Zack Snyder Talks Rebel Moon, Slow-Mo, and His Dark Knight Returns Movie Dreams

Eric Goldman
Movies Streaming
Movies Streaming Sci-Fi Netflix

The fact that Zack Snyder has big plans for Rebel Moon?is apparent the moment you see the full title – Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire. Not only has the director made a big new sci-fi project for Netflix, he has already made it as two separate films, with the second (subtitled The Scargiver) set to debut in April. On top of that, there are a number of tie-in stories debuting soon as well, including a four-issue comic book miniseries, Rebel Moon: House of the Bloodaxe, and an as-yet untitled game, with other projects in the works as well.

Snyder first had the idea for Rebel Moon back when he was in film school and he would go on to pitch it to Lucasfilm more than a decade ago, with the hopes of making it as a Star Wars movie. Though that wouldn’t come to be, Snyder has now has finally produced it as its own original IP, one he and Netflix clearly see a lot of franchise potential for.

The film stars Sofia Boutella as Kora, a former soldier living amongst a farming community on a planet who finds themselves under the foot of Admiral Noble (Ed Skrein) and his cruel forces, leading Kora to set out across the galaxy to find a group who can help her fight back.

Zack Snyder at the premiere of Rebel Moon.

I spoke to Snyder about the long development process of Rebel Moon and whether much changed along the way and how he developed a ton of backstory for this universe. We also discussed his well known affinity for slow-motion and how he approached it on the film, which he also served as the cinematographer on.

Plus, I asked Snyder about his love of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, as he recently told the Hollywood Reporter that making an adaptation of that seminal graphic novel would be one of the few things he thinks could ever lure him back to making DC Comics films, after his notably turbulent experiences in that arena.

Sofia Boutella as Kora in Rebel Moon

Fandom: You’ve had this story in your head for so long. How much has it changed or not changed at its core from what those early thoughts were?

Zack Snyder: At its core, it’s pretty similar, I would say… Its basic premise of the village and the evil force that comes and the mysterious stranger living among the villagers who goes out into the galaxy to collect heroes to protect them, that was always basically the movie. It’s gone through design iterations. It was always a female protagonist. And so yeah, that part of it stayed pretty solid. But of course, the details and the design have changed a lot. I’m really happy with the evolution that it’s gone through. It kind of went through a filter and landed in a place where I feel like it’s the right movie.

Fandom: Besides the two films, there’s a lot of tie-in media. I actually just got the press release for the comic book. Because you were developing it for so long, did you start to come up with a lot of backstory that you could find places for?

Zack Snyder: One hundred percent. That’s really what’s happened, is that all the research, all the hard work we’ve done in developing the world, we’ve found a way to use all that research and stuff to sort of flesh it out. And I’ve been really adamant to make sure that all the, like, extracurricular storylines, they are all in canon so that when you read something, no one’s taking a run – they’re really in-world stories that give you information about the movies in general.

Fandom: You’re known for having a healthy amount of slow-motion in your movies. How does that develop when you’re putting your shots together, especially because you’re your own DP on these Netflix movies. Is all of it planned beforehand? Or does it ever happen on the day, when you’re thinking about how you’re approaching these sequences, and you might realize where those shots would fit in??

Zack Snyder: The trick is, of course, with slow-motion, you have to have enough light. Because when you increase the frame rate, the exposure time is shorter, so you need more light to keep maintaining the exposure that you were maintaining – let’s say 24 frames. And as the DP, and because a lot of the lighting was practical, I was really careful to always build in — in case I had the idea [for a slow-motion shot] — extra light, so I could bring the light levels up, so I could achieve any frame rate that I wanted.

Of course, there were days where we brought extra super high speed cameras in for the crazy stuff. And those were very carefully designed. But for a little bit of grease – I call it grease when I go to just slightly slow motion, just to give someone like a little bit of grace – those shots, that’s always ready to go.

Fandom: Does it change anything with your actors? Are they basically doing the same performance or are there times where you want them to behave a little differently?

Zack Snyder: Yeah, there might be a moment where if it’s like a particular slow-motion shot that requires them to sort of, I guess you would say, accentuate a certain movement, so that that really takes full advantage of the slow-mo. They understand that language by now, working with me this long. I’d be like, ‘Okay, really extend that. Because it’s right on the edge of frame so you can really get the whole motion and it just looks more dramatic,’ – whatever that is. So, yeah, a lot of that happens on the day when I’m actually making the shot because I can actually see it.

Zack Snyder and producer Deborah Snyder on the set of Rebel Moon.

Fandom: With the two movies, were you filming them back-to-back or were you filming sequences from both throughout??

Zack Snyder: It was sequences from both. There was a slight linear quality to it because of the harvesting of the crops that happens. Movie one ends with sort of the harvest ready to go. And so a lot of movie two happens during the harvest and then subsequently right after. There’s a bit of a conflict that happens, as you can imagine. And so the events of movie one happen before the harvest is ready and we had to shoot it in kind of a linear way, because the harvest itself, we grew the wheat from zero to the height that it is. So there was a lot of work that had to be done to grow the wheat, harvest it, all that, from small to big…

You don’t expect when you’re a filmmaker to also have to have knowledge of the cycles of wheat growth and/or planting! But that is definitely a skill set that I needed on this movie.

Fandom: Both Ed Skrein and Michiel Huisman are in this movie in prominent roles. Casting both of Game of Thrones’蝉 Daarios, was that just a cosmic coincidence?

Zack Snyder: Complete coincidence! It was weird. It didn’t even occur to me. I think halfway through filming, someone pointed it out to me, and I was like, ‘Oh, really?? Oh, okay. Wow!’ But they’re both great, by the way. I love them both.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Fandom: You recently told the Hollywood Reporter that adapting The Dark Knight Returns would be something that could lead you back to DC if it ever became a possibility. What is it about that story that resonates so much for you?

Zack Snyder: I just think that, if you look at Watchmen, where Alan [Moore] took, basically, iconic graphic characters that you could superimpose over a lot of… If Nite Owl is Batman, and Doctor Manhattan has Superman-ish qualities, you can kind of make all these different sort of archetypal hero analyses over the top of those heroes.

The thing about Dark Knight Returns is it is literally Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman, and you really get to kind of… The deconstruction is so obvious and so palpable that I just think, for me, it was like comics grew up in a single moment. Just literally, when I read that book, it completely laid bare everything I thought about superheroes. For me, it’s the greatest comic book ever written. And if I could do that, then I will have done Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns, and I’d be pretty much done with superheroes.

Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire is now playing in select theaters and will be available on Netflix on December 22.?


Eric Goldman
Eric Goldman is Managing Editor for Fandom. He's a bit obsessed with Star Wars, Marvel, Disney, theme parks, and horror movies... and a few other things. Too many, TBH.
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