Rebel Moon - Part Two: The Scargiver


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Rebel Moon - Part Two: The Scargiver
"It’s a peculiar thing to see a man who steals so liberally run out of ideas." | Photo: Netflix

The influence of AI on cinema is now inescapable, especially when it comes to popular action films. At what point does live action become a cartoon? At what point does it all become too artificial for viewers to care? These are the questions viewers are being asked, and yet, when one considers the work of Zack Snyder, one wonders if we have not in fact been living in that soulless universe for quite some time. If one were to put AI at one end of a scale and human creative artists at the other, Snyder would be standing precisely in the middle.

The first of his Rebel Moon films managed to entertain nonetheless, in B-movie fashion, as long as one did not expect too much. It helped that it had some very capable people in its cast, and that helps here too – Anthony Hopkins’ knowingly hammy introduction is a treat – but Part Two still falls far short of its sibling’s two star achievement. It’s a peculiar thing to see a man who steals so liberally – this time from Gladiator, The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers and Aliens, among others – run out of ideas.

Copy picture

Let’s deal with the basics first. This is not only a sequel but a film absolutely dependent upon you having seen its predecessor. The skimpy introduction serves to remind us of the setting and the principal characters’ names, but little more. At the end, a character appears whose identity and motives you will have no clue about if you’re a newcomer. There is no effort made to help viewers get to know the characters, beyond heroine Kora (Sofia Boutella) and a bad guy she killed last time (yes, it’s one of those), and even they don’t get to develop further. She gets to talk tough and get gradually grimier over the course of the story. He gets to act tough by randomly shooting an unfortunate robot who looks like a coffee table and then showing complete disdain for negotiated commitments or the lives of his own men. It never seems to occur to anyone that codes of honour exist for everyone’s benefit, and there are no grown-ups in the room to set him right.

The film’s token people of colour, who also happen to be its best actors, are woefully underused. All Bae Doona gets to do is engage in some martial arts-style fighting with her glowing not-a-lightsaber-honest blades, whilst Djimon Hounsou is there to say the occasional wise thing and do a bit of ritualistic chanting. We’re back on Veldt, the planet of the space Vikings, where their characters, along with the others gathered in Battle Beyond The Stars fashion in the first part, are ready to defend a small village whose grain the bad guys are trying to steal. The build-up is achingly slow. Kora spends a lot of it moping about with her pointless boyfriend, their singular lack of chemistry making each successive embrace look more ridiculous. We learn that General Titus has given up drinking, and various people reflect on the tragedies of their youth. Liberated slave with a secret past Tarak still hasn’t mastered the art of wearing clothes, which will at least provide some distraction for those of a certain inclination.

Distraction is sorely needed, because a whole hour goes by with next to nothing happening. A young local woman hands out pennants/totems/prayers/flags which look more like personalised tea towels and they are duly strung up on a washing line to intimidate the enemy. There’s a bit of ceilidh dancing. Then somebody decides than in order to turn this quiet little town into a town of death they need a montage, but when you’ve seen one person blast the head off a scarecrow with an overly bulky phased plasma rifle, you’ve seen them all, and all you’ll do is feel sorry for the poor folk who must be sitting there in the background making new scarecrow heads for all the others who need to practice.

The weaponry here is from the school of ‘let’s add on a few more weird bits to make it look cool’, severely hampering functionality. it is, perhaps, one one would expect in a universe where nobody seems to have the slightest idea of how actual combat works. In the Snyderverse, victory seems to depend first and foremost on manliness and loudness, tactics be damned. This means that women (Bae’s character aside) are assumed by default to depend on rescue or luck, whilst righteous men can win even if their idea of an ambush is waiting until the enemy has walls to hide behind and then running across a large open space, shouting. This has its own internal consistency, so one might try to bear with it, but when it makes every aspect of the big battle obvious from the start, it’s dull to watch.

Snyder seems to forget the thing that made the first of these films a (qualified) success: this is space opera, so we could be jetting around to different planets meeting weird aliens and watching giant monster fights and other fun stuff. Watching boring humans in dull costumes run at each other across a bit of muddy field just doesn’t deliver on the same level, even if there is a bit where the film slows down and then speeds up again as our heroes leap away from a petrol explosion into some water. The fights are choppy and not even well choreographed. Some main characters’ experiences are impossible to track. The pacing is all or nothing, quickly destroying any tension. The music does the heavy lifting, but even it draws heavily on other films, and it’s not enough to keep things interesting.

Snyder might like to think of himself as a rebel, but this is conformity all the way.

Reviewed on: 19 Apr 2024
Share this with others on...
Rebel Moon - Part Two: The Scargiver packshot
Kora and surviving warriors prepare to defend Veldt, their new home, alongside its people against the Realm. The warriors face their pasts, revealing their motivations before the Realm's forces arrive to crush the growing rebellion.

Director: Zack Snyder

Writer: Writers Shay Hatten, Kurt Johnstad, Zack Snyder

Starring: Sofia Boutella, Charlie Hunnam, Ed Skrein, Jena Malone, Cary Elwes, Michiel Huisman, Djimon Hounsou, Anthony Hopkins, Bae Doona

Year: 2024

Runtime: 122 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


Search database: