This ‘Rebel Moon’ Scene Feels Like It Belongs in a Different Movie


The Big Picture

  • Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon has ambitious ideas and beautiful visuals, but its awkward dialogue weakens its potential.
  • The best and most compelling scene, therefore, is a quiet moment between Jimmy and Sam, one that builds and humanizes the characters, sets up the themes at play, and has genuine emotion.
  • This scene hints at the better movie Rebel Moon could have been if it had capitalized on its strongest elements.

Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire is quintessential Zack Snyder: ambitious ideas, slick action, beautiful visuals, and stilted dialogue. Even after collaborating with Kurt Johnstad and Shay Hatten on Rebel Moon‘s script, the director’s rejected “R-rated Star Wars” idea fails to impress. And there’s potential: much has been written about the precious rarity of original IP, and after 70 years, an explicit sci-fi revamping of Akira Kurosawa‘s Seven Samurai holds appeal. Like some previous Snyder projects, a full writer’s room or increased creative restrictions could have fixed Rebel Moon‘s overriding issues. (In an age when creative restrictions usually aren’t beneficial, no less.) It’s difficult to care about Rebel Moon‘s characters despite the immensely talented cast when their feelings and motivations are explained with the bluntness of a first draft.

The best scene in this messy and action-heavy feature, then, is unexpected both for its quietness and its astute delivery: a conversation between a loyal robot and an empathetic young woman. The three-minute moment Jimmy (Anthony Hopkins) and Sam (Charlotte Maggi) share before the driving plot kicks in feels like it’s from a differently focused, and superior, movie — which is a shame, both given its relevance to Rebel Moon‘s wider theme and how it represents the movie that could have been.

Rebel Moon

When a peaceful settlement on the edge of a distant moon finds itself threatened by the armies of a tyrannical ruling force, a mysterious stranger living among its villagers becomes their best hope for survival.

Release Date
December 22, 2023

Zack Snyder


What Happens in ‘Rebel Moon’s Best Scene?

Jimmy the humanoid robot, voiced by Anthony Hopkins, and Sam, a human girl played by Charlotte Maggi, sit on a rock and talk in Rebel Moon
Image via Netflix

Jimmy and Sam’s shared scene has inherent promise to begin with. Sir Anthony Hopkins could infuse a kindergartner’s essay with Shakespearean gravitas. A living legend, a two-time Academy Award winner, and a performer unafraid to try new things (not just Rebel Moon but How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Transformers: The Last Knight, the Thor trilogy, and Westworld), the idea of Hopkins voicing a robot is just delightful. Make that robot and his fellow units a guilt-ridden, fallen “quest knight” modeled after Arthurian legend, and an “elite crazy killing machine” to boot (according to Snyder), and that’s a recipe for success. Or, at least, success’s missed-mark potential. As it stands, Rebel Moon — Part One underutilizes Jimmy. The same critique can be leveled regarding Rebel Moon‘s entire cast. That problem, and the movie’s awkward dialogue, makes the scene with Jimmy and Sam stand out even more.

Things begin as Jimmy, a former mechanical soldier now living under the Imperium’s belittling treatment, emerges from a calm river. After hauling crates for the Motherworld soldiers, he needs a bath to wash off the grime and dust. That alone is a humanizing action, giving silent character and context. As Jimmy perches on a rock at the river’s edge, he’s joined by Sam, a resident of Veldt’s tight-knit farming community. Politely, she offers Jimmy a towel. That demonstrates Sam’s quality of character without anyone having to explicitly tell us how kind or wise she is. Jimmy performer Dustin Ceithamer‘s startled but open body language suggests surprise. But, similarly polite, he welcomes her.


This Fantasy Film Has Influenced Zack Snyder’s Entire Body of Work

This sword and sorcery film permeates everything from Snyder’s DC work to his latest, ‘Rebel Moon’.

Sam’s curious about Jimmy, talking to him like a human being and actively listening when he tells her about his past. What follows counts as one of Rebel Moon‘s many monologues: Jimmy informs Sam that she reminds him of his former charge, Princess Issa (Stella Grace Fitzgerald). The Motherworld King’s (Cary Elwes) young daughter, Issa was a mythical prophecy made flesh. She was a walking symbol representing hope for a better tomorrow, that the universe could be compassionate instead of divided and stratified. Once Issa was born, Jimmy protected her with “everything that dwells inside this metal skin.”

