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Netflix and Zack Snyder’s sci-fi epic is actually the launch of a new way to make movies

Rebel Moon is now a two-part film with a couple of different versions

A close-up shot of a black-haired woman (Sofia Boutella) wearing a brown hooded shroud and holding a futuristic pistol in Rebel Moon. Image: Netflix
Austen Goslin (he/him) is an entertainment editor. He writes about the latest TV shows and movies, and particularly loves all things horror.

Original sci-fi universes are few and far between in Hollywood, so it’s no surprise that Zack Snyder’s latest blockbuster Rebel Moon is getting a lot of attention. Netflix’s deep-space epic is set to be an entirely original world, that’s something like Snyder’s take on Star Wars. Rebel Moon got its first big reveal in Vanity Fair on Tuesday and while we didn’t learn a tremendous amount about the movies, we did learn a lot of very interesting stuff about how they got made.

Among the most interesting comments of Snyder’s in the story is about why Rebel Moon is now two movies instead of one. Snyder’s films are often on the long side, especially when he’s given final say over their content. Snyder’s cut of Watchmen is three hours and 10 minutes long while Zack Snyder’s Justice League clocks in at just over four hours. Netflix, according to Snyder, said that movies shorter than two hours tend to do better with its users — despite their habit for binging several episodes of TV in a row.

A seemingly religious figure from Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon faces the camera with while wearing a metal mask surrounded by red cloth Image: Netflix

With that in mind, it’s not shocking that Netflix asked Snyder to cut Rebel Moon’s initial runtime down a bit. But when the director bemoaned the fact that shortening the movie would ruin its character arcs and themes, he found the solution of splitting it up into two movies instead. Snyder says that unlike other two-part blockbusters, Rebel Moon’s parts will be released fairly close to one another thanks to Netflix’s non-traditional release schedule.

But even the shorter, two-part movies have a bit of interesting compromise to them. According to Snyder, there will be two cuts of each movie release: one intended for all ages, and another intended for adults that hews closer to Snyder’s vision. Snyder frequently employs violence, swearing, gore, and nudity in his films, but it’s not clear just yet what objectionable content will be stripped from the more family friendly version of the films or if they’ll also have vastly different runtimes from Snyder’s version of the parts.

A character from Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon uses a big stick to fight an assailant Image: Netflix

On the one hand, the idea of a studio pushing a filmmaker toward a more algorithmically friendly, mainstream version of their film is nothing new — take all of Snyder’s other films with director’s cuts for example. What is odd in this case, and exciting, is the idea of that marketable version of the film living alongside the version that’s closer to the director’s original vision, giving audiences their own choice on which option is best for them.

As for how all this turns out, we’ll have to wait for the official release of part one of Rebel Moon on Dec. 22.