Producers: Deborah Snyder, Eric Newman, Zack Snyder and Wesley Coller   Director: Zack Snyder Screenplay: Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad and Shay Hatten   Cast: Sofia Boutella, Djimon Hounsou, Ed Skrein, Michiel Huisman, Doona Bae, Anthony Hopkins, Staz Nair, Ray Fisher, Sky Yang, Fra Fee, Cleopatra Coleman, Stuart Martin, Ingvar Sigurdsson, Alfonso Herrara, Cary Elwes, Rhian Rees, Elise Duffy, Stella Grace Fitzgerald and Charlotte Maggi   Distributor: Netflix

Grade: D-

The initial installment in Zack Snyder’s latest Netflix would-be blockbuster was all build-up, a glorified prologue, in the form of a recruitment narrative, to what was promised to be the main event, a “Star Wars”-like smackdown between an evil empire and the band of ragtag rebels assembled in Part One.  Now comes that much-vaunted face-off, and the culmination of the outer-space “Magnificent Seven” that’s “Rebel Moon: Part Two – The Scargiver” proves an even drearier bore than its predecessor.

The movie falls into two distinct parts.  In the first, the warriors who survived an initial battle with the Motherworld’s forces headed by sneering Admiral Atticus Noble (Ed Skrein), commander of the Deathstar-inspired Dreadnought, return to the farming planet Veldt, whose crops Noble had been dispatched to seize and where the rebellion had birthed, in a celebratory mood.  They believe that Noble has been killed by Kora (Sofia Boutella), the sad-faced former imperial soldier heavy with guilt over an act that will eventually be revealed.  But the joyous atmosphere, complete with incongruously Celtic folk dancing by the locals, abruptly ends as Aris (Sky Yang), the Motherworld warrior left on Veldt who’s changed his allegiance and is revealing the orders he receives to the rebels, learns that Noble has been resuscitated and is headed back on the Dreadnought to finish his job: he’ll arrive in five days.

So imperial general turned rebel leader Titus (Djimon Hounsou) oversees the training of the locals for combat and urgent defensive preparations against imminent attack.  These sequences, patterned after (among others) those of the rigorous drills of the slave army of Spartacus for battle against the Romans, are extraordinarily repetitive and dull, since Snyder lacks the saving touch of humor Kubrick brought to his film. 

There are, however, unintentional laughs in a scene in which the rebels—Titus, impassive swordswoman Nemesis (Doona Bae), blacksmith and animal whisperer Tarak (Staz Nair), and warrior Darrian, rightly called Bloodaxe (Ray Fisher)—all explain the reasons behind their embrace of rebellion.  Kora declines to reveal the reason for her defection to the group, but will explain it to Gunnar (Michiel Huisman), the Veldt farmer with whom she’s become romantically involved.  Even in a picture marked by bad writing, this sequence stands out for its ludicrous banality.

When the Dreadnought arrives, the second half of the movie begins. Noble has identified Kora as Arthelais, a particularly sought-after enemy of imperial despot Belisarius (Fra Fee), and offers to spare the village if she surrenders to him.  Though she agrees, Gunnar takes it upon himself to initiate combat, and Snyder indulges in his propensity for protracted battle episodes between individual rebels and imperial forces, switching from one to another haphazardly and frequently resorting to his much-loved slow-motion for effect, not realizing that it makes the action less rather than more impactful.  Massive tank-like machines are introduced against defenders armed with simple weapons, and individuals die on both sides; the erstwhile imperial robot warrior called Jimmy (played by Dustin Ceithamer but voiced by Anthony Hopkins, who also serves as a narrator), which has been a recluse on Veldt for years, finally joins the fray on the side of the rebels even as Devra Bloodaxe (Cleopatra Coleman) arrives with reinforcements.

This formulaic drivel is presented in a way that highlights Snyder’s many deficiencies—his penchant for cardboard characters and stilted dialogue, the clumsy handling of actors that leaves them looking wooden and embarrassed, the gloomy cinematography (another of his contributions) that makes everything in the production design by Stephen Swain and Stefan Dechant look dank and murky, the maladroit effects, all served up in glacial pacing by editor Dody Diorn and accompanied by a blaring, ineffectual score from Tom Holkenborg. The result is a stunningly unexciting farrago of uninspired action and schmaltzy space melodrama, its team of tormented heroes set against a malevolent foe played like Snidely Whiplash, though Skrein unhappily lacks a moustache to twirl.

And as a final insult, Snyder adds a revelation concerning the beatific Princess Issa (Stella Grace Fitzgerald), whose attempt to put the empire on a path of peace had led to Belisarius’ coup against the ruling family, that indicates his intention to extend the juvenile story into a multi-part saga, a third-rate copy of George Lucas’ faraway galaxy, which itself is by now pretty threadbare.  That’s a truly dispiriting prospect.                      

The twin “Rebel Moon” disasters might raise the issue of whether they represent the worst of Zach Snyder’s movies.  It’s a tough question, because looking over his filmography, choosing the nadir is rather like trying to decide which of Dante’s circles of hell would be the most painful to spend eternity in.   And if he continues this series, more candidates will inevitably become available—a grim probability indeed.