.

Stars like Charlie Hunnam, who plays Kai, Ray Fisher, who plays Darrian Bloodaxe, and Bae Doona, who plays Nemesis, certainly aren't the problem, giving nuanced performances where they can. It's what they've been given to work with.

There are whispers of interesting backstories and small moments that show us who this group of warriors that we're supposed to care so much about are - but they're few and far between, to the point that it won't be surprising if viewers leave the experience forgetting most of their names.

It's clear from how Snyder and the cast talk that there was a huge amount of thought put into the characters and their stories, with Skrein revealing to that he filled six pages of notes from just his first chat with Snyder.

Unfortunately, this work is barely seen on screen - instead, we're whisked off once again to another corner of the universe, instead of spending just a bit longer with these characters, a choice that could have made a huge difference.

Perhaps it's an unfortunate side effect of splitting the film into two parts - which often works much better at the end of a franchise rather than the beginning, and with well-established stories.

What worked well with Dune, an already well-loved IP, doesn't quite track with a new story like Rebel Moon. Clearly much of the action and story has been saved for Part Two, with Part One providing a huge amount of exposition and set-up, at least when it comes to the new world we've been introduced to.

The assumption is that our patience will pay off when it comes to April - but that's a lot to ask of an audience.

Whether it's worth sticking around to see what Snyder will do next with it is up in the air - as is whether fans will find it worth their while to also watch the director's cuts - as, despite its title, Rebel Moon: A Child of Fire won't set the world alight.

Now would have been a good time for an epic new sci-fi franchise. As confidence in the MCU is waning, and the DCU has yet to make a huge splash under James Gunn, there's certainly an appetite for something new, especially from such a well-established filmmaker as Snyder.

Unfortunately, though, Rebel Moon isn't the one to tie our hopes to.

Rebel Moon - Part One: A Child of Fire is available to stream now on Netflix. Sign up for Netflix from £6.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

Check out more of our Film coverage, or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


Try Radio Times magazine today and get 10 issues for only £10 – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.