I’m not sure how to write this post.
I’m prone to hyperbole, right? I know this about myself. I also tend to get infectious about my own strong opinions; if I love something, I love the hell out of it, and my dislike can tend to go to extremes quickly too. So I have to be on guard against my own tendencies in these manners, particularly when I want to write about things I either liked or didn’t like. I have to be careful to avoid overstating reality, or people will stop taking me seriously.
I watched Snowpiercer with my wife last night. I should be clear about something: this was my idea. I felt like a Sunday night movie, and I’d heard nothing but good things about this movie– which, as I’ll probably point out repeatedly in this review, currently has a ninety-five percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That doesn’t happen very often.
The problem, here, is that this is the dumbest goddamn movie I’ve ever seen. The. Dumbest. Movie. I’ve. Ever. Seen.
Adam Sandler in the main role could not have made this movie dumber. In fact, he might have improved it, because putting Adam Sandler in your title role indicates that you do not want your film taken seriously, and Snowpiercer so badly wants to be taken seriously.
I do not know what to do with people who liked this movie. It’s as if, to steal a line from John Cole, I suggest having Italian for dinner and you suggest we go eat tire rims and anthrax instead. I don’t know where to go from there. We’re not even speaking the same language.
Wait, I know. I can pick a review and mock the hell out of it. That’ll work.
Here is what you need to know about the premise of Snowpiercer. I am not trying to make this sound dumber than it is. The premise is exactly this dumb:
- Global Warming!
- Global warming is fought with… contrails. (Sin #1, less than a minute into the movie.)
- The contrails plunge the entire planet into a deep freeze that, and I’m quoting the movie as directly as my memory allows, kills all life on Earth. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. I’m pretty sure that’s close to exactly what they said.
- It does this without blocking the sun, which… uh… is manifestly impossible. But every outside scene in the movie is in bright daylight.
- ANYWAY! Thank God for rich guys! A rich guy figures out how to save some number X of human beings!
- By… putting them on a train, which runs endlessly around the world, for seventeen years by the time the movie starts.
That’s really the premise.
That’s a fucking stupid premise.
It’s an insanely stupid premise. It’s a massively incredibly unbelievably horrifyingly stupid premise and a seventh grader should be ashamed of it. But somehow this got green lit, and it’s 95% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, because the world no longer makes sense. The movie is literally beyond stupid before it even starts. And it never, ever, ever gets better.
I seriously can’t decide if I want to go moment-by-moment through my recollection of the movie and mock it scene by scene or tear a review to shreds.
Let’s start with this one. It’s representative enough.
It’s so hard to describe how amazing “Snowpiercer” is without giving away everything that makes it amazing.
Well, yes. Part of describing amazingness is… uh, describing amazingness.
At the tail end are the have-nots: the dirty, hungry and oppressed who are crammed together, doing whatever they must to live another day. For the most part, these are decent folks who’ve learned to co-exist peacefully, if miserably — but desperation does scary things to people, and the recounted examples of sacrifice are chilling.
Let’s talk about this. The train is divided into the Front and the Back, and if you watch the trailer you can hear Tilda Swinton’s character tediously lecturing them about how this is supposed to work. Now, this is important: in the trailer, this is delivered over booming dramatic music. In the movie, it’s delivered against silence, and includes a horrifyingly stupid metaphor about how shoes are not hats and it goes on forever and it is terrible.
Don’t let me forget about that “precisely 74% of you shall die” line, btw.
Anyway. Right. Here’s the thing: those people in the back, who are oppressed and eating protein bars and wearing dirty clothes and who revolt against the rich 1%ers (Ooh! Impressively subtle social commentary!) in the front? They’re on the train for no fucking reason at all. They do not do anything. There is no goddamn reason for them to fucking be there at all other than they need them for a dystopia. This isn’t the proletariat revolting against the bourgeoisie; the bourgeoisie depend on the proletariat. The back-of-the-trainers produce nothing for anyone. They have no jobs, no responsibilities, no nothing. They just sit back there and eat.
They are not decent folks. They are boring nothing-people, because the movie makes them that way.
But let’s move on.
Swinton is a hoot playing a truly awful human being, but being the thoughtful and versatile actress that she is, she finds a way into this cruel and condescending figure without devolving into caricature.
I need you to understand that if this character is not a “caricature” than “caricature” no longer has any meaning as a word. She’s every mean schoolmarm you’ve ever heard in your life. That’s all she is. I have no idea why she ever interacts with the back-people, because, again, there’s no reason for them to be there.
So, yeah, there’s a rebellion:
They’re ultimately aiming for the front and for the man who not only invented the train but placed everyone inside of it: the wealthy and powerful Willard, who’s regarded with equal amounts of admiration and contempt, depending on whom you’re asking.
Now, this needs to be made clear: they have to go through every single car of the train to get to the front. By the time they get there, the “revolution” is down to Chris Evans and two other characters, one of whom is weirdly and inexplicably a little psychic and the other only speaks… Korean, maybe? except when it is convenient for him to speak and/or understand English. Sometimes he has a little device that translates for him. Sometimes he doesn’t. The language barrier is another of the ways in which the film is stupid.
Now, not all of the Back People are gonna be warriors. Okay. But… maybe more than five of them try to go to the front of the train? What the fuck is Chris Evans gonna do by hisgoddamnself up there? Maybe everybody goes to the front of the train!
Seeing who plays him is one of the film’s many exciting discoveries.
Ed Harris. It’s Ed Harris.
The “exciting discovery” is Ed fucking Harris.
Never before in the history of the English language has Ed Harris been referred to as an “exciting discovery.”
Opening the doors to each new car provides a rush of possibility, with Marcos Beltrami’s propulsive score underneath. Each represents a beautifully realized, self-contained world. Each is impeccable in its production and costume design.
