Movie ReviewsJosh Reviews Rebel Moon Part Two: The Scargiver

Josh Reviews Rebel Moon Part Two: The Scargiver

Why did I watch this?

I am not a believer in “hate-watching”. If I am confident I’m not going to like something, I don’t watch it.  (This is why I stopped watching Star Trek: Discovery; why I’ve never seen Iron Fist season two, or the last 3-4 Transformers movies, or any of Sony’s Spider-Man without Spider-Man movies (Morbius, Venom, Madame Web)… I could go on!)

The problem is that, on the other hand, I’m a completist.  It’s very hard for me to stop watching or reading something in the middle.  Having watched Rebel Moon Part One, there was a strong pull to finish the story and watch Part Two.

How is it?  It’s basically at the same level as Part One.  It’s pretty to look at.  The special effects are thrilling.  Sofia Boutella is a true movie star with incredible on-screen presence.  But wowsers the film feels painfully lowest-common-denominator dumb.  Narratively it’s a mess.  The story doesn’t make much sense to me, and I didn’t care a whit about any of the characters.  That’s not a great combination.

What’s the plot?  Having spent the first movie assembling a group of tough outlaws and fighters, Kora (Sofia Boutella) returns home to her farming planet Veldt.  (Calling this farming planet Veldt gives you a sense of the level of this movie’s on-the-nose obviousness.)  For some reason, everyone thinks they’ve already arrived at a happy ending and the villains in the evil, galaxy-spanning Imperium are just going to give up and go home.  Spoiler alert: that doesn’t happen.  Most of the film is a huge battle between the evil Imperium, led by the resurrected Admiral Noble (Ed Skrein), and Kora’s band of heroes.

The battle is pretty spectacular!  It’s a cool idea that the last two-thirds of this movie is basically one huge extended sci-fi action sequence.  I just wish the film wasn’t so full of silliness and ridiculousness at every turn.  For example, the internet has focused its scorn on a flashback scene in which a string quartet keeps playing music while the royal family is being violently assassinated.  It is indeed an eye-rolling moment.  I can tell that Mr. Snyder was going for the sort of artistic juxtaposition of classical movie and carnage/spectacle as we have seen in films like, say, Saving Private Ryan and Titanic.  But it’s just laughable that these musicians keep calmly playing music instead of running for their lives.  There’s also an incredibly elongated slo-mo sequence of the villagers (and our heroes) harvesting grain that feels like a parody of Zack Snyder’s slo-mo tendencies.  (But it doesn’t feel self-aware to me.  I just found it hilarious, and I don’t think that was intentional.)

There are lots of other narrative missteps that feel very clumsy to me.  Here are some examples:

  • Kora beat Admiral Noble at the end of the first movie.  So bringing him back again as the villain, and trying to convince us he’s a threat now, just doesn’t work.  Why didn’t they introduce a bigger boss character for this second film?  What about Kora’s mentor/father-figure Regent Bellisarius, who’s teased in both movies in a few flashback scenes?  (I guess they’re holding him for a hoped-for third film…)
  • I liked getting Kora’s origin in flashback early in this movie, but that 100% should have been in the first movie.  Instead of keeping this a mystery, they should have given us this info in the first film, so I could 1) understand what was going on with these characters and 2) maybe invest/care a bit in them.  (The last Mission: Impossible made this same mistake, In my opinion, not actually explaining to us who the villain Gabriel was, what his connection was to Ethan, or what the story was with the woman connected to them both who apparently died.  They decided to hold that information for the sequel, but I think it was a huge mistake not to give us that important backstory in the first film.)
  • They make a huge deal in the early going of this film that every single villager needs to work super-hard to achieve the near-impossible task of bringing in the harvest in just three days.  Then they have a scene, after the harvest, in which the young farm girl Sam presents each member of Kora’s team with a beautifully individualized needlepoint banner.  When did she have time to make those??  She must have worked day and night to get them all done.  I guess they didn’t need her help with the harvest??
  • After spending the entire first movie showing Kora assembling her team of badasses, every single one of them immediately turns into a total softie after two minutes hanging out with the villagers.  Why shave off all these characters’ rough edges so quickly?  Instead of scene-after-scene of a harvest in slow motion, how about giving us some actual scenes with each of these characters, to develop their personalities and show us who they are and what they think about all this?
  • Instead, about 45 minutes into the movie we get a very strange expository scene in which all the characters sit around a table and tell their personal sad stories.  Why wasn’t all this info included in the last movie?  And couldn’t we have figured out a more organic way to convey this important backstory information to the audience then just having the characters sit and flat out tell us, one after another?
  • What happened to the love triangle between Kora and her two hunky boys?  (I had to check the internet to be reminded their names were Gunnar and Den.)  It’s weird that was totally dropped.
  • I laughed that, in addition to somehow miraculously bringing in the whole harvest in 3 days, the villagers also apparently had time to dig out Kora’s space-ship, and also dig an elaborate trench system around their village.  That feels like months’ worth of work.
  • Why is the robot voiced by Sir Anthony Hopkins wearing antlers?

Of the cast, only Djimon Hounsou’s character of Titus seems to get any attention/development.  Mr. Hounsou is terrific!!!  If he had an actual character to play, this would have been a great performance!

There were also a few nice moments with Doona Bae’s character (checks internet again to find her name) Nemesis.  Her “arc” was silly (and I was really disappointed this bad-ass warrior went down like a chump, taken out by a few run-of-the-mill enemy soldiers), but Ms. Bae really did everything she could to try to bring depth to her character.  She does terrific work in conveying her character’s emotion — without any dialogue and while keeping her body almost entirely still — when she’s watching the young children in the village.

I could only laugh when, after getting to the end of these two long movies, it didn’t wrap the story up but instead ended on a tease for another film.  Oy vey.  Come on, folks.  I don’t mind movies leaving a thread or two open for potential follow-up, but you can’t pre-plan a franchise like this.  Make your movie great and make it satisfying on its own.  This felt like a big letdown to get all the way to the end of this two-film cycle and not feel like I’d watched a complete story.

So, yeah, this was a big swing and a miss for me.  I used to love Zack Snyder as a filmmaker.  I still love and stand up for 300, Watchmen, and Man of Steel (except for the last 5-10 minutes).  I’d love to see a future movie in which Mr. Snyder’s visual skills are paired with an actually decent script.  I am rooting for him!!  For now, though, this one falls into the category of “I watched it so you don’t have to”.

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