For the first 45 minutes or so of “The Scargiver,” I was ready to eat my words. Sure, the sequel inevitably lives up to the “Part Two” in its title, hitting the ground at a full sprint and picking up exactly where the previous film left off as rebel leader Kora (Sofia Boutella) and her merry band of misfits return to the moon of Veldt after their triumph over the sinister Admiral Noble (Ed Skrein). But even if the cutoff point between installments makes for an awfully unwieldy structure — there are essentially only two vaguely defined acts in this movie — the screenplay (credited to returning co-writers Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, and Shay Hatten) at least has the presence of mind to zig when most viewers would expect it to zag in the early going.

Viewers anticipating a time jump and some bombastic set piece to kick things off instead are treated to something much more refreshing: a prolonged calm before the storm. This setup not only puts faces and names to the otherwise anonymous villagers who make up Veldt (thus providing emotional stakes), but it also allows time and space for all the character-building, thematic touches, and even instances of humor and heart that “Part One” never once bothered to establish. One-dimensional warriors who’d hardly spoken a word to one another previously, like Staz Nair’s perpetually shirtless Tarak and Djimon Hounsou’s General Titus, share meaningful moments and get to establish their own personalities. Otherwise stoic characters such as Doona Bae’s Nemesis and Elise Duffy’s Milius finally show their humanity as they laugh, cry, dance, and even sing in one especially moving sequence.

One scene sums up this double-sided sequel best. Somehow both oddly effective and egregiously clunky at the same time, our main protagonists sit around a table and literally recite their backstories and personal histories to one another — kind of like high school drama students suffering through icebreaker activities on the first day of class. No doubt, it would’ve been nice to know their various motivations the first time around and in a more elegant way than ham-fisted flashbacks. (For those waiting to find out exactly why Kora’s been a fugitive from the Imperium all along, this sequel has the longwinded and long-overdue exposition dump for you!) For once, however, the camaraderie and charisma we’ve only ever been told about among this talented cast genuinely shine through.

There’s no denying the wonderful sense of earnestness on display which suggests Snyder, despite his edginess and too-cool-for-school façade, might actually be a bit of a softie deep down inside.



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