Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver

  • 08 Jun - 14 Jun, 2024
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Will there ever be a version of Rebel Moon – Part 2: The Scargiver that makes the movie and its franchise seem essential? Director and co-writer Zack Snyder has already tried to whip up his fanbase by teasing R-rated versions of the first two entries in his ongoing Star Wars ripoff cycle, a lifeless homage to that other IPed-to-death sci-fi series. The well-covered struggle to release the Snyder cut of Justice League notably improved what was only ever a passable super-programmer. It’s also established an unfortunate precedent for how Rebel Moon is now being advertised, as a victim of its own release strategy.

The shortcomings that kept the first Rebel Moon from ever taking off are still apparent in its sequel, particularly Snyder’s disinterest in his actors’ performances as well as this movie’s vast array of bland visuals and flavourless dialogue. Like the last one, the latest Rebel Moon looks like it was rushed through production to compete with whatever Star Wars series is now streaming on Disney+. The Snyder faithful may see something in Rebel Moon – Part 2: The Scargiver that the rest of us can’t, but that doesn’t make this tired sequel any less puny.

Previously on Rebel Moon, a group of misfit rebels banded together and seemingly defeated the Imperial Space Nazis, led by the goofily accented Regent Balisarius (Fra Fee) and the lanky rage-case fascist Atticus Noble (Ed Skrein). Noble was killed at the end of Rebel Moon – Part 1: A Child of Fire, but even the end of that movie hinted that he wouldn’t be dead for long. Sure enough, he’s back again and now angry enough to retaliate against the small-town farmers of Veldt, an idyllic moon with Smallville-style fields of space-grain, Oshkosh B’gosh catalog-ready space-farm children, and Asterix-type longhouses, too.

Who will save the people of Veldt, represented here by the young and ripped hunter Den (Stuart Martin) and the older but also chiseled Hagen (A White, White Day star Ingvar Sigurdsson)? The same motley crew as last time, still led by the scowling ex-general Titus (Djimon Hounsou, the generically mysterious Kora (Sofia Boutella), and her unconvincing love interest Gunnar (Michiel Huisman), the last of whom is also from Veldt. In case you’re wondering what else has changed since the last Rebel Moon: there’s a scene where our heroes share what they’re really fighting for, which they emphasise through momentum-throttling, voiceover-smothered flashbacks.

Among other acknowledged influences on the Rebel Moon movies, Snyder claims kinship with the graphic-design-forward and stoner-friendly Heavy Metal brand of comics, an inspiration that Snyder teases in Martin’s character name (named after Richard Corben’s serialized space-barbarian Den comics). I don’t see it, and it’s not because Martin isn’t obviously trying to emphasise the sheer immensity of his emotions. I imagine that Den never lives up to his namesake because of Snyder’s blunted vision and not Martin or his performance. For supporting evidence, see how often intensity and action figure poses stand in for character and detail in just about everyone else’s performances.

More is often less in Rebel Moon – Part 2: The Scargiver, not only when it comes to the movie’s sweaty, vein-activating performances, but also it’s over-exaggerated and under-choreographed action scenes. Kora and Gunnar’s overblown romance is also defined by bold, sweeping hints at romantic passion, like when he unbelievably confesses to her what motivates him: “It was you. It was losing you.” Never mind the gawky adolescent phrasing and the unbelievably flat line-reading – this gesture towards big-ness exemplifies the Snyder-y style of Rebel Moon, a series whose sound design is always more convincing in both, its nuance and sheer volume, than whatever’s on-screen.

Seeing Rebel Moon – Part 2: The Scargiver in a theater would probably be the best way to go, since that way you can hear the movie loud enough to imagine you’re watching something better. Then again, the fact that Netflix produced both movies – their most expensive production of 2023! – and is apparently now releasing at least two cuts per installment, suggests that not many people will be able to see this movie beyond their living rooms. In this light, it’s hard to imagine the necessity of a separate R-rated version of either movie.

The problem with the Rebel Moon movies isn’t that they need to be bigger or heavier to be better. If everything else feels this anemic and negligible then there is no way adding more of everything will greatly enhance anything.