How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse, part 3: Snowpiercer (2014)

Snowpiercer poster

I once toyed with the idea of doing a film series called “The Overrated” and jamming it full of terrible films that receive a vigorous critical nut massage, either by legitimate critics such as Bradshaw of The Guardian (looking at you, Bridesmaids), or from fat, terminally virginal “geek” reviewers (take your pick, there are millions of them), or even films that achieve massive critical and commercial acclaim across the board while, frankly, stinking (paging Forrest Gump). Anyway, I discarded the idea on the basis that each review would be a mixture of me ranting and being bewildered, or sometimes even supplying a bit of bewildered ranting. Nevertheless, I’m more than a little bit disappointed to have my shiny new Apocalypse series tainted by one of this category with 2014’s insanely overrated Snowpiercer chugging out of the station.

Contains a worse train service than Thameslink and Spoilers below. 

Anyone that knows me knows that I hate many things. However, there’s certain afflictions of modern life that drive me absolutely apocalyptic: Boring films and Trains. Snowpiercer, sadly, heavily features a train (the name of the train actually provides the title of the film), and is monumentally fucking boring. I’ve seen it described as “absorbing” and “intelligent” all over the place, but it’s neither- it’s in the same category as Watchmen with opacity being mistaken for depth and if this is “absorbing” cinema, it’s in the same way that Pampers nappies are absorbent.

Not dissimilar to my morning commute.

Not dissimilar to my morning commute.

Snowpiercer is, and I’m completely unsurprised to find this out, based on a French funnybook. This would explain a lot. Nevertheless, in 2014, some movie scientist had the bright idea of pumping the upper atmosphere full of chemicals to halt global warming, accidentally bringing on an instant ice age. D’oh. I bet the chemicals even came in green vials, because as a rule of thumb, nothing Movie Scientists come up with that is served up in the form of a green vial ever has a good outcome. Or even the intended outcome. Nevertheless, Humanity has somehow all been eliminated with the survivors travelling around the world on the train The Snowpiercer.

In an analogy of quite breathtaking stupidity, the train is divided into class-based sections, with the wealthy in the First Class carriages eating swan or some such gobbledygook, and the poor living in the rear of the train being fed on dubious looking protein bars. This train carries the remnants of humanity; being where our species resides from birth to death. To be fair, though, I’ve taken trains that felt like they lasted that long before, so props to the realism.

*sigh*

*sigh*

At the rear of the train reside Curtis and Edgar (Chris Evans, and I’ve never seen him so unlikable, and Jamie Bell). They’re planning a revolution under the guidance of Gilliam (John Hurt), but need to liberate Song Kang-ho’s Namgoong and his clairvoyant daughter Yona to do it (although they’re hooked on the blazingly unsubtle Soma substitute, Kronole). Anyhoo, our hero’s (for wont of a better word for them) battle towards the front of the train, impeded by Tilda Swinton’s “Mason” to meet up with Wilford (Ed Harris) in the engine room and reveal the true horror of the train. Fucking yawn.

This is the spoiler pulling in to the station now, so ignore the next paragraph if you want to remain virginal, and whatnot. 

The train basically is failing, and can’t sustain the volume of humanity on board. Before the protein bars, the poor in the back had to resort to Cannibalism to survive (although quite why this wasn’t the case for the other carriages is one of many, many plotholes never considered). As such, Wilford has arranged this revolution to fail in order to eliminate 75%ish of the train’s passengers and carry on chugging through the snow blasted landscape. Unfortunately, Wilford is getting too old to keep overseeing the engine and basically wants Curtis to take over. Quite why he needs Curtis is never properly explained. Anyhoo, it turns out that the Snowpiercer runs on children! as Soylent Green style revelations go, this one strangely has no impact. Nevertheless, Curtis can’t be having this so him and Namgoong derail the train. The final shot of the film is the two kids, Timmy and Yona, looking at a Polar Bear proving that life is still going on Planet Earth.

Spoiler departing now.

I know exactly how you feel.

I know exactly how you feel.

It’s very rare that I viscerally dislike a film as much as I did this one. In part, it’s down to the character writing, with not one redeemable, relatable or likable character in it. Curtis, for example, our hero, was about to eat a young Edgar back in the day, and is perfectly willing to sacrifice his number 2 to continue up the train. Given what the fucking stupid 1% analogy is aiming at, it makes perfect sense for the elite of the train to be shown as unconscionable sociopaths, but he’s our fucking hero, for the love of God. Talking about the crass analogy, anyone paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, minimum, for making a movie that costs 10’s of millions of dollars to make, that generates profit for a corporation in the hundreds of millions of dollars range has absolutely no right to be throwing stones at glass houses, given that they live in the largest greenhouse on Greenhouse Street, in the town of Greenhouse, capital city of Greenhouse land.

