Rebel Moon: A Child of Fire First Reviews: This Isn't the Sci-Fi Epic You're Looking For

Critics say Zack Snyder's space opera is visually impressive with some solid action, but it may largely find its audience with fans who are already accustomed to — and enjoy — his trademark stylistic flourishes.

by | December 15, 2023 | Comments

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Zack Snyder fans are sure to be excited for his latest movie, Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire, even if critics aren’t on board. The first reviews are in for the Netflix sci-fi epic, which famously originated as an idea for a Star Wars movie, and they are mostly negative. Despite it showcasing impressive worldbuilding and Snyder’s usual knack for entertaining action sequences, this first installment of a planned franchise is being criticized for being too derivative and failing to offer much more in the way of its storytelling and character development. Of course, it will find its audience, which is good since Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver arrives in just four months.

Here’s what critics are saying about Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire:

Has Zack Snyder created a new Snyderverse worth checking out?

“Given it’s an idea that’s been percolating in Snyder’s head for decades, it’s no surprise that Rebel Moon takes place in a richly detailed world.” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“This film builds a truly incredible world with stunning visuals, intriguing characters, and a villain that is sure to send shivers down anyone’s spine.” – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

“Each new world feels distinctive and vibrant, thanks to the work of production designers Stephen Swain and Stefan Dechant. This is where Snyder’s creativity truly shines, and it is genuinely impressive to see… Rebel Moon is a universe rich with opportunity.” – Rachel LaBonte, Screen Rant

“This misbegotten attempt at creating a new out-of-this-world Snyderverse is merely a knockoff dressed up in its director’s stylistic signatures.” – Nick Schager, The Daily Beast

“If you’re going to try your hand at world-building, maybe do so without cherry-picking from so many other existing movie worlds, because anyone older than 13 will immediately know all the references and realize there are much better movies they could be watching.” – Edward Douglas, Above the Line

Doona Bae as Nemesis, Ray Fisher as Bloodaxe, Staz Nair as Tarak, Charlie Hunnam as Kai, Sofia Boutella as Kora, Michiel Huisman as Gunnar, E. Duffy as Milius, and Djimon Hounsou as Titus in Rebel Moon (2023)

(Photo by Clay Enos/©Netflix)

Will his fans enjoy this film?

“All the usual Snyderisms are here, there’s plenty of slow-mo and brutal action and it’s hard to deny Snyder’s capabilities as a visual storyteller.” – Maria Lattila, Film Stories

“The Snyder faithful will no doubt eagerly devour Rebel Moon, as it holds plenty of his work’s hallmarks: incredibly fit characters carrying out breathless action sequences, striking visuals, and a lot of slow-motion.” – Rachel LaBonte, Screen Rant

“Fans of Snyder’s heightened brand of stern, muscular filmmaking won’t be left wanting.” – Neil Smith, Total Film

Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire bears all the familiar traits of a Zack Snyder movie – from the good to the bad – and if you’re not already a convert, you will be wondering what all the fuss is about.” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“If you’re not already a Zack Snyder fan or don’t like his style, this isn’t the movie for you. But, if you like his work, Rebel Moon is one of his better movies.” – Chris Bumbray, JoBlo’s Movie Network

Rebel Moon, while eminently watchable, is a movie built so entirely out of spare parts that it may, in the end, be for Snyder cultists only.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Is it a worthy homage to Star Wars?

“The Best Star Wars Movie Never Made. It’s not a stretch to say that Rebel Moon is more fun than anything that has come out of a Galaxy Far, Far Away in quite some time.” – Chris Bumbray, JoBlo’s Movie Network

“What’s almost cool about Rebel Moon is that it’s so unabashedly a gloss on only the 1977 Star Wars.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Rebel Moon doesn’t have the child-like curiosity and wonder that George Lucas’ career-defining franchise has, but it is a particularly handsome piece of action cinema.” – Maria Lattila, Film Stories

Rebel Moon began life, a decade ago, as a pitch for a new Star Wars franchise installment. Still, that doesn’t excuse its inability to fashion a single sight or idea that isn’t a dull sci-fi cliché.” – Nick Schager, The Daily Beast

Doona Bae in Rebel Moon - Part One: A Child of Fire (2023)

(Photo by ©Netflix)

Is Rebel Moon more than just a Star Wars wannabe?

“At times, Rebel Moon feels like an amalgamation of every other major franchise out there… It’s all done lovingly, but with so many visual references to other franchises, Snyder fails to make Rebel Moon into its own thing, with a strong identity and visual language.” – Maria Lattila, Film Stories

“This appears to be some sort of deliberate double homage, but it speaks to the threadbare derivativeness of this endeavor, whose plot and designs come across as faded photocopies of photocopies.” – Nick Schager, The Daily Beast

“More than the beat-for-beat parallels with Seven SamuraiRebel Moon takes its cues from a much more surprising touchstone: video games.” – Jeremy Mathai, Slashfilm

How is the script?

