Why shouldn’t we expect REBEL MOON to be like “Dune” and “Star Wars”?

So where is Zack Snyder heading with Rebel Moon? I already know it’s not towards “Star Wars.”

Lukasz Budnik

24 April 2024

rebel moon

6/10, and the first part rates an 8/10. It’s a good direction, although not without its stumbles, especially if the third part only achieves a 7/10 level. Once again, I find Zack Snyder reminding me of a talented but editorially homeless writer, creating on a diazepam-fueled haze powered by cheap liquor, then printing his output on monochromatic rough paper, perhaps in a friend’s basement, without editing, without distance from his work, perhaps creative in its depths but still in need of solid revisions. I hope someone will someday tell Snyder that slow motion coupled with manual harvests and rustic singing by girls reminiscent of Polish peasants is a recipe at best for creating a pastiche of space opera, not a competitor for Star Wars. That’s how the critics see it, yet I somewhat liked that distinctiveness, though I’d make a few tweaks—like ramping up the eroticism of the harvest. Amidst all this melodramatic embarrassment, there’s potential for an entirely unexpected stylistic direction, which surprised me greatly, and I only discovered this turn by Snyder now. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long for Rebel Moon: Wound-Giving, and my hopes after the first part were high, as was my curiosity about what would come next. The quality of a series isn’t determined by its beginning but by its development, where the viewer should discern a coherent line of progression, the solidification of symbolism, and the budding cultishness of characters’ personalities. So where is Zack Snyder headed with his series? Now I know it’s not towards Star Wars.

This jab at Snyder as a homeless writer isn’t an accusation, just a factual statement about the norm among most writers, screenwriters, and word people. Really, if you were to read the first drafts of famous novels, your hair would stand on end. I’m not just talking about orthographic, stylistic, and substantive errors, but the continuity of events, narration, basically the structure of the text itself. The work that editors and proofreaders do is invaluable to creators because artists will never notice certain mistakes in their works. The script for Rebel Moon 2 looks like it was written by someone who hadn’t had a good night’s sleep after finishing it, hastily turning the first draft into production. Hence maybe the first 30 minutes of the production that one must endure and refine in their mind. So in it, slow motion chases slow motion, in quantities even for Snyder surprisingly horrendous, without any justification by the plot or style. The scene at the table before the battle with the marauders of Admiral Atticus Noble is, however, a masterpiece of melodramatic exaggeration. Each character tells their own story, of course in slow motion and with words that no propagandist orator at a communist rally would be ashamed of.

I have the impression that for some critics, these roughly 30–40 minutes to develop the plot overshadowed their evaluation. It’s also undeniable that both parts of Rebel Moon are decidedly too short, thus not guaranteeing adequate saturation of the plot with information. The director must weave them in at the least expected moments because there simply isn’t time to adequately present the world and the characters living in it. Wound-Giving ends in a way that viewers can expect more, and if it doesn’t arrive, the film will surely find itself among compilations of unfinished universes. For Snyder, the only salvation now is a break from realizing his dreams to cool off a bit, because what he’s done has enormous potential but isn’t yet properly polished. A sort of directorial false start, except it’s the poor viewers who must use wet wipes, not because they’ve cried with emotion, but because they’ve yawned. Two over three-hour films—this is how it should have been so far. And we viewers await the third, and maybe even the fourth, and a prequel. After watching the second part, my enthusiasm has slightly waned because I see Snyder got carried away with self-admiration. However, I’m not writing off the saga and won’t torment Snyder as some critics do, shouting everywhere that he has fallen low. He’s a distinctive director, sculpting his aesthetic cave in defiance of critics, which earns my respect, although I don’t always like it, and sometimes it’s downright unbearably tedious—like the overly long sequence of cosmic harvests.