I’m definitely not in the 1%, but for fuckssakes, the writer and director of this shite most certainly are. I don’t begrudge them their success (I actually like Bong Joon-Ho and Park Chan-Wook’s other films) but I do begrudge them delivering a thinly veiled pompous and hypocritical lecture to me when I’m meant to be watching some post-apocalyptic awesomeness. There’s certainly a time and a place for this type of theme, but really, try to at least pay lip service to subtlety.

Some people go to quite ridiculous lengths to get a seat on public transport

Some people go to ridiculous lengths to get a seat on public transport

Then there’s the acting. Evans is normally likable on screen (well, I find him so), but not here. His Curtis is a boring, grumpy sod and about as likely the leader of the revolution as I am given that he’s about as inspiring as getting toilet roll stuck to your shoe. I’ve never liked Jamie Bell, finding him only marginally less annoying than James McAvoy, so it’s no surprise that I don’t like him in this. But my real hatred is reserved for Tilda Swinton’s idiotic performance as Mason. For an actress as usually good as she is, and as certainly garlanded as she is, to deliver a performance as breathtakingly stupid and film-derailingly awful as this one came as something of a real shock to me. With her thick northern accent, crap look, and annoying mannerisms, every single second she’s on screen the film suffers. Thus, it was no surprise to find out where she drew inspiration for this atrocity from:

[It’s Thatcher] mixed in with all the rest of the gang — with Silvio Berlusconi, with Gaddafi, with Adolf Hitler, with people in North Korea and maybe even a little bit of bombast from the United States.

What the fuck? Lord spare me from cretinous luvvie actors and their moronic proclamations. On what planet is Maggie (not that I’m a fan) in the same category as Gaddafi and Hitler? I can kind of see Berlusconi as he is both a clown and a fascist, but spare me from this typically Hampstead nonsense. It’s gibberish like this that really gives the left wing a bad name. Try to keep some sense of fucking perspective, for the love of God. Bong had to rein her in, apparently, so christ knows what she really wanted to do.

Despite what you think, you don't bear any resemblance to maggie. You twat.

Despite what you think, you don’t bear any resemblance to maggie.

I’m (again) making this sound like an Orangutan of Doom candidate, but it isn’t. On an aesthetic level, Snowpiercer is a good looking film, with the outside snowscape particularly attractive and the squalor inside shot well. So there is that. But, for me, that’s not enough to overcome the relentless boredom of the film, the pompous sermonising and the shitty acting. I’ve genuinely not disliked a film as much as this one in a while, but I grudgingly conceding that it is at least a decent looking load of shit.

  • Date: 2031
  • Extinction Event: Planet killing ice age bought on by movie scientist stupidity
  • Main Hazards: Class warfare. And idiotic luvvies.
  • Chances of Survival of the Species: I sort of want to say decent, as once the train derails we see that life is still happening. However, they’re still stuck in freezing temperatures with no decent protection and hungry polar bears around. Hopefully the big ursine buggers will eat them all.
  • Rating: Shite. Boring, pompous shite. Have one smiley mushroom cloud out of four, and I think that’s bloody generous of me.

snowpiercer-rating

Haven’t decided where to go next, but it’ll definitely be better than this loaf.

Cheers,

Jarv

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

42 responses to “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse, part 3: Snowpiercer (2014)”

  1. Jarv says :

    Absolutely rotten film this one.

  2. Xiphos0311 says :

    If you’re looking for 2015 most overrated piece of shit look no further than Pissy Maxine Pussy Road.

    As far as this thing goes haven’t seen seen don’t plan on doing so.

    • Jarv says :

      It won’t be more overrated than this. This was honestly on best of the year lists.

    • Just Pillow Talk says :

      I have to agree, not seeing Fury Road, it cannot be worse than this piece if shit.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        Oh it it is pillow it most certainly is.

      • Jarv says :

        I’m not saying Fury Road isn’t bad, but you’re underestimating how bad this is. It’ll get right on your last nerve as it hits a load of your flashpoints for film hatred.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        I can’t begin to to describe just how profoundly awful that POS Mad Maxine Pissy road is. It is an abomination of a movie. It is so bad that it qualifies as one of the seals to be broken that allows Satan to return to Earth. In short it sucks worse then just about anything ever shit out the rancid asshole of Hollywood.

      • Continentalop says :

        GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is way worse than both these movies.

      • Jarv says :

        Bullshit. Forget everything related to directing for a second but GOTG is far far more watchable and enjoyable than snowpiercer. It’s not good, but this is actively shite.

