Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire
Director: Zack Snyder
Buckle up, we got another Zack Snyder movie with incredible visuals and fantastic action, but lacklustre plot and characters. Rebel Moon: Part One – A Child of Fire follows Kora and crew after her small village on Veldt, a moon within a much larger galaxy, is visited by The King’s Gaze. The King’s Gaze is a large ship that the Motherworld uses to destroy towns and villages across any planet that gets in their way.
The plot follows the start of the rebellion, and how a simple visit from the Motherworld spiralled into a much larger conflict. This movie is the first part of two movies, the second arriving April 19, 2024. Although it may seem like the two parts are one long 4-hour movie, as we’ve seen from Snyder before, there is somewhat of a resolution at the end of A Child of Fire.
Before I get too deep here, it is important to note that A Child of Fire contains many similarities to the Star Wars Universe, and the creation of this movie was done with Star Wars in mind. ScreenRant has a good article on how the movie came to be, but the connections don’t feel deep enough to negatively impact the movie. A Child of Fire isn’t perfect by any measure, but I wouldn’t turn away because it has been labelled a Star Wars rip-off.
One of the weaknesses this movie displays is the lack of character backstory. Mimicking Star Wars, A Child of Fire begins in the middle of a story, using a verbal “crawl” to give more context to the plot and a few flashbacks to build our characters. Other than that, details on the history of our characters and the world around them are slim. Quite a few characters are introduced in this movie, but it is hard to get to know such an expanded cast. As a result, the characters feel shallow and it’s harder to make those emotional connections that create meaning in a movie.
The three main characters in A Child of Fire are Kora, Gunnar, and Admiral Atticus Noble. Kora is the protagonist. As made clear from the trailer, there is a lot more to Kora than meets the eye. She has a past deeply embedded in the Motherworld, and her combat training is a clear sign of this. Her past has created a hard shell that protects her from any personal connection with the outside world.
Kora leads the entire journey in A Child of Fire, and will undoubtedly play a major role in The Scargiver. Gunnar is in charge of the Village’s harvest, but this movie turns him into so much more than that. Although almost no details are given on Gunnar’s past, we do get to know this character through his actions and behaviours. His naive nature shows that he has yet to be touched by war. The mean streak that Kora carries has not yet developed in Gunnar, and this seems to point to the Village previously being a safe place to reside.
Admiral Atticus Noble wishes to change that immediately. His bloodlust and will to succeed, regardless of the cost, make him a challenging foe. His ingenuity and ability to manipulate others demonstrate how he has managed to scale the ranks within the Motherworld’s military. Again, we know nearly nothing about Noble’s past, so the potential sympathetic side of this villain is lost. Maybe it’s by design, but there is very little that could cause an audience to agree with Noble and his methods.
I liked a lot of the secondary characters as well, but they fell into the same trap that our main characters did. Without much backstory or screentime to compensate for the lack of backstory, it became difficult to care about the characters and their struggles and triumphs. The overall goal was clear, but the smaller pieces were missing.
The acting, on the other hand, was great. The characters throughout the movie felt real, and the different performances created a cast of interesting characters. I found the performances of different cast members brought the characters to life, which was especially important with the lack of background information. I thought Ed Skrein was great as Admiral Noble, creating a frightening persona on screen that was still charismatic. Sofia Boutella was solid as Kora, but I hope we see more emotional moments in The Scargiver that showcase her range.
The visuals in A Child of Fire are amazing, both the action and the different locations. The planet at the beginning of the movie is stunning, and this level of quality continues throughout the film. The visuals are the high point of the movie and one of the main things that kept me engaged. The different characters and species are also really interesting, and we start to get an idea of how large the galaxy within Rebel Moon might be. All of the different places and planets visited during this movie are visually interesting, and it left me curious to explore more of this universe.
As well, the action scenes are awesome. The fight choreography was solid and the different weapons were interesting. Having the blades shine like lightsabers was definitely a choice, but it created an interesting look on-screen during the action scenes. Kora’s fight shown in the trailer, where she takes on a handful of soldiers, was awesome in full detail. For those of you looking for gore or that next level of violence, that may be coming in the director’s cut, but I didn’t find the violence was anything beyond most PG-13 movies.
On top of the action, I really enjoyed the soundtrack. The different songs set the tone and the atmosphere for a variety of scenes, and I thought it was executed well. This isn’t a movie with songs that have lyrics that one could sign along with afterwards, but I felt the instrumental style works better for Sci-Fi movies. The music selection balanced the need for keeping the focus on the on-screen product and having quality sounds to help move the audience’s emotions in the right direction.
The other issue A Child of Fire runs into is a boring plot in the back half of the movie. I found the beginning of the movie balanced the pacing in such a way that created a rhythm where the story moved along quickly and then really slowed down and then picked back up. The later portion of the movie gets more action scenes, and the cast grows, but it doesn’t feel like the plot keeps up with all of this development. The explanation of why these things are happening and how they impact the overarching story starts to fade. It creates a hollow feel to the plot, and the big moments don’t quite hit as hard as they should.
As mentioned above, the characters lack backstory and the plot lacks substance later in the movie, which creates a more boring second half. I enjoyed the visual and audio aspects of A Child of Fire, but the movie didn’t hold my attention like a big movie set in space should. The good outweighs the bad, and I am still excited for The Scargiver, but the next addition to the Rebel Moon series needs to bring some meaning to open the door for a larger-scale universe.