Film Review – Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver

The phrase “Less is More” simply does not exist in Zack Snyder’s vocabulary. He is a filmmaker obsessed with excess – making every shot of his films big, grand, and operatic. And while the approach does lend to some slick imagery – such as the opening credit sequence of Watchmen (2009) – it does result in deficiencies in character, story, and world building. Recently, he has become entrenched in the notion of expanded director’s cuts (or “Snydercuts” as devoted fans have coined). His resolve to stuff his narratives has reached its apex with the Rebel Moon series. This latest installment, Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver (2024) showcases the negative aspects of his skillset. Hell, even the title is too long.

Let’s put aside the fact that the writing (Snyder, Shay HattenKurt Johnstad) deliberately lifts from other popular work – notably that of Star Wars (1977) and Seven Samurai (1954). Artists take inspiration from other artists all the time, that’s nothing new. The problem is that The Scargiver does very little with it. This and the first entry amount to just under four and a half hours of runtime. And yet, it feels like we have barely scratched the surface. The world building and character development are paper thin. Everyone appears to be going through the motions. When someone important dies, the emotional impact is non-existent. We don’t have a sense of the stakes, or the enormity of the tension between the evil “empire” and the lovable “rebellion.” This is a plot-driven narrative, but the plot barely holds together as is.


We pick up right after the events of Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire (2023). The surviving heroes Kora (Sofia Boutella), Gunnar (Michiel Huisman), Titus (Djimon Hounsou), Tarak (Staz Nair), Milius (Elise Duffy), and Nemesis (Bae Doona) have reached the moon Veldt after defeating the evil forces of The Realm and the fascist Admiral Atticus Noble (Ed Skrein). The visit should have been a happy one, with the merry band of defenders settling into their new village home. However, it is discovered that Noble survived, gathered his forces, and is heading straight for Veldt with bad intentions. With limited resources, our heroes help the villagers train and prepare for the upcoming battle. In just a few days’ time, we are expected to believe that a small community of peaceful farmers can take down an entire squadron of heavily armed soldiers. 

And that’s about it. The film is cut right down the middle, with the first half involving the preparation and training, and the second half featuring the all-out battle. If we whittle the storyline to the essential points, we find that there really isn’t much going on. What makes up the full two hours is shot after shot of characters in slow motion, either getting ready for war or stuck in the middle of it. The screenplay pads the runtime with endless scenes of exposition. The worst sequence has our heroes sitting together at a table, each one diving into an extended flashback describing their history with the empire. It’s a conveyor belt of confessionals, with each one being less and less interesting. I suppose this is the film’s way of giving character background, but the execution is so clunky that it comes off stiff and awkward. It’s as if our heroes were playing a game of hot potato of sad stories.

The biggest error of The Scargiver is that it is not very fun. There is no joy here. Everyone we’re meant to empathize with comes with a bag of dreariness. This aspect is so strange, because the films it directly references – such as the aforementioned Star Wars and Seven Samurai – are filled with moments of joy. But alas, everyone here is just so serious. One of the smaller elements features a budding romance between Kora and Gunnar. However, their dynamic is so painfully mishandled that it feels shoehorned. The writing isn’t good enough to make us believe the two would fall for each other. Boutella and Huisman have no chemistry, because the material they’re working with isn’t strong enough to establish it. You know something is amiss when the most interesting character is a robot (voiced by Anthony Hopkins) who’s barely even in the movie.  


Visually, all the normal Snyder-isms are there – the slow-motion shots, characters positioned to look like mythical beings, and the kinetic energy are all present. Granted, there are some cool looking set pieces. When two combatants duel with lightsabers onboard a crashing spaceship – resulting in them sliding down the floor while fighting – the effect was impressive. There’s also the scene in which a character fights down a corridor, taking on numerous villains at the same time. The way the camera tracks alongside the action is very reminiscent to the famous hallway fight in Oldboy (2003). But for every awesome display of action comes an equal share of poorly structured sequences. Snyder loves to mix his action with clouds of smoke. Although that may give off some interesting bends in light, it also obscures a lot of what we see. There are times where the smoke was so heavy that we have no idea where anybody is in relation to one another, who is fighting whom, or have any cohesion in the choreography. It’s bizarre how some set pieces work very well while other crash and burn. 

Sometimes I wonder if Zack Snyder’s skillset is better suited for a TV show or miniseries. He clearly wants to tell these big, long stories. He doesn’t seem very interested in contracting his work. In that way, Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver feels episodic, part of a larger whole that we have yet to see. Will we ever get to see this in its full completed form? Who knows. But what we have gotten so far is all surface with little substance. It wants to be an epic sci-fi adventure but has come up drastically short. 




Allen is a moviegoer based out of Seattle, Washington. His hobbies include dancing, playing the guitar, and, of course, watching movies.

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