Sam looks similar to the white-blonde Issa, but the implication concerns the girls’ shared decency. Sam even carries herself with a maturity beyond her years, one that wouldn’t be out of place in a royal court. Jimmy concludes his tale by mourning how “our compassion, our kindness, our very joy, died with that young girl.” Sam offers Jimmy an alternative: “I think it lives in you.” Then, she places the flower crown she’s sewn upon his head, cups his cheek, and gracefully leaves. Jimmy blushes and touches that cheek in wonder, silently staring into the middle distance.

Why Is the Jimmy and Sam Scene the Best Part of ‘Rebel Moon’?

For this moment, Rebel Moon‘s extremely expository dialogue makes sense. Instead of a character telling us why they’re angry enough to fight the big bad Motherworld only for those revelations to matter not one whit (the plot isn’t affected, the characters aren’t affected), Jimmy’s speech builds his character and enriches the themes at play. It humanizes a grieving, regretful robot guard who lost his optimism by the simplest acts of washing his face and blushing. Zack Snyder told Screen Rant that Anthony Hopkins was drawn to the role because of Jimmy’s inherent humanity: “When we talked about it, [Anthony] just seemed to be really interested in exploring the humanity of a robot. […] He was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool. Yeah, wow, okay. What is that?’ I think that got his gears turning.”

To anyone cognizant of even a second of Hopkins’ filmography, it’s no surprise he conveys that humanity in all its shades, and then some. In this case, all he needs is his voice. For an “elite crazy killing machine,” that’s Jimmy’s best weapon. Between the tired layers of Hopkins’ intonations and Dustin Ceithamer’s motion capture, a sentient creature with a full emotional life is sitting on that rock. Not to be outdone, Sam’s actress, Charlotte Maggi, also deserves her flowers (to both make a pun and quote the internet). Sam’s warm sincerity didn’t emerge from thin air. Rebel Moon isn’t a movie so much as a boxing match between phenomenal actors and their tedious lines. Hopkins, Maggi, and the always magnificent Djimon Hounsou aside, most of them lose. Sam feels quietly lived-in. She’s aware of the universe’s cruelty and still chooses to spread kindness.

Thematically, Jimmy and Sam’s shared moment of tenderness kickstarts dual redemption arcs. It’s Kora (Sofia Boutella) who openly rebels after saving Sam from the Imperium soldiers, but Jimmy refuses to follow their orders during the attempted gang rape. The Jimmy units were created to protect. Sam isn’t Issa, but how much does that matter? Jimmy’s inaction, especially for a knight figure, is no small thing. Knights are loyal to the death — until their morality demands rebellion, that is. And with Jimmy’s reason for “living” long dead, witnessing the Imperium’s abuse might reignite the fire in his circuits. Snyder hinted as much to Screen Rant, saying, “Jimmy has to make a choice about how much will he really stand up for the villagers” in Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver.

‘Rebel Moon’ Needed More Scenes Like Jimmy’s

Image via Empire/Netflix

From a technical standpoint, the river scene highlights Zack Snyder’s cinematography talents. Having the scene unfold at twilight emphasizes Veldt’s natural warmth, which contrasts against later scenes of the cold, gray, and machine-heavy Imperium. Jimmy and Sam are surrounded by fresh green grass that waves in the wind. The setting sun slants across their faces and casts moving reflections on the lake. Snyder also lets the scene breathe; editor Dody Dorn balances reaction shots with ones meant to emphasize intimacy, like Sam’s fingers weaving the flower crown. This is what Rebel Moon needed more of. Snyder spoke positively about his collaboration with Netflix; the streamer suggested Snyder release both the PG-13 cut they preferred and a longer, R-rated version that accurately reflected his vision. No amount of footage can fix Rebel Moon‘s fundamental flaws, but trimming so much out just compounds the existing problems.

Snyder promised more Jimmy in his director’s cut. For now, the PG-13 version’s shorter runtime front-loads the character only to boot him out until the last few seconds. Rebel Moon is a valiant effort that fails to capitalize on its strongest elements. If it can’t show all its shades, then why release the shorter movie to begin with? (In the meantime, did we mention that Anthony Hopkins voices a robot? Forget a longer cut: where’s the Jimmy-exclusive spin-off?)

Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire is streaming now on Netflix.

Watch on Netflix


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