And none of which makes any fucking sense at all.
You’re trying to save the human race. The only living humans are going to be the ones on your train.
Do you include a sushi bar?
How about a sauna?
There is, by the way, one sleeping car for the entire front of the train. I don’t know where these people poop either.
Oh, and one entire car features a rave.
Other than the machine that makes the protein bars– and I’ll get to that later– there is no manufacturing on the train at all, because why would there be manufacturing on a train, which makes the Front People’s perfectly new and perfectly clean clothing, after seventeen years, a little… odd?
The one common theme among people who enjoy this movie is that they get hypnotized by the visuals. I couldn’t like this movie for the same reason I never thought Jessica Simpson was hot. I cannot get past that much stupid no matter how pretty it is.
Sushi bar, people.
But the bit where the movie became truly unsupportable was the school car. This is the part of the movie where it became perfectly clear that Chris Evans was made to star in this film at gunpoint. Look at the man’s face in this scene:
That is not the face of a man who is acting. That is the face of a man who has no idea how the fuck he got where he is and is considering simply saying fuck the paycheck and going home.
Now, note something: There has just been a massive, violent and bloody revolution in the back of this train. Dozens of people have been killed. Absolutely nothing has changed in the front of the train. No one appears to know what has happened– I guess those forty or fifty guards just lived in that one car, with no food or beds or furniture or, like, a place to sit; that’s just the Standing Menacingly In Case We Need to Do That car– and no one at the front cares when these people come forward despite all of Tilda Swinton’s hectoring nonsense about Knowing Your Place.
And none of the children react to the bloody, beaten-up people who come into their school. The bloody, beaten-up people just wander around.
Oh, shit, I forgot. My favorite bit? Did you see the part in the trailer where Tilda Swinton tells them that 74% of them are about to die? Sounds kinda badass, right?
No fucking reason at all to be in the movie. She says that for no reason at all. And, again, since there is no reason for the tail people to be there, it doesn’t matter how many of them die no matter what Ed Harris says later. They aren’t doing anything. They don’t need to be there.
So, yeah. That scene: They’ve made a big deal about how there are no bullets left on the train, a plot point that is summarily thrown out later, (because Reasons, and because it gives them a reason to forget that it’s supposed to be cold outside) and the rebellion runs into a bunch of security guards with axes. Because, sure, why not, right? They are also wearing masks that inexplicably cover their eyes:
You, uh, can’t see to fight. Now, it’s okay, because in a scene that all the idiots keep praising, soon this train will go into a tunnel, and all of these guys will put on night-vision goggles so that they can keep fighting. (The amazing cinematography during this scene that people keep talking about? They shift into first-person mode for a bit during the fight. This was stupid when the DOOM movie did it, and the DOOM movie was based on a first-person action video game. It’s even more inexcusable here.)
Right, the goggles. They put them on over their black fucking knit caps that are blocking their vision.
You might wonder how they get the time to stop the fight and put on the night-vision goggles when clearly in this shot the fight has not begun yet and they are also clearly not in the dark.
They stop the fight to sing Happy New Year.
I am not joking.
The entire fight, including the revolutionaries, stops so that the combatants can sing Happy New Year, and then the revolutionaries, who are fighting for their lives by the way, wait patiently while these men put on night-vision goggles– after one character explains to everyone that they’re about to enter a tunnel– because, hell, I don’t know, it would be… what, unfair to the… bad guys? Or something?
The intentionally cryptic conclusion suggests that something better may be out there — for everyone — after all.
Here is how the movie ends: They blow up the train, and everyone dies. Well, everyone except for Inexplicably Psychic Girl and Stolen Kid– God, don’t get me started on Stolen Kid— who wander off the train, into weather so cold that someone’s arm was frozen solid in seven minutes two hours beforehand– and they are fine, and then there is a polar bear, and OH HEY I GUESS ALL LIFE ON EARTH DIDN’T DIE, except that polar bear is going to eat your dumb asses and oh also you have no food and water. Or shelter.
You’re gonna die, is what I’m saying.
This is only “cryptic” if you’re a fucking moron.
Christ I’m at almost 2000 words already. I wanted to write fiction tonight, people.
You need to understand that I have barely scratched the surface here. I have not yet begun to elucidate the many, many ways in which this was an insanely stupid movie. It took me two thousand words to mention the part where Korean Door Hacker Guy pulls out a couple of cigarettes and we hear a voice over from a random character say “Cigarettes have been extinct for ten years!” rather than, oh, I don’t know, just having the characters react to seeing a cigarette.
Because that’s how stupid this movie is; it doesn’t trust itself– or you— to even comprehend simple shit.
Their protein bars (God, I haven’t even talked about the protein bars! Half the fucking movie is about protein bars!) are made of bugs. Millions and millions of bugs to make protein bars.
Where do the bugs come from, on this we’re-repeatedly-told-this-is-a-closed-ecosystem of a train? The millions and millions of bugs that we see in the one shot that get turned into protein bars each and every day to feed the people who have no earthly fucking reason to be on the train needing food?
I hated this fucking movie.
So, uh, this post is starting to go viral? I just want to point out that a lot of you are new to my blog, and there are lots of other posts to read if you found this review interesting or funny. I also write books. It is my hope that they are more entertaining, or at least make a lot more sense, than SNOWPIERCER. Finally, if you like, feel free to follow me on Twitter. Thanks for reading, even if you think I’m an idiot after doing it. 🙂
Second update: Comments are closed, because babysitting the internet on a post from four months ago has officially gotten old. If you liked the post and want me to know, just hit “Like.” If you didn’t like the post and want me to know, well, you’ll just have to find a way to live with someone not liking something you like. I’m very sorry that happened to you. I’m sure whatever you were going to say would have changed my mind, too.