Saturday, May 18, 2024

Movie Review: ‘Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver’ is an Explosive Mess

Director: Zack Snyder
Writer: Shay Hatten, Kurt Johnstad, Zack Snyder
Stars: Sofia Boutella, Djimon Hounsou, Ed Skrein

Synopsis: 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.

This review brings me no pleasure, I promise you. I can’t quite say the same about Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver. It’s not that there is no pleasure, it’s simply that the film hammers the viewer into a kind of submission in which it is difficult to feel much of anything. I somewhat enjoyed the first film in this series, even if in a mildly bemused fashion. You can see my thoughts here. The largest sin from director Zack Snyder shown in this new film is essentially tossing away any fun from the first film.

Although I did rewatch the first, it proved more than useless, for a few reasons. First, this one opens up with an elongated sequence of narration from Anthony Hopkins. Don’t get me wrong, I love to hear that man talk, but he basically sums up the first two hours of this fantasy story in about 2-3 minutes. While I understand the purpose is to catch people up who didn’t bother with the first, it immediately brings the idea of “content” to the foreground. There is clearly no care for story (even if it is just Seven Samurai with lasers), if it can all be described this quickly. So, essentially, it makes the original film shrink in your estimation as the opening credits begin. Secondly, if you thought that original film provided a lot of exposition, oh boy, buckle in.

So anyway, The Scargiver picks up where the last film dropped us off, they were victorious and killed the villain, or so they thought. They quickly figure out that he is still alive and on the way back to the peaceful village to kill them all. That’s right, besides picking up some cool heroes, the movie starts…where the first movie started. I hope you enjoyed that circle around the universe, because now we’re back. This is where the Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven comparisons get extra on the nose. It’s fine to have similarities, but to make that same movie with different weapons? I have questions for you, Netflix.

But these, strangely, are all things I can get past. Sadly, these are not the only problems. There is legitimately a scene in which one of our characters, previously imprisoned Titus (Djimon Hounsou) leads a discussion around a table imploring each and every one of them to tell their story. He starts with his flashback and they literally go around the table elucidating their individual motivations and willingness to fight and die. This is truly the mark of a weak screenplay. Clearly, they could not figure out how to make us understand these character’s desires within the bounds of naturalistic conversation, so hey, its your turn to talk. Tell us why you hate the Empire, err Motherworld. These scenes are exhausting and also fail to make you care about these histories.

There are a few saving graces, though. Our lead warrior Kora (Sofia Boutella) with yet another more detailed tragic backstory, managed to come out mostly unscathed by the messy script and direction. Now, that doesn’t mean that her burgeoning romance with farmboy Gunnar (Michael Huisman) works, but hey, you can only do so much. Hounsou also is able to perform in a way that not only preserves his honor as a hero, but allows him to emote effectively. Of course, Snyder cuts away from his face trembling with emotion so we can see another flashback action sequence, but what do we really expect at this point?

And yeah, the action. It’s definitively cool, and it seems like Snyder can do this in his sleep. The final climactic, one-on-one battle 100% works. Of course, there is a glut of slow motion sequences, but if you’re going to get hung up on that, I’m not sure why you’re watching a Snyder flick to begin with. I will say that, unlike many action directors, the violence is well plotted, easy to follow geographically, and is ultimately satisfying. It’s just a real shame about…well, the rest.

Unless you love every, and I mean every, movie that Snyder has ever created, Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver will be an exercise in patience and frustration. The film could make a great 15-minute sizzle reel, but that’s where the entertainment ends. It is rare that a sequel can make a first film worse in retrospect, but here we sit. The fact that Snyder has stated that he wants to make six (!) films in this universe (not to mention endless director’s cuts), shows us that storytelling is not paramount for his work or for certain streamers. Content has become king, even if all of us poor subjects are the ones who suffer.

Grade: D

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