“A handful of the episodes are fun, like one where the noble hunk Tarak (Staz Nair) frees himself from indentured servitude by harnassing a giant blackbird who’s like a Ray Harryhausen creature.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“When not indulging in empty flowery language, Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, and Shay Hatten’s script has everyone bluntly explain who they are, what they feel, and why they’re doing what they’re doing.” – Nick Schager, The Daily Beast

“As with most of Snyder’s films, the script slightly lets A Child Of Fire down. A lot of seeds are planted for future installments, including next year’s Part Two: The Scargiver, but it’s at the expense of character work.” – Maria Lattila, Film Stories

“The problem is that the plot that Snyder has come up with for the movie is nowhere near as interesting as the world it takes place in.” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“The screenplay he co-wrote with Kurt Johnstad and Shay Hatten plays like the result of someone feeding Seven Samurai and Star Wars into AI scriptwriting software.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“The unfortunate fact remains that his storytelling instincts leave much to be desired.” – Jeremy Mathai, Slashfilm

Does it have any memorable characters?

“The movie is anchored by a star-making performance by Sofia Boutella… [Her] Kora is a classic dark heroine, with her embracing the character’s vulnerability to give her an edge.” – Chris Bumbray, JoBlo’s Movie Network

“There’s fun to be had with Charlie Hunnam’s insouciant turn as a wily pilot of the Han Solo school.” – Neil Smith, Total Film

“We are thrilled with how Ed Skrein portrays Admiral Noble… One of the best villains to grace the screen in a long time, he is sure to be a fun favorite.” – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

“No matter how much these characters describe and define themselves, they remain so utterly featureless that calling them one-dimensional would be a compliment.” – Nick Schager, The Daily Beast

Sofia Boutella and Michiel Huisman in Rebel Moon - Part One: A Childe of Fire (2023)

(Photo by Chris Strother/©Netflix)

How does it look?

“Visually, the film is impeccably mounted (as long as you like Snyder’s style in the first place).” – Chris Bumbray, JoBlo’s Movie Network

“Snyder’s signature look of dulled tans and browns, with pops of reds and yellows, is very common throughout the film. Let’s just say you won’t be wondering who directed it while watching it. This, of course, is not a bad thing.” – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

“Snyder, who shot the film himself, stages it on an impressively lavish scale (all the CGI sprawl a budget of $166 million can buy).” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“It’s visually impressive.” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“Although there’s some dodgy green screen work in A Child Of Fire, Snyder manages to craft magnificent visuals and his camerawork is pleasingly dynamic.” – Maria Lattila, Film Stories

How is the action?

“Something most people can agree on is that Zack Snyder knows how to pull off an action scene. Thankfully there are a lot of them in Rebel Moon – Part One.” – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

“The action scenes are dazzling.” – Chris Bumbray, JoBlo’s Movie Network

“The action sequences are well-staged, even if the slow-motion is overused (as to be expected from a Snyder movie by now).” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“Action sequences are filmed with clarity and rhythm.” – Maria Lattila, Film Stories

“Action scenes are serviceable enough but rarely exciting, pumped up with Snyder’s usual tool kit of speed-ramping and slo-mo.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

Sofia Boutella in Rebel Moon - Part One: A Child of Fire (2023)

(Photo by Clay Enos/©Netflix)

Does it feel like a complete film on its own?

“The movie ends on a more satisfying note than the majority of films split in two.” – Chris Bumbray, JoBlo’s Movie Network

“The biggest issue with Rebel Moon – Part One is that it feels like a set up film. This often happens when there are two parts to a film, but Part One does this while still delivering a lot of great action and driving the story forward.” – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

“The title Part One: A Child of Fire signals there is more to come in this story and, frustratingly, it falls into the typical pitfalls that come from a movie that is advertised to only be one half of the tale.” – Rachel LaBonte, Screen Rant

Will it leave fans excited for Part Two?

“By the time the end credits rolled, I was dying to see Part 2, The Scargiver.” – Chris Bumbray, JoBlo’s Movie Network

Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child Of Fire is a bit wobbly on its own two feet, but it promises great things for The Scargiver next year.” – Maria Lattila, Film Stories

“Without strong characters to root for, what will make us tune in for the sequel? Personally, I’ll be tempted to see what happens, but I can’t say I was left with a desperate need to have the next movie right this second when the movie ended.” – Rachel LaBonte, Screen Rant

“Given this first installment’s shoddy plagiarism, it’s hard to imagine it doing more than continuing to clumsily cover Lucas’s greatest hits.” – Nick Schager, The Daily Beast

“By the end of Rebel Moon, the closing title card of ‘End Part One’ feels more like a threat than a promise.” – Jeremy Mathai, Slashfilm

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