I will start off by saying that I don’t think Zack Snyder’s ‘Rebel Moon’ deserves a 5.6/10 star rating on IMDB and definitely doesn’t deserve a measly 22% on Rotten Tomatoes. Let’s be real, if this movie had a male protagonist it would have scored far higher and you won’t change my mind on that. Overall, its a fun movie and I did enjoy watching it and am eagerly awaiting part two.
But let’s get to my review of ‘Rebel Moon’. Zack Snyder himself has said it was originally a story he had pitched as a Star Wars Film to Lucasfilm, influenced by Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’. And I have to say, it shows, and yet at the same time, I can understand why Lucasfilm rejected it. This is not an original story, especially not for the Star Wars universe. Sure, we retell stories all the time, putting our own spin on things and rewriting, rewriting, rewriting until it is something of our own. However, while I was watching this movie, and yes enjoying myself, I couldn’t help but wonder, did Zack Snyder simply ask himself ‘‘What if Han Solo was bad?’’ and that was as far as he dared venture into his own storytelling abilities?
The visuals are nearly identical to Star Wars, and while I believe this to be intentional, I felt it drew me away from the story. I kept waiting to hear the names “Luke” and “Leia” mentioned, to see someone use the force, and at every turn, I had to remind myself this is not a Star Wars film. Maybe someone should have been on set consistently whispering this into Zack Snyder’s ear.
The story itself follows the standard sci-fi has set to imitate the real world and our conflicts. While this is not a bad thing, and I would argue that it is crucial that we use film as a platform for critiquing our systems and our governments, Rebel Moon contradicts itself consistently.
On its surface, Rebel Moon seems to function as a critique of modern-day capitalism. However, it ironically upholds the same ideals that capitalism uses to help propel itself forward, white supremacy and patriarchy.
Now, I’m not saying that this film is a white supremacist film. What I am saying is that white supremacist ideals are so ingrained into society that we don’t even realize they’re there until it’s too late. Take, for instance, the spirituality movement among predominately white women in the past five to ten years. This is a movement that pulls from closed cultural practices and rebrands them as a means of ‘white’ spirituality. Yes, I know that’s not what it’s called, but that’s what it is. It places purity at the center of its practice, and uses whiteness both in symbolism and in physical identity, to portray that idea of purity.
Zack Snyder’s ‘Rebel Moon’ does the same thing. Here we have the main protagonist, Kora, played by Algerian actress Sofia Boutella, placed in charge of protecting Princess Issa, a young, blonde, white girl. When Kora fails to fulfill her duty, she is blamed for the demise of the universe and for all hope being lost.
How does this play into the same rhetoric that white spirituality and white supremacy use? Let’s unpack it a little further. Firstly, let’s look at Princess Issa. She is young, therefore she is untouched, a virgin, pure. She is blonde, the ideal woman, an air hangs about her that is simply men holding their breath until the day she turns 18, and casting directors know this. And finally, she is white, the ultimate symbol of purity. It is purity, and therefore whiteness that the balance of the universe rests on, and when whiteness is removed from the equation, the universe devolves into madness and chaos.
Yet, it is not simply her whiteness that places her at the center of the universe’s quest for peace. It is also her position as a woman. Here we see Snyder bring back his contradictions, he shows Kora originally as a woman against the Motherworld and their new tyrannical ways. The people of the colonies speak of the universe when the King was alive as a far more peaceful time. Then, as Kora’s backstory begins to unfold, it seems there was really no difference between the military forces and their blood lust under the King’s reign as there is now under the Regent.
In a memory, the King states that his daughter, Princess Issa, is the only hope for peace, that he has failed and become set in his ways, that there is no way to turn back and they must rely on Issa to bring peace back to the universe. Once again the pitfalls of men fall onto the women closest to them. The King could easily change his ways. He could right his wrongs, give sovereignty to the worlds he had conquered, remove his military from occupied planets, and dissolve his forces. And does he? No. He takes accountability only so far as to say ‘well sure I was wrong but that’s just me and I can’t change’. Instead, his failings fall onto his daughter and it becomes her duty, as a symbol of purity, as a woman, to rectify his wrongs, to make up for his shortcomings. And to that end, it is also Kora’s position as a woman that forces the blame to be directed at her when the Princess is murdered. Perhaps this was Snyder’s intention, to bring attention to the experiences of women, though I doubt it.
As Khaled Hosseini writes, “Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.”.