Warning: This post is spoilery as fuck.
Snowpiercer lives between two worlds in cinema. It attempts to be a thought-provoking pseudo-indie sci-fi movie, but it’s also nonsensical enough to contain several unnecessary blockbuster tropes. These are either present to please casual moviegoers or because the writers just couldn’t resist sprinkling in those darned action movie cliches to water things down.
The worst offender is when the rebellious, token black woman in the main cast has a perfect opportunity to kill a bad guy by sneaking up on him with a machete. Instead of sneaking, she screams something along the lines of “Take this you bastard!” as she runs toward him. This gives away her position and she dies for it. At that point I couldn’t feel sorry for her. She deserved to die for making such a fucking dumb decision when she had a perfect opportunity not to. I expect this kind of writing and direction from some stupid Transformers-esque summer blow-up blockbuster, not from a movie that’s being widely praised as a new-age sci-fi masterpiece.
Perhaps I should back up a minute here before I list more complaints.
Snowpiercer is about all the world leaders managing to work out a plan to disperse a chemical in the air via jet planes to solve global warming. The plan backfires and ends up making Earth a frozen planet. The last few hundred survivors on Earth are rallied into a futuristic train that runs across each continent and never stops. The man who invented the train sits at the front and as you get closer to the caboose, the quality of life plummets sharply. It’s a direct mirror to American (or worldly) society with the president, congress, rich and famous people toward the front and the poor, dirty, helpless in the back. On the surface it sounds creative, but it’s pretty textbook, much like the rest of the movie.
Curtis (Chris Evans) is a dude on the train who’s planning to riot his way to the front to take over the rich people. He’s been planning the revolt with a handful of other passengers. Revolts have happened in the past, but none have been successful.
The movie loses steam toward the beginning immediately because it expects the audience to empathize with the poor passengers simply because they’re living on the train. For the first 90 percent of the movie you don’t know anything about the backstories of the four lead characters (Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer and John Hurt) other than they’re in the lowest class of society on the dirtiest part of the train. Simply showing someone in a poor living condition isn’t enough to make me care about them. And Snowpiercer doesn’t give you time to care about the characters before it starts killing them off. I suppose the tired archetypes of sexy white lead guy, quick-tempered teenage sidekick, black woman and old wise man were supposed to be identifiable enough to cause me to immediately care about them. But I didn’t. Oh and let’s not forget the Asian drug addict security specialist and his drug addict, psychic (right?) daughter.
Everyone but Chris Evans dies before you figure out anything meaningful about them. And the intense way each actor overacts their part doesn’t help either. I was convinced Chris Evans’ voice was dubbed for half the movie because he sounded so forced and unnatural.
So basically you can guess most of the story from the get-go: They revolt and eventually make it to the front of the train, but most of them die along the way. Snowpiercer feels a lot like a video game with each train car being the next level and the head car being the final boss.
The action, which is mostly hand-to-hand with melee weapons, isn’t great. Maybe I’ve spent too much time repeat viewing The Raid: Redemption because most fight scenes in movies just don’t do it for me anymore. The action is boring, overdramatic and attempts to be violent through squishy stabby sound effects and blood spurts from off-screen wounds instead of through brutal on-screen violence. Interesting fight choreography is also rare. I know this isn’t a martial arts film, but please do something to keep the action fresh. Spraying blood on a window after the 5th off-screen hatchet to someone’s face isn’t interesting. Especially in an R-rated film.
Snowpiercer also has awful fight tropes, such as the boss bad guy in a suit unrealistically overpowering younger, more nimble fighters for the sake of intensity. This boss guy doesn’t speak a word in the film, he’s a white guy in his late 40s, he’s slightly overweight, but somehow he can overpower the super fast and accurate martial artist who’s been kicking everyone’s ass on the train so far? Yeah fucking right. And they do that awful thing where the bad guy is trying to stab the good guy but it’s one of those slow things where they’re both holding the knife and the bad guy gradually overpowers the good guy until the knife is planted in his chest. Keep in mind their faces are close enough for the 15-second knife-pushing extravaganza that the young martial artist could’ve Mike Tysoned the boss guy. But nope, just a knife pushing contest I’ve seen in 20 movies before. So dramatic and original.
And about an hour after this boss bad guy gets stabbed in the shoulder with a knife and had a machete planted deep in his side, he somehow gets back up and walks to the front of the train to continue fighting?
Give. Me. A. Fucking. Break.
Snowpiercer is a movie that you can tell from early on is working its way up to a TWIST(!) conclusion. And twist it does, I suppose, because it seriously rubs up against The Matrix movies for the most bizarre and overly drawn out, unsatisfying conclusions in movie history.
But before you get to the conclusion TWIST(!), you have to get through Chris Evans’ god-awful monologue before the conclusion is allowed to begin. It’s here, when the movie is 90 percent finished, where the movie breaks down and puts every bit of its character development. You know, the kind of development that should’ve been effortlessly woven into the first 20 minutes so I actually would’ve given a shit about any of the characters for the rest of the movie. Here we FINALLY learn something about Evans’ character, but because Snowpiercer insists on breaking the coveted “show, don’t tell” rule, we learn it all from a lengthy close-up of Chris Evans’ face as he talks through it. Not through a flashback, which would’ve been more effective. But the most important question, now that we’re 90 percent through the film, is what do we finally get to learn about Chris Evans? We learn that he used to eat human babies.
I can’t make this stuff up.
Chris’ baby cannibalism isn’t even the most baffling thing about the situation. The most baffling thing is that an hour ago when Evans’ character learns the daily protein bar rations they’re given in the back of the train are made of grinded up insects, he covers his mouth and gasps in horror.
YOU USED TO EAT BABIES CHRIS, WHAT’S EATING A FUCKING INSECT MATTER?