Review: ‘Rebel Moon-Part Two: The Scargiver’

A Streamlined Story And More Impressive Battles Are A Slight Improvement For Zack Snyder's Space Opera Sequel

Those telling you Rebel Moon-Part Two: The Scargiver is some kind of culmination of the epic space opera Zack Snyder is trying to tell, are lying to you. He’s going to keep this starship going for as long as Netflix lets him, with plans for at least one more movie and R-rated extended cut, plus other multimedia expansions. But after two films, it’s hard to find a reason to justify its continued existence from a creative standpoint. To be clear, The Scargiver is an improvement over Part One: A Child of Fire in that it tells an easy-to-follow straight-forward tale full of action, but the bar was set very low.

Originally conceived as Snyder’s version of Seven Samurai-meets-Star Wars, the second chapter brings that premise to a climactic head full of slow-motion space battles, heroic sacrifices, and lots of time spent harvesting wheat.

Say what?

Yeah, the first half of The Scargiver is pretty drab unless you’re super into agriculture. Sofia Boutella returns as Kora, who along with her lover Gunnar (Michiel Huisman) set out to gather warriors to return and defend the good people of Veldt from Admiral Atticus Noble (Ed Skrein) and the evil forces of Motherworld. She was too good at her mission. Not only did she gather a ragtag bunch of badasses, but by the end of the first movie she had seemingly killed Noble. So they return to Veldt thinking all is good in the universe. Let there be much merry-making!!! But no, it’s quickly revealed that Noble survived the attack, albeit with a nasty scar (The Scargiver!!!!), and that they still plan to arrive on Veldt in just five days time. Better get to harvesting that grain!

A highlight of the first movie, Djimon Hounsou, returns as former Imperium general Titus and he has an even bigger role in The Scargiver, which is a very good thing. It’s up to Titus to train these simple farming folk to become hardened warriors in just a couple of days. Hounsou is such a commanding and honorable presence that he lends credibility to a pretty dull first hour of the film. Much of that time is spent with Snyder abusing his slow-motion budget on shots of the townspeople celebrating and chaffing wheat. It’s hilariously excessive, almost as if Snyder is doing a parody of himself, knowing that dudes like me will make fun of him for it. I’m quite a big Snyder fan, personally, but even I found this shit excrutiating.

On the plus side, Snyder and his co-writers Kurt Johnstad and Shay Hatten, do their best to flesh out each character’s backstory. While the actual approach is clunky flashback sequences, we at least learn more about the small band of fighters and why they are willing to risk their lives. In particular, Kora’s story rounds into shape as we learn the past actions that have left her carrying so much guilt, and forced her to flee Imperium to live in a form of exile. There’s still not nearly enough to make all of the warriors interesting, which is frustrating because some are very cool, like Bae Doona’s Jedi swordmaster Nemesis. Carrying a pair of flaming lightsabers blades, she strikes an imposing image, but softens as she befriends some of the town’s most innocent citizens.

But seriously, nothing can save some of these folks, like Staz Nair’s Tarak, who I’m convinced is a hybrid of Tarzan and Turok and looks the part. I think he has one line of more than three words and it’s basically to have a last stand opposite Millius (Elise Duffy), whose sole trait is that she looks like she escaped from the fevered brain of George Miller. The character interactions are woeful, the dialogue is crap, and the narrative is amateurish at best. And this is the better Rebel Moon film, mind you.

There’s an interesting case to be made that Jimmy, the peace-keeping mechanical knight voiced by Anthony Hopkins, is too powerful a character for Rebel Moon. While he flashed an idea of his power in the first movie, here he displays enough in one devastating rescue scene to suggest that Kora probably could’ve just walked a few blocks and asked him to defeat her enemies all by himself. Perhaps that’s why Snyder kept Jimmy on the sidelines for so long, but it just scans as really weird. Such a strange role for Hopkins, too.

If you can make it through the farming tutorial, The Scargiver rewards you with a full hour of nonstop CGI-fueled battles. Red laser blasts dominate the screen, and there’s an impressive sense of scale as the people of Veldt are being overwhelmed. It feels like a real war has broken out, with superior military might clashing against destabilizing guerrilla tactics. Skrein stomps through their makeshift defenses with a devilish scowl and a dick-ish attitude that’s a lot of fun to watch. A surprising number of familiar good guys perish, but since most are total blank slates it’s hard for any of it to resonate emotionally. Snyder can create gorgeous, vivid depictions of fantasy violence that look like paintings come to life, and Rebel Moon, both chapters, are at their best when he’s allowed to focus on that. Although The Scargiver is less burdened by stale, redundant plotting than The Child of Fire, there’s still a lot to get through before Snyder’s strengths are truly put on display.

Rebel Moon-Part Two: The Scargiver is streaming now on Netflix.

Rebel Moon-Part Two: The Scargiver
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.
review-rebel-moon-part-two-the-scargiverThose telling you Rebel Moon-Part Two: The Scargiver is some kind of culmination of the epic space opera Zack Snyder is trying to tell, are lying to you. He's going to keep this starship going for as long as Netflix lets him, with plans...