‘Rebel Moon’ Shouldn’t Need a Director’s Cut. Zack Snyder Is Doing One Anyway

Zack Snyder’s Star Wars-meets-Dune sci-fi epic Rebel Moon dropped its first teaser trailer Tuesday, and the director is already revealing plans for another, longer version of the project — including roughly an hour of additional footage.

Now before we get to Snyder’s explanation, one might wonder why Rebel Moon needs a different version in the first place. The Man of Steel filmmaker isn’t putting out a Warner Bros. superhero title that is being forced to fit some restrictive theatrical distribution requirements. Rebel Moon is for Netflix, and is already being released as a two-part movie. Presumably, if Snyder wanted Rebel Moon to be longer — and given he already had the creative freedom to shoot the additional footage and the budget to finish it with visual effects — why not just release that version on the streaming service instead and then stand by it?

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What’s also unusual is that Rebel Moon hasn’t been seen by viewers yet. Director’s cuts are normally considered reactive and corrective, giving fans the promise of an improvement. Perhaps Snyder’s fans will consider Rebel Moon perfect the way it is? (And even if they don’t, shouldn’t a filmmaker at least pretend they might until it comes out?)

For his part, Snyder recognizes that his penchant for retroactively reworking his films is somewhat “notorious,” and explained his reasoning thusly on Netflix’s PR site:

“The [Rebel Moon] director’s cut is close to an hour of extra content, so I think it’s a legitimate extended universe version,” he said. “You really get to see a lot. It’s just more painted-in all the way. The director’s [cut] is a settle-in deep dive, which I have notoriously done throughout my career. I don’t know how I got into this director’s cut thing, but what I will say about it is that, for me, the director’s cuts have always been something I had to fight for in the past and nobody wanted it. It was this bastard child that I was always trying to put together because they felt like there was a deeper version. And with Netflix, we shot scenes just for the director’s cut. So in that way, it’s really a revelation because it gives that second kick at the can for big fans, like a real discovery that they would not [otherwise] get. I’m really excited about it!”

Previously, Snyder has created director’s or extended versions of 2017’s Justice League, 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, 2004’s Dawn of the Dead, 2011’s Sucker Punch (Snyder plans yet another Sucker Punch edit to come) and 2009’s Watchmen.

It’s a filmmaking approach that’s the opposite of classical. As Martin Scorsese explained in a 2019 EW interview when asked if he’d ever do a director’s cut of one of his movies: “No, no, no, no, no! The director’s cut is the film that’s releasedunless it’s been taken away from the director by the financiers and the studio. [The director] has made their decisions based on the process they were going through at the time. There could be money issues, there could be somebody that dies [while making] the picture, the studio changes heads and the next person hates it. Sometimes [a director says], ‘I wish I could go back and put it all back together.’ All these things happen. But I do think once the die is cast, you have to go with it and say, ‘That’s the movie I made under those circumstances.’”

All that said, one could argue Snyder’s approach is equally valid. Peter Jackson released his acclaimed Extended Editions of his Oscar-winning The Lord of the Rings trilogy. George Lucas released various editions of his original Star Wars trilogy (with admittedly mixed results). To declare, “There shall only be one version of each movie now and forever,” feels like a stodgy stance born of the old-fashioned studio production system that effectively mandated such a policy. Snyder’s approach is arguably more modern. It’s like the difference between writing a book on a typewriter versus a laptop; the digital media distribution age lends itself more easily to revision. Plus, of course, a second “but wait, this version is different/better” is a way of potentially generating more revenue, not just getting another artistic bite at the apple (and Snyder certainly has the sort of relationship with his fan base where he can sell the benefits of a different take on his vision).

Still, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings were not originally built to fill the endless chasm of streaming. So there’s something about the Rebel Moon plan that smacks a bit of uncertainty — “But if you don’t love it, there’s another one!” or “Here are some scenes I like, but I’m not that sure about.” Here’s the trailer if you haven’t yet seen it:

Here’s some more background, including quotes from Snyder, about how the long-gestating project ended up a two-parter in the first place.

Part 1 is titled A Child of Fire, while Part 2 is called The Scargiver. The first part of Rebel Moon debuts on Netflix on Dec. 22, while Part 2 premieres April 19, 2024. The films star Sofia Boutella as Kora, “a mysterious woman who helps organize the peaceful residents of a planet to fight back against an authoritarian government.” Doona Bae, Ray Fisher, Staz Nair, Michiel Huisman, Charlie Hunnam, E. Duffy and Djimon Hounsou also star.

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