Saturday, July 13, 2024

Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver Review: Zack Snyder’s Sluggish Sequel Barely Improves on Part One

Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver is less a sequel, more a continuation of events that unfolded in the first film, Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire. Atticus Noble, the brutal Imperium admiral, is very much alive and far more vengeful than ever. With blood in his eyes, he is ready to destroy anything and everything to get Kora, the rebel in Rebel Moon, back to his master, the tyrannical regent Balisarius, and seek revenge for his humiliation. Unaware of this imminent danger, the rebel warriors are ready to embrace Veldt as their home.  

When they discover that their enemies will be here in just five days, they immediately decide to make the villagers, who have never in their entire lives set foot on the battlefield once, fight against the highly advanced military of the realm, with just two days’ worth of training. Farming equipment is turned into weapons, with a few detonators here and there. At the top of it, the delusional bunch is almost confident that they’d be able to face the army of the realm.

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Staz Nair and Djimon Hounsou in a still from Rebel Moon: Part Two

Almost half of the second chapter in the Rebel Moon saga shows the villagers prepping up for the big fight or delivering long speeches, and the other half covers the actual battle. We are also introduced to the tragic back stories of the rebel warriors, each of them bearing scars from the Motherworld’s regime. More of Kora’s secrets from back when she was a soldier for the Motherworld are revealed. Rebel Moon – Part Two ticks all the boxes of what’s expected from a loud sci-fi epic today — effects-heavy action set pieces, clunky exposition, and plenty of explosions. That’s pretty much what happens in Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver on an overstretched scale. But the theatricality of its props overshadows the drama of its characters.  

What essentially doesn’t work for the film is its sluggishness, its brevity of sincere dialogues and character depth, its lack of innovation, unnecessary sub-plots, and shoddy CGI. Had the film been shorter with crisp writing, Rebel Moon Part 2 might have had a better chance at striking a chord with Star Wars fans it is trying to woo. However, if you could survive the first part, this sequel somehow might be a surprising reward. While I wouldn’t dare to go as far as labelling it as a triumph, Rebel Moon Part 2 does improve on than the oddly paced Rebel Moon Part 1. This time, director Zack Snyder seems to have tried to avoid the first film’s mistake of clumping together a lot of information without a natural flare of storytelling. Nor is there a flood of new characters to keep up with, like the first part.

This doesn’t mean that Snyder has let go of his painfully long slo-mo shots that don’t serve much purpose other than to pad out the runtime. If anything, there are more of them now. Snyder has long relied on his trademark shot, but at some point, he must start questioning its merit beyond the “it will look cool” reasoning.

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Jimmy’s character is a silent but keen spectator of everything

There are other welcome changes, too. Sofia Boutella’s Kora behaves like an actual human this time around and not just someone perpetually irritated and creepy, just because the script says so. While her performance in the first film remained one-note, here we see her take on more shades. We also see her smile for the first time. However, the romantic angle between her and Gunnar feels forced and the film could have easily done without it. While the first film tries to set up their romance, when it actually happens here, it feels like smoke without a fire. To be honest, the romance felt out of the blue and unnatural in the first film, too, and continues to do so in the sequel. It would have been far better to see Gunnar’s character grow in more meaningful ways, especially when his character seems to have picked up a fighting instinct or two and is not as idiotic as he was initially. [Spoiler Alert] His presence of mind ends up playing a major role in deciding the fate of the battle, as well. Alas, this potential storyline is nipped in the bud.  

Djimon Hounsou’s General Titus also has a relatively bigger role here than the first part, where he was reduced to a prop. Titus is seen planning the entire battle, teaching the rebels how to fight and defend themselves, and deciding the strategic placement of the farmers in the fight to come. Overridden by the guilt of his past, he now wants to make amends. While we get more of Titus this time, not all of it is presented without flaw. Titus is known for his military genius, yet he barely has any misgivings about leading a bunch of inexperienced and untrained farmers into a battle against the brutal Imperium. At no point does he pause and give a reality check to his companions. The character comes off less a mastermind in control, and more a delusional leader with a point to prove.  

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Charlotte Maggi in still from Rebel Moon: Part Two

Of all the characters, Jimmy, Anthony Hopkins’ sentient android, was my absolute favourite. He is a silent but keen spectator of everything going on around him. His flower tiara is now replaced by a crown of antlers. Even though he has limited screen time and just a few lines’ worth of dialogue, his impact is powerful. However, as soon as his screen presence evokes hope, the next scene takes over, with little time given for the sentiment to breathe.

The script could have done more justice to his character, just like it could have done with Ed Skrein’s Atticus Noble (if in fact, the writers were exceptionally keen on keeping him alive). Skrein ably steps into the shoes of an agitated and impatient Atticus. He convincingly conveys the burning rage of his character and how it takes over the very fibre of his being. [Spoiler Alert] Skrein especially excels in the scene where he is having a heartful conversation with Kora and is trying to convince her that the fight will not be a good idea for Veldt dwellers and that it is better for her to give up the idea and surrender. It’s a shame how we lost the chance to witness more of his talent because of the limitations of the screenplay.

The Scargiver improves on the first film in some ways but many of the same flaws hold it back, too. If you haven’t watched the first part, there isn’t much that you have missed, and you could dive into Rebel Moon Part 2 on Netflix after watching a basic recap of the events of the first film. But the sequel treads the same forgettable ground. The first part was pretty much an introductory film where Kora and Gunnar head out to different planets to bring together warriors who might be interested in fighting against the tyrannical Motherworld and saving the farming colony on the moon of Veldt. In the second part, this rag-tag group follows the script and dives into battle. There’s a setup and a payoff, but very little in between. If you were expecting the cinematic brilliance of Star Wars, Seven Samurai or Guardians of the Galaxy — films to which the Rebel Moon saga owes more than just inspiration, be prepared to be let down.  

Rating: 2.5/5 

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