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10 Very Important Things I Learned From Watching ‘Rebel Moon: Part 2 — The Scargiver’

Because even unwatchable sequels to messy space sagas have a few takeaways, right?

Rebel Moon - Part 2


1. Always hire Anthony Hopkins to deliver exposition. The man is an Oscar-winner, he’s played everybody from Hamlet to Hannibal Lecter, he’s got the best butter-melting British purr in the business. So if you’re Zack Snyder — or even if you’re not Zack Snyder, but are dropping the second chapter of a needlessly complicated space saga and need to get folks back up to speed — you enlist Sir Anthony to say things like: “On the far edges of the Motherworld’s reach, circling the gas giant Mara, was the small moon of Veldt… So it was that a woman named Cora and a man named Gunnar set forth from the village, to gather warriors to stand against the dreadnought. In an ambush on the floating docks of Gondoval, Cora triumphed over Admiral Noble, leaving his shattered body on the rocky coastline.” It’s still nonsense, but man, does it sound cool when he intones it with the utmost gravitas. Besides, Hopkins is already voicing a robot with a penchant for Pagan headgear, so he was in the neighborhood.

2. Sofia Boutella is cool. An Algerian actor, dancer, gymnast, and model, Boutella has built up a hell of a resume since 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service upped her profile. (She was the assassin with the prosthetic legs.) You’d now recognize her from any number of movies, from Atomic Blonde to The Mummy to Gaspar Noe’s acid-soaked Climax. She can clench her jaw onscreen with the best of them, her physicality makes her a great choice for an action hero, and when you need somebody to guide viewers through a mythology that keeps tying itself in knots, then trips over those self-tied knots and can’t quite get up under the weight of its own overstuffed storytelling, she’s your woman. If you can hand her a gun, and then position the camera so she’s firing that gun right next to the lens while looking really cool, then by all means, repeat that shot a million times. If you can give her a sword, even better. Because…

3. Swords are cool. Especially if they are glowing. Especially if they are being wielded by a kind of stock mystic-samurai character, like the one named Nemesis (cool name) with a cyborg arm (cool arm) played by Bae Doona (cool actor, who has a knack for showing up in wonky sci-fi stuff like Jupiter Ascending and Sense8; she’s great in Bong Joon-ho’s The Host, which you should watch instead of this). Especially if that person has two glowing swords and swings them around in a way that makes you feel like those club drugs are finally kicking in. Especially if you stick them through a number of bad guys’ bodies, and wow, do they seem surprised to see a glowing sword sticking out of their chest. Repeat that shot a million times as well.

4. Slo-mo is cool. Getting angry at Zack Snyder for sloooooooowwwwwwwwwiiiiiiiinnnnnnggggg his action sequences down is like yelling at water for being so damned wet. Ever since he turned his 2006 Go-Spartans epic 300 into a moving gallery of men killing other men at an operatically snail’s pace, that’s been his signature move. I can’t remember who said that Snyder’s films would only be 22 minutes long if you ran all of the set pieces at normal speed, but whoever it was, I hope they won a Pulitzer for that statement. In any case, our man Zack breaks out the insta-majestic slo-mo for a lot of things here: blasting soldiers, jumping off of bridges onto coal heaps, punching, kicking, walking down a spaceship’s gangway, threshing wheat alone, threshing wheat in groups, threshing wheat at whatever the cosmic equivalent of magic hour on Veldt is. Seriously, if this film starts a trend of young people really getting into threshing wheat because the movie makes it look so slo-mo cool, we’re all for it. Please get on that, TikTok.

5. Harvest dances among outer-space farmers are cool. I mean, it must be, because Rebel Moon: Part 2 — The Scargiver spends a good part of its first hour turning a pre-battle harvest dance into a chance for speechifying, some first-class hoedowns, and what is supposed to pass for character development among the band of warriors who will defend this agrarian space community from the Evil Space Nazis. There are training montages woven in and around it, as well as some intimate time between Boutella’s angsty ex-soldier-turned-savior and Michiel Huisman’s handsome farmboy. But mostly, it’s a chance for everyone to wax poetic about past traumas, which kick off more slo-mo mini-movies within the main movie. That, and for photogenic cast members in grimy T-shirts and newsboy caps and the occasional space sweater-vest-sans-shirt look to present gifts, scream inspirational platitudes, and make merry. TikTok should make all of this a new trend as well.

6. Long, overly wordy sequel titles are cool, especially if they have a subtitle. See title.

7. Pensive robots suffering from existential crises are cool. IMDb informs us that the name of the android voiced by Sir Anthony Hopkins is “Jimmy,” but we’ve taken to referring to him as Chekhov’s Robot, since Snyder and his co-screenwriters Shay Hatten and Kurt Johnstad made a point of putting him on the mantle in Part One, a.k.a. A Child of Fire. Part of a royal guard mecha-security force left on the planet as a sort of defense measure by the Evil Space Nazis, Jimmy has instead become a pacifist and taken to wearing antler horns and staring moodily off into the horizon, dropping by the village every so often to philosophically muse about life, the universe, and everything. It’s not a spoiler to note, however, that like the aforementioned Russian playwright’s proverbial gun, Jimmy is meant to go off in Act 3. Or maybe it is a spoiler. Honestly, who gives a fuck at this point?

8. Massive battle royale sequences filled with arachnid-like tanks, plummeting spaceships, lots of explosions, and people popping out of the ground with rocket launchers are cool. And to its credit, Rebel Moon: Part 2 spends its second hour more or less devoted to firefights, righteous slo-mo combat, and blowing shit up. After Cora cuts her hair — so you know she means business now! — and Ed Skrein’s resurrected Admiral Noble shows up on the planet to hiss threats and ultimatums, Gunnar sounds the alarm and then boom, it’s on. Snyder is in his element here, extending every gutshot and/or sacrificial skewering to three times the the required length, laying in the mournful choirs and triumphant fanfare, and even occasionally giving you an image that looks like a vintage pulp paperback’s cover come to life. Mostly, though, it’s just a lot of sound and fury, and you know what that tends to signify. If not, go ask Sir Anthony. He knows his Shakespeare.

9. Acting like you’re a two-part epic, then suddenly kicking open the door for a third part at the very last minute thanks to a confusing plot point that is now suddenly going to become extremely important, is… cool? You’ve been warned, folks.

10. Life is painfully short. Probably too short to read cynical, gimmicky movie reviews. Certainly too short to watch bad movies. Most definitely too short to commit to a badly constructed space saga-slash-cinematic universe that threatens to take up even more of your time and brain power while merely delivering reheated pop-cultural leftovers smothered in digital hot sauce. Turn away from your screens. Go for a walk. Start your own wheat-threshing collective. Anything but suffer through this.

From Rolling Stone US