July 14, 2014

Given how much I hated Rise of the Planet of the Apes, there was no chance in hell I’d go see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,  despite the good reviews it’s getting.  Good thing there’s another limited release under-the-radar science fiction flick out for me to go see instead.

This is the kind of hype Snowpiercer is getting:  on The Mary Sue: “Review: Run, Don’t Walk, to See Snowpiercer, The Best Sci-Fi Film of the Decade So Far.”  My Facebook news feed has had people raving about this. I confess to feeling raised expectations.  Well…

This movie is not that good.

Science fiction has a long and glorious tradition of using the trappings of the genre to build up metaphor and allegory and commentary.  Such tales work best when a) the story is rock solid, and b) the metaphor is consistent.  (Like Edge of Tomorrow, to the shock and wonder of us all!)  I was willing to give Snowpiercer a pass on logic (seriously, the economy of this thing made no sense), if it could give me something else — cleverness, consistency, sense o’ wonder.  Alas, it wasn’t quite there.


First, it starts really slow.  The page six problem — skip the opening scroll, skip the long meandering opening, and start when Claude enters to take away the two children.  Next scene, the movie totally lit up when Tilda Swinton’s character walked in — thank God for Tilda Swinton!  She very nearly saved the thing herself just by chewing all the scenery.  And the movie got a whole lot better for awhile and I had great hopes that it was going to keep getting better.  But then we get to that last forty five minutes, and it kinda fell apart.

I loved the set up.  A globe-circling train carrying the last of humanity through an artificial ice age?  Sold!  All we had to do was get from the back of the train to the front.  The tension ought to be built in.  But the movie pretty much offered the same solution to every obstacle, and that solution wasn’t clever, it was violent.  It got old quick.

It has some nice moments.  It has some clever (the cigarette scene was great).  It has a great aesthetic — reminiscent of Terry Gilliam, as the aforementioned reviewer said.  (One of the characters is even named Gilliam!  Is that an accident?  Probably not!)  Those scenes were lovely.   But.  But but but.  There wasn’t enough surreal/absurd — it needed more Gilliam-esque — in story beats as well as aesthetic — and it needed to be consistent.  But when Snowpiercer didn’t do clever, it fell back on cliches.  I kept thinking…Gilliam would have been able to pull this off.   (Fortunately, we have a Gilliam movie coming out later this year!  Huzzah!)

(I have a rant about how for being a 99% v. 1% metaphor the movie has no grasp of Marxist theory and it really should, but we’ll skip that one.)

I kept waiting for a clever twist that never happened.  Why do I keep expecting movies to be clever, dammit?

Bonus Rant:

This is also yet another movie that posits that in dire circumstances, everybody will be totally horrible to each other in really horrible ways.  All the previews before this?  Movies about how in dire circumstances, everybody will be totally horrible to each other in really horrible ways.  I’ve about had enough of this bullshit, y’all.  I’m going to go watch Big Fish, which is free On Demand right now.

5 Responses to “Snowpiercer”

  1. I haven’t seen the film, so I skipped over your spoiler paragraphs, but your line about waiting for a clever twist–that happened to me when I went to see Edge of Tomorrow last weekend. As we neared the third act, I thought of a great twist that I was certain would happen . . . and then it didn’t.

    Sigh. It was still a good movie, but what a missed opportunity..

  2. Thomas Stacey Says:

    It’s sad to hear that it turned like it did because the premise seemed really awesome, but it sounds like it turned into more of an action flick than anything else based on your description of the ‘solution’ that kept getting used throughout the movie.

    “Why do I keep expecting movies to be clever, dammit?” is a perfect explanation to why I’ve been seeing less and less movies over the last few years myself. I feel like so much of Hollywood has been doing very cliched movies or the hyped book to movie adaptions (not that those are bad necessarily if they are done well or that I won’t watch them if I enjoy the source material) instead of doing anything clever as you put it, or anything different or unique to set is apart from the mostly cliche, fairly predictable movies that Hollywood’s been making for years and years now.

  3. Jazzlet Says:

    The being horrible to each other in dire circumstances thing is so old. I know the film makers are likely to be arts types, but they should update their evolutionary biology as the evidence is that one of the big things that sets us apart as humans is the level of co-operation. Suggesting that our response to crisis is confilct is as poor scientifically as trying to train your dog by beating it rather than rewarding it for good behaviour. Yes it’s what the scientists thought once, but scientists review science and if they discover it’s wrong it gets changed.

  4. LupLun Says:

    Well, hell, Zero Theorem finally got a release date? And here I was thinking it would go the same way as Upside Down.

    What really annoyed me about Snowpiercer was the waste of potential. I saw the previews, and thought, “This is a really cool idea and I want to see what they do with this world.” Turns out that what they did was ignore it. Some of the weird stuff can be excused by interpreting the film as a kind of journey through the underworld, but that metaphor gets strained pretty quick. I thought it was a good time, but it could have been so much more.

    Also, the balding guy in the suit. You know, the one who had the bright idea to shoot through the train windows? What was his deal? He just showed up out of nowhere in the middle of the movie, did a bunch of badass villain things, and then we never got an explanation as to who he was. Did I miss a scene or something?

  5. flo Says:

    I haven’t seen a single TV commercial about this movie. Guess the studio isn’t spending any money on marketing it. Sad. Why make it if your not going to support it?

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