Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire, a new science-fiction film directed by Zack Snyder, is drawing many comparisons to Star Wars. These comparisons are inevitable, with Rebel Moon being a sci-fi story about a ragtag group of rebels fighting against a tyrannical galactic government, but it goes further than that.
Long before it became a Netflix movie, Snyder pitched Rebel Moon to Lucasfilm as a Star Wars film. This occurred shortly after Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, with Snyder pitching an R-rated version of Seven Samurai in space.
A Lucasfilm and Snyder collaboration didn’t work out, but Snyder instead got the creative freedom to start his own universe that will span beyond the films. This includes a prequel comic series titled Rebel Moon: House of the Bloodaxe, with the first issue releasing on January 10, 2024.
While Rebel Moon is an entertaining movie packed with thrilling action that sets up an intriguing universe, after seeing it in theaters, I am glad that Lucasfilm passed on Snyder’s pitch, as it wouldn’t have worked as a Star Wars film for various reasons.
A galaxy far, far away vs. a new universe
One of Rebel Moon‘s greatest strengths is its original universe. The first movie only scratches the surface and leaves viewers wanting to learn more about the Imperium, the Motherworld, the sentient robots known as “Jimmies,” the child known as Princess Issa who was supposed to end all wars, and the resistance led by Devra and Darrian Bloodaxe.
If Rebel Moon were a Star Wars movie, the Imperium likely would’ve been the Empire, the Motherworld would’ve been Coruscant, the Jimmies would’ve been a new kind of droid, and the Bloodaxe siblings would be part of the Rebel Alliance or Resistance. Snyder would’ve been constricted by what has been established in canon and wouldn’t have been able to start fresh with his own universe and own characters, which is the main selling point for Rebel Moon and its future stories.
Portrayal of violence
Another major reason Rebel Moon wouldn’t have worked in Star Wars is due to the way violence is portrayed in each franchise. According to Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, “A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.” The Jedi and other heroic characters throughout Star Wars inevitably have to resort to violence at times to defend themselves and others in need. This violence is not glorified, though; it is not what makes these characters heroes.
Luke Skywalker’s defining moments as a Jedi are when he casts aside his lightsaber and refuses to kill Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi and when he uses Force projection to save the Resistance and give hope to the galaxy in The Last Jedi. In both of these moments, Luke’s heroism manifests from choosing nonviolence over violence to do the right thing, save the day, and inspire others.
Meanwhile, Rebel Moon‘s heroes are defined by their violence, which is glorified in all its slow-motion glory. Kora becomes a reluctant hero when she stops running from the Imperium and takes a stand against them. Every time Kora resorts to violence in the present, it is justifiable and in the name of self-defense or protection. Still, these action sequences are drawn out and excessively violent, focusing more on the brutality of her kills than her motivations or inner conflict.
The glorified and more graphic violence also narrows the audiences who will watch Rebel Moon. Part of what makes Star Wars special is how it can be understood and enjoyed by both children and adults. Loving the franchise can be passed down and then enriched by each generation having their own iteration of Star Wars.
Rebel Moon and all the Star Wars films released since the Disney acquisition are rated PG-13. However, Rebel Moon’s more graphic violence and multiple scenes of sexual assault make it completely unsuitable for younger audiences. It would lack Star Wars’ generational appeal and accessibility that is still maintained in some of the franchise’s darker stories, including Revenge of the Sith and Andor.
Kora doesn’t have much of a personality or arc beyond being a stoic and violent soldier of the Imperium who stops hiding from her past and becomes a stoic rebel using violence to fight the Imperium. The other characters Kora recruits from around the galaxy are shown to be exemplary warriors, but they don’t have much personality and are given little to no backstory. The audience doesn’t get to know or care about these characters. When certain characters make a heroic sacrifice or commit betrayal, these moments feel like they should be impactful. But they aren’t because there is no investment in the characters.
Getting to know and care about the characters has always been a strength of Star Wars. The original trilogy works so well and has endured because the audience cares deeply about Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and Han Solo. The Mandalorian largely became a phenomenon because the audience quickly became invested in Din Djarin and Grogu. Without strong characterization and character development, Rebel Moon wouldn’t have continued a hallmark of Star Wars storytelling.
In addition to its compelling heroes, Star Wars’ villains are often nuanced. Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, and Darth Maul stand out not only because they are cool-looking and formidable villains but because of their complexity and inner conflict. Rebel Moon‘s antagonist, Admiral Atticus Noble, demonstrates his sadism and power-hungry nature, while the more mysterious Regent Balisarius looms as the franchise’s “big bad.” However, any nuance is lacking in these villains, and even their motivations are barely explored.
To be fair, Maul and some other great Star Wars villains didn’t become nuanced until long after their initial introductions, and Emperor Palpatine didn’t even appear in the original Star Wars. A television series about Balisarius is reportedly planned and could give him more depth. Nevertheless, Rebel Moon‘s so-far one-dimensional villains pale in comparison with Star Wars’ iconic villains, all of whom made much more of an impression during their respective debuts.
Rebel Moon does enough to be entertaining and keep me interested in the upcoming sequel and maybe even the prequel comic series, but it also proves that it never would’ve worked in a galaxy far, far away.