‘Rebel Moon — Part Two’ Delivers Epic Battles — but Robot Jimmy Is the Scene Stealer

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Zack Snyder finally delivers epic battle action in “Rebel Moon — Part Two: The Scargiver” (currently streaming on Netflix), the sequel to his space opera that began as a “Seven Samurai”-inspired “Star Wars” pitch. In fact, the 122-minute, PG-13 version contains nearly an hour of mostly ultra slo-mo fighting in parallel montages. (The upcoming extended cut this summer promises another hour of gory footage.)

In terms of VFX, that breaks down to 1,316 shots (led by Scanline tackling the ground battles shot on a field in Southern California, and Wētā FX handling the aerial action, with interiors shot at Sunset Gower Studios) for a combined 745 battle shots. Plus, there are impressive flashbacks of battles pertaining to the crew of warriors prior to the big event.

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It was quite an undertaking for production VFX supervisor Marcus Taormina, considering that he simultaneously worked on “Part One: A Child of Fire” and “Part Two: The Scargiver.” But like a strategic-minded military leader, he laid the groundwork in “Part One” for the moment in “Part Two” when the Nazi-like Imperium forces (led by Ed Skrein’s maniacal Admiral Atticus Noble) lay siege to the Veldt farmers, who have set traps to give themselves a fighting chance of winning.

“It was really tough to keep that visually interesting,” Taormina told IndieWire. “What was cool is the parallel montages helped that. And so when we jumped inside to Nemesis [the cyborg swordmaster played by Doona Bae], that could stand on its own. And then up in the Dreadnought [starship] with the engine room, which is super cool, that’s very different than the ground battle, which has got a lot of earth tones and is covered in dust. It was a really difficult task, though, keeping it consistent because once we got the montage down, it was a matter of trying to figure out what actions needed to happen here. Does it fit the storyline and the timeline?”

'Rebel Moon — Part Two: The Scargiver' Netflix
‘Rebel Moon — Part Two: The Scargiver’Courtesy of Netflix

While the ground battle only had around 40 stunt performers, they doubled those up with digi doubles, layered in the atmospherics, and then figured out when the two Mech tanks should arrive and when they needed to fire.

“We had a lot of really great practical effects,” Taormina said, but a lot of the explosions couldn’t happen there because it was in Santa Clarita, where there are higher fire zones. So all the embers, explosions, all that stuff, was added [digitally]. We actually got the one [blast] that’s in-camera, in the boom house, which is like 500 frames-a-second of explosion.”

The two standouts are the emotional highlights: the return of a fighting Jimmy, the last surviving android knight (voiced by Anthony Hopkins) — who steals the show — and the climactic duel between Kora (Sofia Boutella) and Noble aboard the exploding and falling Dreadnought, which comes off as Jedi-like with their laser swords. (It should be noted that Wētā’s work on the steampunk-looking engine room is stunning. That’s where Kora plants the bombs and the engine face of Kali comes alive and glows.)

Jimmy was once again handled as a hybrid of practical head, filigreed chest pieces, and CG faceplates by Scanline. The very tall Dustin Ceithamer returned as the Jimmy performer on the field, who did all of the acting beats. However, a much shorter martial arts stunt performer, Trevor Logan, played Jimmy in a mo-cap suit on a green screen stage for the fight inside the battered Mech.

'Rebel Moon — Part Two: The Scargiver' Jimmy
‘Rebel Moon — Part Two: The Scargiver’Courtesy of Netflix

“That whole section is pretty seamless because we blocked it out with the intention that the stunt performance would be Trevor, but the proportions are all off,” added Taormina. “So all of that action was roto-mated for Trevor. And then we populated the Jimmy asset in there, and we’d have to offset all the little pieces that didn’t work when we actually put the portions of Dustin and Jimmy in there.”

“As we populated and started to talk about the big Dreadnought fight between Kora and Noble, we would then cross over into ‘Part One’ and update that environment before it came out,” Taormina said. The fight was shot on various green screen stages. There was a catwalk that they tumbled through and was destroyed with CG, and the main set was raised to simulate their falling fight in a series of shots that blended together.

“So they’d go down the 20-foot run and we filmed that, and then they’d have to hike back up and do the take over,” said Taormina. “And then we added [Wētā’s] tumbling debris and explosions, and we’d have to relight some of the plates.

“It’s interesting that there are two movies that are the same world but with a very different feel to them,” he continued. “So, when we started to film the final battle, I had to figure out where to put our tracers and what the chaos around us was, because it was lackluster [without all the explosive VFX].”

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