Zack Snyder creates his own ‘Star Wars’ with ‘Rebel Moon’

If Zack Snyder’s new Netflix sci-fi movie epic “Rebel Moon” looks and feels a lot like a “Star Wars” film, that’s because it was originally pitched as one.

From its humble villagers in a far-flung galaxy battling planet-destroying imperial overlords, to its superheated swords, and even its title, the similarities with George Lucas’s creation are unavoidable.

But when Snyder’s pitch to Lucasfilm a decade or so ago didn’t work out, the director went ahead and created his own sprawling, mythology-packed universe instead — something that he now sees as a huge blessing.

“When it turned out that that wasn’t gonna work out, my wife and producing partner Deborah said to me, ‘this is the best news that you possibly could have gotten,'” recalled Snyder.

“The process of creating this world, though exhausting and very time consuming — and really the amount of detail is insane — has been incredibly rewarding,” said the director of “300” and “Watchmen.”

“Because it does give you the ability to deconstruct sci-fi icons and tropes that you’re used to.”

The result is perhaps the most audacious step yet in a wildly popular if divisive career that has seen Snyder rework zombie classic “Dawn of the Dead,” and radically overhaul beloved superheroes like Superman and Batman in films like “Man of Steel” and “Justice League.”

“Rebel Moon” is a rare, $160 million-plus gamble on something new, in an era when Hollywood increasingly depends on established brands and franchises — known as “intellectual property,” or “IP.” 

“The double-edged sword of IP is that, on one hand, it’s familiar, everybody knows what it is,” said Snyder.

“On the other hand, it’s familiar, everybody knows what it is,” he joked.

‘Zack’s new world’

“Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire” will be released on Netflix on December 22, with a second movie out in April.

It follows Kora (Sofia Boutella), a mysterious stranger who crashes her spaceship in the furthest reaches of the universe, and finds herself defending the peaceful villagers who took her in from the tyrannical Imperium.

She and naive farmer Gunnar (Michiel Huisman) assemble a team of fighters, from die-hard insurgents, to a cocky mercenary (Charlie Hunnam) who owns a speedy spaceship and values his own safety and fortune over the fate of the rebellion.

If some of those characters sound familiar, cast members insist that they are far, far away from a certain well-known galaxy.

“I don’t think anyone said the words ‘Star’ and ‘Wars’ on set,” said Ed Skrein, who plays the villainous Admiral Atticus Noble. “We never mentioned it.”

Snyder devised detailed backstories for every character, planet and even the spaceships’ machinery.

The filmmakers created three unique languages for their universe’s various cultures and creeds.

“It was pretty clear to us from the beginning that Zack had this whole world and this universe that he wanted to create, that he’d been working on for decades,” said Huisman.

“This is a new original. This is Zack’s new world.”


One stark way in which “Rebel Moon” differs from “Star Wars” is its more adult tone, with spectacular violence and sexuality.

One early scene takes place in a vividly imagined brothel.

Those themes will be even more prominent in a “director’s cut” to be released next summer.

“Right now in the current version, it’s more as a texture of danger, or an element of the exotic,” said Snyder.

“In the director’s cut version, those are very front and center. Really, that’s what it’s about.”

Netflix has already announced a companion video game, and a graphic novel and an animated film are also in the works.

Snyder’s hope is that the franchise can take on a sprawling life of its own, just as Lucas’s once did.

“My dream for it on one hand is to follow the story all the way. That’s the main thing that drives me,” he said.

“I feel like there’s a whole universe of comic books that I’d like to create for this world.

“My hope is that it’s an inexhaustible thing.” (Andrew MARSZAL)


© Agence France-Presse