The Pitch: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away… an evil empire led by a dastardly villain (Ed Skrein) hunts down the last vestiges of a growing rebellion, fueled by the death of their godlike emperor. One such outer world that must be brought to heel is a humble farming planet, where a young, beautiful villager (Sofia Boutella) fights back against the soldiers looking to take their grain to feed their troops.
Recognizing that retaliation is nigh, Boutella’s Kora drags her everyman farmer sidekick (Michiel Huisman) off to space, to collect a rag-tag group of ronin from across the galaxy to help her defend their village. How many? Oh, about seven will do.
Seven Samurai Bring A New Hope to a NeverEnding Story: Beware any filmmaker bragging that their hip new sci-fi property is “the next Star Wars.” Doubly so with Zack Snyder, an auteur frustratingly always threading the needle between idiocy and genius, a straightforward purveyor of Renaissance spectacle whose works often need a little… massaging to make work. So it goes with Rebel Moon Part One, a film already split in half before seemingly chopped down to a manageable length for theaters before it hits Netflix in a matter of days.
It’s a neutered work, one that wears its influences so brazenly on its sleeve it’s a wonder Kurosawa doesn’t rise from the grave and file suit. Oftentimes, that’s not so bad: at its most entertaining, Rebel Moon hearkens back to all those chintzy cult Star Wars riffs that burst onto the scene in the late ’70s and early ’80s, from Krull to Battle Beyond the Stars to Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn.
But where those films had the charms of a low budget and the brazen attitudes of a company like the Cannon Group, Rebel Moon does a poor job of mimicking the first half of two movies you already know you like. Part One – A Child of Fire essentially constitutes the bit in Seven Samurai where the villagers assemble their team: go to one location, get introduced to a specific warrior and their quirks, move on. Here, it takes the form of an “assemble the team” montage that lasts for two straight hours, after a sluggish first act that establishes the stakes (and a glimmer of a more interesting subplot involving a warrior robot, voiced by Anthony Hopkins, demonstrating a budding sense of compassion).
From there, we whiz from one goofily-named planet to the next, the second act feeling like you’re binging an entire season of Love, Death, & Robots. In addition to Kora and Huisman’s Gunnar, there’s Han Solo-type Kai (Charlie Hunnam, trying desperately to infuse a sense of charm into this thing, not that the sound mixing can help you make out the dialogue), who agrees to transport them on his Not-Millennium-Falcon. Staz Nair’s Tarek is a muscly mix of Conan the Barbarian and Atreyu from The NeverEnding Story, proving his worth taming a majestic black griffin we never get to see again.