REBEL MOON – Comparisons to “Star Wars” are harmful and unfair

What will “Star Wars” fans do if it turns out that “Rebel Moon” becomes a cult space opera?

Odys Korczyński

27 December 2023

Many “hardcore” Star Wars fans, like the Precambrian rocks of the Caucasus, staunchly defend the belief that in the space opera genre, everything after Star Wars will be derivative unless it is based on a multi-threaded, coherent, innovatively interpreted, and most importantly, yet unfilmed system of mythological archetypes that have existed in culture for a long time. After all, we know how much time George Lucas spent preparing for the filming of his saga. However, Zack Snyder also pondered this for a long time, and it’s not his fault that he was born in times when this range of myths had already been utilized—this and many, many others. What remains is syncretism and reinterpretation. Zack Snyder, basing the advertising campaign for his latest film on constant references to George Lucas’s saga and suggesting that Rebel Moon is a continuation of Star Wars or even a story that will take the place of Star Wars in pop culture, must have been aware of what he was saying. However, he did not realize that with such statements, he dug himself a significant grave in the ultra-fan consciousness because irrational adoration of Star Wars afflicts the entire space opera genre.

I usually fear such promises made by directors because too many film productions were supposed to become great, iconic works, and now no one remembers them. Similarly, with initially unknown film experiments that are now considered canonical titles, and critics condemned them to failure shortly after their premieres. George Lucas did not promise blockbuster successes that would change the history of popular cinema and earn a fortune. He just loved his passion for fantasy and was fortunate to be the first in this type of mythological syncretism. However, there would be no Star Wars without many people who shaped Lucas’s ideas, as well-described in Chris Taylor’s book, “How Star Wars Conquered the Universe.” Fame and franchise came later, and then Disney at the sad end of this story, squeezing the last money from viewers, feeding on their irrational love for Star Wars. However, this adoration turned out to be toxic for the genre, as it covered the imperfections of Lucas’s original trilogy with an emotional blanket, turning questionable paper heroes into legendary characters—Yoda, Leia, Luke Skywalker, and Rey from the new installment. The genre did not move forward for many years because it was always compared to Star Wars. So, if someone today wants to criticize Rebel Moon for alleged paperiness of its heroes and cite characters from Star Wars as wasted standards, let them reconsider, read the dialogues, pay attention to the tragic acting of Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. Kora, compared to Luke, is already a fully developed character who does not constantly wonder what she wants but still evolves on a new path of space opera life. She is played by Sofia Boutella, who is engaged in the role and able to juggle words so skillfully that even the somewhat overdramatized issues don’t sound tacky. Moreover, she is surrounded by a group of very individualized supporting characters. It’s done somewhat like a pulp comic, a bit of an RPG game. There’s even a royal combat robot whose role is wisely limited, at least at this stage of the story’s development, with a decent twist at the end, unlike in Star Wars, where robots are mainly a source of forced entertainment with sometimes an important role for the entire history of the universe and the survival of the main characters.

In general, the Kurosawa motif of forming an individualized combat group has been well-utilized and enriched with non-linear plot twists, although one might be deceived by the plot path that Snyder leads us on, especially concerning the main antagonist Balisarius and his servant Atticus Noble. Linearity does not have to be a flaw, and the initiation and development of Rebel Moon were planned differently than in Star Wars. In the case of the antagonist Atticus Noble, comparing him to Darth Vader again is not fair. While he is a character with planned phases of development and perhaps moral restarts, his brutality is much more naturalistic, hegemonic, primitive, final, unlike Anakin Skywalker, whose strength comes from the Force. And so we come to one of the most important mythical concepts (pneuma) that Lucas used in Star Wars, but he did it so simply, without complicating the fairy-tale structure. Rebel Moon is a production aimed at an older audience, so the magical concept is more, for now, hidden. I assume it is also more complex not only etiologically but also axiologically. Let’s recall the introduction to the presentation of the magical element in Rebel Moon. It’s the scene with Kora observing her ward, Princess Issa.

Zack Snyder took on a great commitment by suggesting that Rebel Moon could compete with Star Wars, or even replace it, or become its genre continuation. Looking at Snyder’s film portfolio, it’s a commitment that smells of directorial mythomania and donquixotism because I don’t want to think that he deliberately, falsely attached himself to Star Wars just to promote his film at all costs. Or maybe it’s different, and Rebel Moon will become a space opera that fixes the flaws of Star Wars? Who knows, maybe the problem lies in the comparison itself, and Snyder didn’t overestimate his abilities that much?

Comparisons are often harmful, especially to legends, myths of pop culture, all myths that people believe in en masse. And so it happened with Rebel Moon, the first part of Zack Snyder’s saga, clearly inspired by Star Wars but quite different. Comparisons to myths can be misleading because they impose an interpretative perspective on the object of interpretation, which cannot be fairly compared to the arbitrarily chosen legend. We look at events through the prism of the legend, compare heroes to those legendary, and even when they are inspired by them, they have the right to create their own plane of meaning, their own presented world. Rebel Moon will never be Star Wars because it is a completely different film—created in different times, aimed at a different type of viewer who perceives New Adventure Cinema with elements of science fiction much less fairy-tale, less legendary, actually much tougher, more rugged, and without the pensioner’s innocence, and at the same time, likes the hero’s drama, even if presented too pathetically. Snyder loves pathos, and moreover, he mixes it with slow motion to enhance the emotional charge. It bothered me in Justice League, and it bothers me in Rebel Moon, but it doesn’t give me chills. Aesthetically, it is well-executed slow motion and occurs in moments that are not crucial elements of the plot, so adding action slowdown would not disrupt the story. Nevertheless, Zack Snyder could not resist introducing a few bombastic speeches put into the mouths of the characters. Fortunately, it did not overshadow the film, as often happens in superhero movies. Snyder’s pathos even produced some interesting frames—Kora with the flag is a painterly and populist showcase in the production, and such shots build an independent legend of great film epics.

By a hair’s breadth, I would have fallen for Snyder’s rhetoric that Rebel Moon could be the successor to Star Wars, but I almost believed the critics that the production’s flaw is that in many aspects, it did not live up to George Lucas’s iconic saga. Rebel Moon is, therefore, a derivative production because: Zack Snyder did not dedicate his youth to creating it, did not use innovative myths of culture and archetypes of fantasy cinema

Odys Korczyński

Odys Korczyński

For years he has been passionate about computer games, in particular RPG productions, film, medicine, religious studies, psychoanalysis, artificial intelligence, physics, bioethics, as well as audiovisual media. He considers the story of a film to be a means and a pretext to talk about human culture in general, whose cinematography is one of many splinters.

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