Zack Snyder Discusses the Vast Universe of His Netflix Sci-Fi Epic, Rebel Moon

Zack Snyder knows what he’s doing. Whether it’s using his considerable popularity to his artistic benefit, or focusing on every single piece of minutia in a movie, the filmmaker is completely aware. So, of course, when it comes to his latest film, Rebel Moon, he more than anyone knows when he’s referencing the sci-fi that came before it. He also knows that most people who see the film will see it on Netflix. That people expect this movie to connect to others. All of it is circling in his head.

Snyder spoke to io9 over video chat earlier this month and we dug into all of that. We discussed how conscious he is of homage in the film. We discussed clues he left for himself to possibly explore in the future. We even talked about his fan base and if that has changed how he makes movies. Read our interview with him below.

Snyder making Rebel Moon.
Image: Netflix

Germain Lussier, io9: Rebel Moon is an absolute love letter to science fiction. You see that passion all over it. But when you do things that seem a little more on the nose, like finding transportation in an alien bar (from Star Wars) or bowing to a large beaked animal (from Harry Potter), are those intentional homages or things that you just love and are deeply part of your DNA?

Zack Snyder: I think it’s probably a combo. Like I feel like when you go to a bar and you know you’re in a bar you have to slightly deconstruct it because you’re aware of it. And so you make it a brothel. The ominous overtones in the bar become a little bit more overt, and have to be, because you’ve got to make a statement about your awareness of where you are. Those kinds of things are absolutely self-aware, because I think it helps the audiences who are 100% aware of the mythology that we’re kind of toying with. And we have to just walk a fine line with it.

io9: Right. So much care is put into this world. Every line, every character, you just feel has a story behind it. And I know we’re going to much more of that in Part Two but, without spoiling Part Two, is there anything on the periphery of this movie that you threw in there and you’re like, “Maybe one day I’ll get to explore that” without a real plan?

One of Snyder’s many creatures.

One of Snyder’s many creatures.
Screenshot: Netflix

Snyder: Oh, geez. Yeah, sure. Well, I’ve talked about the Zanadytes. [Note: We were unable to find the correct spelling of this alien species so are going by sound. We’ll update this post if we find a different official spelling.] Zanadytes are [the species of] the blue woman in the cantina. She is a possible spinoff from an Army of the Dead concept that I had that is literally this complete other-dimensional weirdo riff that we’ve ranted about with each other, me and [co-writers] Kurt [Johnstad] and Shay [Hatten], many times. They think I’m insane but that’s the kind of thing I think that’s really fun to have in the movie. And I’m like, “We’re just going to put a Zanadyte in the movie!” 

io9: Just in case!

Snyder: And we’ll see. Let the chips fall where they may. Every now and then for all our planning and all our world-building and super careful detail, it’s always fun to sometimes just like take a hammer and smash something because it feels good.

io9: Absolutely. That’s probably one of the things that makes you unique and one of the reasons why, over the past couple of years, you’ve almost become more than a filmmaker. You’re a name brand. You’re the star of the show. Does that change your approach to making movies at all? And do you feel that responsibility as an added pressure?

Snyder: You know, I don’t think I approach the movies any differently than I did on Dawn of the Dead, frankly. It’s just like I kind of have one speed, one gear, and I just love doing the job. I love the sort of myth that a story has innately built into it. And I just love exploring it. So that’s what turns me on. And I do it as much as I can.

Snyder on set.

Snyder on set.
Image: Netflix

io9: Yeah. And you’re also a filmmaker who’s all about big spectacle. Rebel Moon fits into that, but you’re also making a Netflix movie most people will see on the small screen. Does making a movie for Netflix change your approach in any way or what have you learned after making a few movies for them so far?

Snyder: Oh, not really. I mean, I made this movie specifically for the service. That’s how I made it. It has a big screen look. But I did that on purpose too because really what I was trying to do with this thing was to give the viewers at home as big a cinematic experience as they could get, you know? Really make it feel like a movie movie. No compromise. And I think that’s the gift that I was trying to give to you sitting on your sofa.

io9: I read in another interview, and you can tell me if I’m wrong here, but you said Rebel Moon takes place in the same universe as your first Netflix movie, Army of the Dead.

Snyder: Yeah, it possibly does. It’s more absurd. There’s a dimensional rift at Area 51 that can get you to the Rebel Moon universe, But it’s not a straight [line].

io9: Okay. Yeah, because we see alien ships in Army of the Dead and I was wondering if those ships were purposely left vague or did you have an idea they could tie into Rebel Moon?

Snyder: Yeah, I don’t know. That’s tricky.

io9: No problem. Now, in interviews, you’re almost always asked about director’s cuts, sequels, and follow-ups, all of which are coming for the movie.

Snyder: Yes, all of it.

Some of the cast of Rebel Moon.

Some of the cast of Rebel Moon.
Image: Netflix

io9: Right, but my question is did you ever consider the opposite? Just make this into one big movie as opposed to two movies and a full universe and all that?

Snyder: When I originally wrote it, I sort of slightly irresponsibly wrote a 200-page script, and so once I had done that, I was kind of stuck and I didn’t want to take anything out. And so I was like, “The only way I can go forward is to break it into two movies.” And, you know, Netflix was really incredibly cool about the notion that we would have two movies, and it was great because we could advertise it. Like, I really believe that these two movies cost basically what one normal big sci-fi movie costs because we were able to amortize so much of it over the two movies. And so in the end, we’re going to have four movies because we have these two and then the two director’s cuts, which are an hour longer each, so you do get a lot more. A lot deeper dive on the universe.

io9: Yes, I’m very interested to see that. Okay, again, another thing everyone always talks to you about are your DC films. People call that the “Snyderverse,” but those weren’t your characters. These are your characters. Do you now consider Rebel Moon to be the real Snyderverse?

Snyder: Wow, that’s a cool question. It could be. Absolutely. I mean, if there is such a thing. I don’t really own the copyright on that “Snyderverse” concept. The fans do. So I would be careful to steal it. But yeah, it’s an interesting thing to talk about. But I think that in the end, I reserve that name for all things DC-related.

io9: Okay, okay.

Snyder: But that’s just right now, so who knows?

Sofia Boutella in Rebel Moon.

Sofia Boutella in Rebel Moon.
Image: Netflix

io9: [Laughs] Yes. Everything can change. Okay, like I said before, this movie is a sci-fi love letter. It’s got spectacle. It’s about honor and family. But, besides making sure people come back to watch the sequel in April, what do you hope most people leave this film with?

Snyder: I think it’s exactly that. I think it’s that, you know, you understand the way that genre at this level, at this deep sort of love, this warm embrace of cinematic genres—fantasy, sci-fi—really takes cinema to its, like, freakish final incarnation, you know? I always think that sci-fi fantasy is the tip of the spear. It’s kind of the top of the mountain of genre, if you can do it. And so for me, it’s really an incredible honor and super fun to sort of play in that world.

io9: That leads to my final question which is, the first idea for Rebel Moon, or the concept of it, was in the Star Wars universe. Which, of course, didn’t happen. But if it had been in the Star Wars universe, what would have been the biggest difference between that movie and what fans can see on Netflix?

Snyder: I think in the end, the tone would have been the big difference because I think that my natural sort of knee-jerk tone is closer to the more R-rated. I just can’t help myself. And that would have been problematic in the Star Wars universe. There would not have been a brothel.

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

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

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