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‘Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver’ review: Forgettable Netflix film number 854

Ryan Oquiza

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‘Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver’ review: Forgettable Netflix film number 854

Sofia Boutella reprises her role as Kora in ‘Rebel Moon — Part Two: The Scargiver.’


The second part of Zack Snyder's space epic embraces the worst aspects of video games -- the mindless action gameplay, the repetitive cutscenes, and the boring characters

If you had read my review of Rebel Moon: Part One, you’d have noticed that I was nice to the film, pointing out how its video game qualities actually act as its strength. But after watching the second part of Zack Snyder’s space epic, I sincerely believe that I may have been wrong in that assessment.

In an ironic twist of fate, we are now living in an era where adaptations of video games have never been better. The recent Amazon Prime Fallout series has exceeded expectations in terms of worldbuilding and storytelling, and HBO’s The Last of Us became an Emmy Award-winning phenomenon.

But whereas these artistic visions sacrifice the visual acuity of gaming and succeed by integrating existing lore with new interpretations, Snyder cannot sacrifice a good shot in favor of saying anything interesting in the finale to his two-parter.

Part Two embraces the worst aspects of video games. The mindless action gameplay, the repetitive cutscenes, and the boring characters.

Endlessly predictable

There are several moments where you can predict what the next line is because of how it’s set up. For instance, the female lead, who obviously harbors feelings for the male lead, asks him what he fears the most. Prince Charming then says “losing you.” They kiss, and Snyder cuts to a wide shot of a Saturn-like planet in the background. Predictable and empty, and it’s not saved by a gorgeous-looking shot.

In another moment, a group of kids come closer to a stoic Bae Doona to play with her while she’s out resting. If you’ve already seen more than five films, you know exactly that she’s going to initially scare the children, and then warm up to them with a smile.

Snyder appears to presume that audiences are already familiar with these tropes, hastily glossing over any potential bonding between the village defenders and the villagers, and swiftly moving on to the climactic battle. I normally forgive stuff like this — and Snyder’s filmmaking prowess is in action storytelling anyways — but he had an entire film prior to this to build his characters. 

Seven Samurai, one of this film’s unequivocal inspirations, had three hours to endear us to the seven village defenders, and by the time the bandits arrive, you fully understand the samurai’s deep care for the farmers they are protecting, accentuating the tension. Rebel Moon had four hours, and I still can’t confidently name three of the warriors.

Ed Skrein returns as Atticus, this franchise’s Vader. After meeting his demise at the hands of Kora (Sofia Boutella) at the end of the last one, he is swiftly resurrected. It makes you wonder why he had to die in the first place. Then, it hit me—the title of this film was Scargiver, and Kora gave him a scar because of their battle. Perhaps a fitting microcosm of how this film deals in “cool” absolutes, not anything with substance or depth.

Misses the point

A common complaint lodged at Snyder with his Man of Steel films was that he didn’t understand the character of Superman from the comics. I always thought that Snyder did the best he could with what he liked from a filmmaking standpoint. It didn’t always result in interesting characterization for Superman, but it was always just a bad directorial fit rather than a deliberate butchering of the comic book figure. 

Here, Snyder draws from Star Wars, but the difference is that I think he would be a great fit for this kind of science fiction genre. Despite this, there is no wonder and awe about space and its inhabitants, there is barely any aesthetic that burns itself into your mind, and there aren’t any lines that leave a lasting impact.

Circling back to Seven Samurai, Snyder also shows his penchant for lacking the ingredients to make the “group of ragtag warriors defending a small town village” story a fascinating one. In Rebel Moon, the people defending the village peasants aren’t fighting for the villagers — they already had every reason to fight against the Motherworld, protecting a small town was just a bonus. But what made Samurai so good was that the seven samurai had absolutely no reason to defend the village, they could barely even afford it, but they did so anyway.

How Snyder missed this point is encapsulated best in an exhausting dinner table conversation where the warriors share their personal backstories, explaining why they are going to great lengths to battle the space Nazis. My issue is that the scenes unfold in such a contrived manner that it almost feels like a parody. It reminded me of the opening of Tropic Thunder, where a series of mock trailers lampoons typical blockbuster movie clichés. 

Why not lay down these backstories in a more natural way sprinkled in between the first and second film? Snyder was able to do that successfully in his version of Justice League, fleshing out Cyborg and the Flash a lot better. My complaint from Part One still stands: none of the characters are given enough time to feel like characters despite spending a total of four hours with them.

Action snoozefest

There’s nothing else to say about Snyder’s action other than you get what you expect. But this time around, he adds it in moments you’d least expect: farming scenes. I even tested Netflix’ speed playback to check how it would look like sped up. At 1.5x speed, I could leave my TV, microwave dinner, come back, and still be in the same scene. Again, great for advertisements for food, not a great fit for space operas. 

It’s also unfortunate that the big final battle the film builds up to amounts to being entirely unwieldy and unsatisfying. Really? This is what we’ve been building up to for 3 and a half hours? Villagers surprisingly holding their own quite well, bare minimum sacrifices from forgettable fighters, and unremarkable spectacles that fail to provoke much controversy or reaction. For someone often regarded as a provocateur, Snyder surprisingly played it safe here.

At the end of the day, Rebel Moon will always be overshadowed by what it could’ve been and what it was trying to be. It attempts to be Star Wars yet it is overshadowed by its inability to innovate beyond what Star Wars already offers. On an extraneous point, is Netflix even the place for these types of epics? Because if there was any desire to make Rebel Moon an event and capture the magic of its world, the best setting would have been a movie theater, not a living room couch. – Rappler.com

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Ryan Oquiza

Ryan Oquiza is a film critic for Rappler and has contributed articles to CNN Philippines Life, Washington City Paper, and PhilSTAR Life.