Zack Snyder is breaking atmosphere again. The director, famous for comic book films like Watchmen and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, has spent the last few years building fictional worlds for Netflix. His first realm-introducing film, Army of the Dead, led to a handful of spinoffs and planned sequels, but Rebel Moon appears to be something of a passion project. Reportedly built from a Star Wars pitch he dreamed just after Disney bought Lucasfilm, it burst onto the scene with a first teaser trailer in August to prove Snyder has some mad ideas to explore — even if some look familiar. But is the world ready for another space fantasy universe to explore? And will the myth prove as indestructible as the first trailer suggests? Let’s take a look at what we know of Rebel Moon and see if we can’t figure out if it will successfully take off.
(Photo by Clay Enos/©Netflix)
Per Netflix’s own description, the film centers on Kora (Sofia Boutella). Though a stranger among a community on a planet called Veldt, she soon becomes their only hope as an interstellar war comes to their peaceful colony world. To defend the life she has become accustomed to, she must assemble a team of “outsiders, insurgents, peasants and orphans of war from different worlds” to stand against Mother World, the capital of a spacefaring, expansionist empire. Along the way, the other fighters may find their own tales of revenge or redemption. But once the fight comes to Veldt itself, a new legend will be forged, forever altering the course of galactic history.
The ideas are familiar – the synopsis tips its hat to Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 masterpiece Seven Samurai — an influence Snyder readily admits — but it remains to be seen just how he and his collaborators will make it fresh. One thing in their favor: Seven Samurai has never seen a major science fiction extrapolation. Sure, it was remade as the western The Magnificent Seven (multiple times), it has inspired countless films with similar themes like Three Amigos and A Bug’s Life, and and the low-budget Roger Corman production Battle Beyond the Stars makes no bones about where it found its plot. Also, shows like The A-Team and Star Wars: The Clone Wars have positioned their characters into protecting a village from impossible odds, and various games and anime have taken more direct inspiration from the film. Nevertheless, a version of the tale complete with space ships and laser-swords is something new.
And while the swords glimpsed in the trailer are clearly inspired by Star Wars, it is always important to recall that the galaxy far, far away was itself inspired by Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress and John Ford’s classic western The Searchers – with a heavy dose of Flash Gordon serials to make it more science fiction. What counts is how Snyder and his team meld these elements into something new, and if putting a little of the Warhammer 40,000 aesthetic into the mix (in addition to Snyder’s own unique style) is what is required here, we hope the results are something unexpected.
(Photo by Justin Lubin/©Netflix)
Although clearly not set in the Warhammer 40K universe, the galaxy of Rebel Moon features a few recognizable traits of that gaming stalwart and other space operas. It appears the galaxy is in a state of total war, for one thing. But it is also a place of common interstellar travel, grimy dens of scum and villainy, and quaint villages worth protecting. Its antagonist force wears shiny, fascist uniforms and employs impossible technology. The heroes, meanwhile, are scrappy fighters with gumption and crumbling gear on their side.
In short: it is a science fiction reality many will recognize in the broad strokes, even if the particulars set it apart. That should be appealing for many even if the trailer remains short on specifics.
(Photo by Clay Enos/©Netflix)
Boutella leads the cast as Kora, the stranger among Veldt’s populace who has ties to both Mother World and the war out in the galaxy. Presumably, her willingness to form a magnificent band of protectors will be inspired by lingering guilt from her past. In the August trailer, we see her in a Mother World uniform and grieving the death of someone close to her. We imagine her knowledge of the empire’s tactics will come in handy as she searches for her team and trains them to protect Veldt.
Other cast members include Charlie Hunnam as Kai, Djimon Housou as General Titus, Snyder’s Justice League compadre Ray Fisher as Blood Axe, Sucker Punch‘s Jena Malone as Harmada, Michiel Huisman as Gunnar, Ed Skrein as Admiral Noble — as it happens, both of those last two actors played Daario Naharis on Game of Thrones — Doona Bae as someone called Nemesis, and Hawkeye’s Fra Fee as Regent Balisarius.
Also in the cast: Cary Elwes, Cleopatra Coleman, Corey Stoll, Staz Nair, Stuart Martin, Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, Alfonso Herrera, Rhian Rees, E. Duffy, Sky Yang, and Charlotte Maggi. And, as heard in the trailer, Anthony Hopkins lends his voice to a character known as Jimmy, an ancient robot knight who served Veldt’s original royal family centuries before the Mother World invasion. It remains to be seen just how key Jimmy’s contributions will be, but one imagines he will tell the tale of the Rebel Moon to a subsequent generation.
(Photo by Clay Enos/©Netflix)
Snyder needs no real introduction; his films are singular and invite as much praise as scorn. He may be one of the most divisive filmmakers working today but continues to be a source of startling images and unexpected fervor. He is credited with devising the film’s story, while Kurt Johnstad and Shay Hatten join him in scripting duties. The former is known for writing the adaptations of both 300 (directed by Snyder) by Frank Miller and Atomic Blonde (originally published as The Coldest City) by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart, while the latter is best known as the writer of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellulm and Chapter 4, as well as Snyder’s Army of the Dead and its Army of Thieves spinoff, the latter two also for Netflix.
Executive producers include Snyder, his wife and producing partner Deborah Snyder, Hatten and Johnstad, Sarah Bowen, and Bergen Swanson. The Snyders also serve as producers alongside Wesley Coller. And if Zack Snyder wasn’t doing enough, he also serves as the film’s director of photography, as he did on Army of the Dead, while Dody Dorn handles editing. Also on board are Stefan Dechant and Stephen Swain as production designers, Kristy Carlson as casting director, Stephanie Portnoy Porter as costume designer, and Junkie XL (aka Tom Holkenborg) as the film’s composer.
(Photo by ©Netflix)
Rebel Moon is actually a two-part film. Part one, subtitled A Child of Fire, arrives on Netflix this coming December 22. Part two, The Scargiver, is currently set for release on April 19, 2024. Whether or not the world of Rebel Moon continues beyond that is anyone’s guess. Snyder’s next couple of projects include further Army of the Dead features and a long-in-the-works adaptation of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. But if the first part of Rebel Moon hits Netflix’s desired metrics, we expect this new galaxy will continue to be explored. And if Snyder’s comments about a proper film trilogy, television shows, and games are anything to go on, their may yet be an expansive universe to chart.