This article contains Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire spoilers.
They almost appear disappointed. The motley band of heroes whom Kora (Sofia Boutella) assembled to save her agricultural moon have come to fight, and probably die, against the might of the Imperium. But when the dastardly Admiral Atticus Noble (Ed Skrein) revealed himself to be a toothless fighter, and was left to rot after being knocked into the sea by Kora, it seemed like everything worked out on its own. The death of an admiral, Kora informs us, means that his now leaderless dreadnaught must return to Motherworld rather than simply allow someone else to assume command. Convenient. And as a consequence, no baddies appear likely to return to this moon in nine weeks to claim a farming community’s crop before killing the villagers.
“This would have been a good place to die,” Djimon Hounsou’s rebellious General Titus laments. But fret not, general. It seems you might yet get your wish. Indeed, it turns out Atticus Noble was only mostly dead after getting his dental work done by Kora’s club and falling a thousand feet. And with his unexpected resurrection, Kora’s magnificent six will need a seventh if they hope to survive the battle—and heavily hinted at plot twists—that are to come.
Admiral Noble Rises
The most curious thing about Noble’s survival is how reminiscent it is of Anakin Skywalker’s unlikely resurrection in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. This ferocious but ultimately subordinate evil was left for dead by one of the heroes of the story, albeit with Anakin it was by fire and for Atticus it was in water. Yet their remains are recovered by an imperial spacecraft with miraculous healing equipment onboard.
I am not going to pretend to entirely understand how that liquid goo (which also evokes a different medical procedure in The Empire Strikes Back) heels the broken bones in Noble’s body or the missing teeth in his smile, but the tech apparently brings Noble back from the dead and puts him in a psychic Zoom call with the greatest evil in the galaxy, Regent Balisarius (Fra Fee), the tyrannical strongman who is king in all but name. In fact, it is that pseudo royal pedigree which makes Noble and Ballisarius’ mental conference call so intriguing.
Once they get the prerequisite threats out of the way—fail me again and I’ll crucify you faster than you can say “I’m Spartacus!”—Noble reveals that Balisarius’ long-lost surrogate daughter, Kora, is alive and well and living on that farming moon she now thinks is safe. “I have found her, the most wanted fugitive in the known universe,” he hisses to Balisarius. Upon hearing this, Balisarius is both enraged and excited.
He will send Noble back to that planet to kill everyone except Kora, whom he wishes to have returned to him alive so he can crucify her himself. The stage is set, but the question remains…. why is Kora so reviled and sought after by the Imperium? We suspect the answer is staring us in the face.
Did Kora Kill the King?
Throughout part one of Rebel Moon, we are treated to flashbacks of Kora’s life before she found peace on the light side of the moon. She once was a foot soldier, one of the most feared and adored stormtroopers in Balisarius’ army. So touched by fascist glory is she that she was even selected as the personal bodyguard of the Imperium’s princess. In another trip down memory lane, the unnamed king (played by Cary Elwes) speaks of how Kora has been a boon for his daughter and his family.
Elsewhere in the movie, the sadistic Admiral Noble tells one innocent he is about to execute that he has seen the limits of charity, and the sorrow this supposed virtue brought on the king who attempted to welcome an interloper into his home. And as the robot Jimmy (Anthony Hopkins) explains to us in the first voiceover… the king has long been dead when Rebel Moon begins.
It doesn’t take a talent for precognition to understand what might have happened. Kora was raised to be the perfect killing machine by Balisarius, who once upon a time served Elwes’ now-dead king. It is possible, probable even, that he placed Kora into the royal household with the intention of killing a king. Which if she did, it would definitely make her the most despised fugitive in the known universe.
And yet, there is something perhaps more twisted at play. Balisarius probably would have happily welcomed a dead king. It’s left him with absolute tyrannical power, after all. However, his title is Regent Balisarius. As in he is the adult supervisor to another monarch who perhaps has not come of age. All of which brings us back to the princess whom Kora was supposed to serve. We know from Kora’s memories that the princess was touched by providence to have special abilities—a magical talent gifted to her by some kind of unnamed Force, you might say—and Kora feels guilty for betraying this child. We also know that the robot Jimmy misses the princess whom he believes is dead. Still, he feels “warmth” and recognition of her when he looks into the face of the farm girl on Kora’s moon, Sam (Charlotte Maggi).
So what if Sam is the princess that Kora swore to protect but then betrayed? And what if she is therefore the rightful heir to the Imperium? It would explain Balisarius’ title of “regent” as well as his obsession with Kora. To put it plainly, he likely had Kora help orchestrate the assassination of the king, which she did like an obedient daughter, but after the fact couldn’t bring herself to kill the princess she grew to adore. So she spirited her away, and brought her to this unimportant moon where she grew older as a farm girl named Sam. Balisarius is not vengeful because Kora killed the king. He’s vengeful because she didn’t also kill the princess, who has a claim that challenges his rule.
This is likely the dirty secret that sets up the end of all things.
Jimmy, Antlers, and a Magnificent Seven
The final shot of the movie is an evocative one. Alone in a field, Jimmy the Robot watches as six warriors return to Kora’s home. The group are under the false assumption that they do not have a fight coming, but Jimmy might know better. After all… he’s wearing antlers?!
It’s a strange sight, but one portent with meaning. The entire community in which Kora’s adopted people live has a faint air of the Norse about them. They’re agrarian farmers who gather for communal events in great longhouses, just as the Vikings did in the Middle Ages. They worship old gods and keep antiquated customs. And in his appearance, Jimmy resembles a pagan deity, perhaps Cernunnos, an Gaelic god that Nordic sailors might have come across. In any event, our dear robot appears to be going native. At the beginning of the film, he told Sam he has sworn off weapons and violence, because his kind was built solely to serve and protect the royal family. However, it seems the robot might have intuited something: the royal family is alive and right here on this rock.
It also would align with Zack Snyder’s passions and influences. The filmmaker has not been coy in the past when he said he imagines Rebel Moon to be a science fiction variation on Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954), a film where four warriors come to protect a small village. Before the climax of Snyder’s Part One, however, Kora had assembled eight warriors, including herself. Unfortunately, Kai (Charlie Hunnam) was a traitor in their midst, and while he perished for his sins, his duplicity caused the death of Darrian Bloodaxe (Ray Fisher).
At the end of the film, Kora has but five outside warriors to join her last stand against the Imperium. Jimmy would make a total of seven, and if our feral ‘bot enters the fray to protect a princess, all bets are off.
Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver arrives on Netflix on April 19, 2024.