Saturday, July 12, 2014

Snowpiercer: Review

Well, as all y'all who are long-time readers here know, I loves me a story about a revolution.  And Science Fiction is my thing.

So I had high hopes for Snowpiercer, which is the tale of the oppressed, downtrodden proles of a near-future dystopia rising up in the attempt to seize (literally, in this case) control of the world from those in power.

I won't say I was entirely disappointed -- the movie was fun.  I will say But.

Here's your premise, in case you've been living in a cave and haven't heard of the movie.  (It's been big news in the SF world for about a year.)

Somewhere around now (2014, in other words), the world undergoes a global climate shift.  But -- surprise -- it isn't overheating.  It's global freezing.  Everyone freezes to death, instantly, apparently, except the people who managed to board the train of Wilford, a comic-book supergenius on the order of Tony Stark who has invented a self-sustaining train that circumnavigates the globe, once each year.

Those who bought tickets are ticket holders -- either first class or (I guess, though this isn't covered in the film) working class.  Those who couldn't buy tickets live in the tail section, and pay with their children and their labor, very like the proletariat of Rome.  They are repaid with barely edible protein slop, squalid living conditions, and brutal oppression; and they are reminded that they should be grateful, since they are lucky to be on the train at all.

Rebellions are apparently frequent, and brutally suppressed, but another is brewing at the opening of the film -- Curtis and his sidekick, along with several others, are forming a plan to break out of the tail section and move through the train, right up to the front, where they will kill Wilford and take the Engine.

So far so good.

And the rebellion, when it comes, is fast-paced, with nice reversals and fight scenes and very effective scenes.   The journey through the train, in which we get to see the light and luxury of those in the front compared to the misery of those in the tail, is also nice.

But.  Here's my but.

(1) A lot of whack, and very little actual science.  For instance, the great global freeze is explained by something that sounds very much like Chemtrails.  Please.  And the train runs by a perpetual motion machine, apparently, which "everyone" in 2014 was Too Stupid to believe would work. Also, we're shown people frozen instantly, like frozen standing in place, flash-frozen.  A planet that cold is a planet where the train as we see it would not be functional.

(2) Not enough economics.  Even assuming the can-opener, I mean the perpetual motion machine, how, exactly, is this train feeding all these people?  We do apparently have a working class, but where are the grain fields to grow the grain that feeds those cattle?  What are all those chickens eating?  I am willing to believe in a cattle car or two filled with cattle and chicken, but what are they eating?  I would like a little more explanation about that.

(3) The ending.  What a disappointing ending.  I won't give spoilers, and I realize it's hard to write endings for revolutions, but wow.

Anyway, it was fun to watch, so maybe crank down your expectations?  Go to a matinee?  Rent it on Netflix?

Or read the graphic novel, instead, which i09 says is better, though less revolutionary.

Update: A further objection, very spoiler-rific, which occurred to me as I was driving to my writing group this afternoon, is in the comments.

Update #2: I can't believe I forgot to talk about the woman characters.  Although yes I can, because, very forgettable.  Which is to say, while there are women in this movie, it barely passed the Bechdel test.  Only a couple of them are named, and of those, only two talk to each other, briefly (one threatens the other).

Women in this movie are stock figures only (Strong Black Mother, Crazy Female Aide, Cute Aisan Daughter/ Magical Aisan Chick), existing only as background and to support the men.

Again, it looks as though in the graphic novel, the women characters might be better served?


dorki said...

They are just testing your "willing suspension of disbelief".


delagar said...

And I was, indeed, willing to suspend it!

This movie reminded me of _Star Trek: Into Darkness_ in that way.

You loved it while you were watching it, barely flinching at the bad science or bad plotting. It was only as you were walking out that you starting thinking, well, hold ON now...

For instance -- and this occurred to me only this afternoon; or rather, exactly why I was bothered so much about this only occurred this afternoon: the big reveal in Gilliam's character is wholly unbelievable.

And by that, I mean I flat don't believe it. No character who acts as we are told he acted (cutting off an arm to save a child's life, reforming the entire ethos of the tail section, and so on) could possibly ALSO be double-dealing them in the specific fashion we are told he is.

delagar said...

Though anyway, thinking about it, I have come to the conclusion that this is more a poem than a movie.

More metaphor than real, IOW.