On the other hand, I finally discovered where this universe is heading. From the very beginning, I felt that comparing it to Star Wars was too emotional, unfounded, and unfair. It results partly from the disappointment experienced by viewers and critics due to the mediocrity and derivativeness of the latest parts. People simply wanted to see new Star Wars, and Snyder didn’t intend to give them that. He wanted to make a competitor to Dune. I don’t know if intentionally, but that’s how it seems after the second part. However, as I wrote in my first text about Rebel Moon, comparisons can be harmful, especially to pop culture myths, generally to all myths that millions of people believe in. And so it was with the first part of Rebel Moon, which can be labeled as copying some motifs of Star Wars, but it’s an illusion because the story structure is different, far less magical, at least openly. Comparing Zack Snyder’s production to Dune, I also have to be cautious with my personal vision of Frank Herbert’s myth, although I don’t feel disappointed by Denis Villeneuve’s films. So, I don’t expect to see a better version of Dune or a universe with a similar style. I know that comparisons to myths destroy what’s new because they impose an interpretative perspective on the subject of interpretation, which cannot be fairly compared to that arbitrarily chosen legend. We look at events through the lens of the legend, comparing heroes to those legendary figures. However, we forget that even if they are inspired by them, they have the right to create their own stories. So let’s not expect Rebel Moon to be Star Wars or Dune because it’s a completely different film—created in times when viewers prefer more straightforward and impolite cinema, hence my hopes pinned on the director’s cut of Rebel Moon rated at least 16+. Some glimpses are already visible, such as in the character of Atticus Noble. A stronger message both of violence and societal relevance would surely overshadow Snyder’s artificially created drama, which comes out too forcefully when the rest of the scenes are played safely not to offend anyone.

However, there’s a fundamental difference between expectations and where Rebel Moon actually lies stylistically. It’s far from George Lucas’s saga and closer to Dune due to several elements highlighted by Zack Snyder. Now back to yesterday’s experience of the scene with the murder of the King, Queen, and Princess Issa. The King resembles Emperor Shaddam IV, and I hope to get to know him better in future parts of the universe. He’s similarly pompous, authoritarian, and there’s not much of him since he dies so mysteriously. However, his murder and the stylistics of the scene are odd, especially with that hooded musical group, almost like a chorus of satyrs in a Greek tragedy, steering the audience’s emotions during the execution. The authoritarian royalism leaking from Rebel Moon brings the film closer to Dune; even in the soundtracks of both productions, one can hear female wailing, sometimes

inducing shivers of embarrassment. Another similarity is the lack of a clearly defined antagonist. It’s supposed to be Atticus Noble, but he is really a pawn—temporarily at first, and finally in the second part. He probably won’t reappear headless. And whoever stands behind Atticus, Balisarius, is somewhere in the background for now, inconsequential. In Dune, the Emperor was also in the background, with Vladimir Harkonnen and Feyd-Rautha in the foreground. However, they quickly leave the scene, leaving only Paul Atreides, the only character given a chance to be a positive hero but chooses the slow path to becoming a galaxy-sized criminal. Will Kora follow this path too? The more we learn about her, the less straightforward she seems—especially after the scene where she shoots Princess Issa. It would be intriguing if after years of fighting against the Matrix, she joins her path, leading to dominance in the Galaxy. We don’t know what power Issa held, so everything is still possible.

Similarly, the world in Snyder’s universe is vast, but in terms of action, it’s small, essentially reduced to the gas giant Mara’s moon Veldt orbiting around it. It’s similar in Dune, although it’s also an epic—it doesn’t extend beyond Arrakis. Technology in both worlds is analog—swords, knives, a boiler on a dreadnought with real stokers, not robots, and manual harvests, like in 18th-century Poland. In Dune, however, spacecraft use hyperspace travel. In Rebel Moon, it’s not yet precisely explained. However, the technology is shown in a retrofuturistic manner. If only Zack Snyder underwent some critical editing of his ideas, we could already have two parts of a cult steampunk universe, but instead, we’re still enduring this unbearable wait to see if Snyder will finally show the director’s cut, and how many years it will be permissible for. He’s a truly strange director. Sometimes I think he deliberately shows his films for critics to complain about them, and that’s his ‘editing,’ ‘proofreading.’ Then his emotions subside, reflection emerges, new ideas for filling gaps, after which viewers receive the director’s cut. Rebel Moon deserves it, as well as a raised age rating. Only then will it become a mature universe capable of competing with Star Wars, and maybe there will be an expanded harvest scene, which everyone’s laughing at now, almost like a mutant among the NORMAL in science fiction cinema, but its value will be in being different, strange, full of ambiguity, inflicting wounds on all those who feel discomfort at the sight of a robot with deer antlers on its head and a virginal wreath of flowers. And by the way, the scene where this royalistic piece of junk dispatches himself so uncompromisingly and spectacularly, battling with steam tanks, gives me shivers of pleasure. All this in a dreamlike steampunk atmosphere, in line with which spaceships burn coal to go into hyperspace.

Łukasz Budnik

Lukasz Budnik

He loves both silent cinema and contemporary blockbusters based on comic books. He looks forward to watching movie with his growing son.

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