      • Continentalop says :

        I cannot stand GotG. Everything about it just annoys the fuck out of me –

        1) its horrible direction and design.
        2) its annoying bro/dude lead Pratt.
        3) its pandering to 80s demographic soundtrack.
        4) its pointless tie-in with the rest of the MCU.
        5) its lame villains.
        6) its even lamer plot.
        7) Its crappy script and dialogue.
        8) etc.

      • Jarv says :

        Forget 1 for a minute, 2 I don’t agree with. 3 I agree with and I preferred the soundtrack when it was Tarantino in the early 90s. 4 is expected. Ditto 5 and 6.

        But, it’s not a boring and pompous mess with totally awful direction.

        So while GOTG isn’t great, it’s way better than snowpiercer.

      • Continentalop says :

        I actually think SP is better directed than GotG. I mean, I don’t like it either but I could sit through SP at least without wanting to gouge my eyes out and stick spikes in my ears.

      • Jarv says :

        It’s more competent. Because Gunn is a shitty schlock director. But it’s tonally wrong. Funnily enough someone with Gunn’s sensibilities but more talent should have done sp.

      • Continentalop says :

        And I don’t even hate MM:FR. The movie bores me too much for me to hate it.

      • Continentalop says :

        Oh I agree it’s tonally wrong. Like I said before, John Carpenter should have directed this.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        GOTG was surprisingly mediocre(at the lowest level) which is compliment because I can’t stand Chris Pratt and Marvel movies both suck and blow.(See Captain America Winter Soldier)

      • Continentalop says :

        I liked CAP TOO more than GotG, by I guess that’s arguing who deserves a medal at the Special Olympics.

  3. ThereWolf says :

    I’m going to give this film a chance. I like the idea. I like trains when they’re not full. I don’t get train-spotters though – what’s that all about? I do usually respond well to train based movies or sequences. So, on the rental list Snowpisser goes…

  4. Continentalop says :

    Good review Jarv. I had mixed reactions to this, but in the end that actually made me find the movie more annoying.

    Technically, as you said, this movie is well made. I has great set design (for what they are trying) and the cinematography and editing is very good, as is the direction of blocking and camera and mise-en-scene. You can follow the actors and the action with little chance of confusion, and there is some actual story telling told by the camera. As you said, Bong Jo-Ho has talent, but man was this the wrong project for him. This is like De Palma BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES wrong, because he totally gets the tone wrong.

    This should have been directed by someone like John Carpenter, who gets that kind of tongue-in-cheek mood this film needs. I mean, THEY LIVE has just as obvious of message as this movie yet it never feels hammered in on your head. And ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK has no like-able characters but it fits that Spaghetti Western, cynical/sarcastic kind of worldview that movie has. This is a damn argument for revolution and no on has any sort of charm to make you want to follow them.

    This is like if BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA was directed by Martin Scorsese. Now I love Marty, but man would that movie suck. This is the same IMO.

    (Hell, I think Tilda Swinton would have worked in a kind of Carpenter like movie, but here she is like Willy Wonka showing up in the BATTLE OF ALGIERS).

    • Jarv says :

      I can’t think of a film where that performance would have been anything other than rancid.

      I genuinely don’t know how you could watch Lady Vengeance and Memories of Murder and think “these are the guys to make a stupid post-apocalypse movie set on a train”

      It’s a boring, charmless and pompous load of shit this film.

      I take the point about They Live, but disagree about Bonfire. That film was fucked at script and casting level. De Palma was wrong for it, but I don’t think anyone could have saved that mess.

      • Continentalop says :

        Watch this and get even more annoyed:

        The guys know how to tell a story with a camera, but this time they totally picked the wrong story.

      • Continentalop says :

        And what i mean by get annoyed after watching that is, it shows that they have talent that was wasted on this movie.

        This was like a great musician who goes off and joins Night Ranger to put out nothing but power ballads.

      • tombando says :

        Sister Christian is your daddy.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      What the hell do you mean EFNY has no likable characters? I posit Snake Plissken and Cabby. Court rules in my favor, the end.

      • Continentalop says :

        Likeable because of charisma, not because of morality.

        Snake is no white hat hero.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        A character has to be moral to be likable?

      • Continentalop says :

        No, but that is what people usually mean when they say “likeable.” Like, “I couldn’t stand GOODFELLAS because none of them are likeable.”

        I love Snake, but he’s a very amoral character (which is one of the things I like about him).

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        People have said Goodfellas isn’t likable? The Eytie mob might be the most likable group of scumbags out there. though on an individual not depressive alcoholic level Irish gangsters are pretty damn charming.

  5. Just Pillow Talk says :

    I hated this movie. If a movie has zero characters I give two shits about, hard to like it.

  6. tombando says :

    Do Soylent Green! (Hint: it involves People…)

  7. tombando says :

    Hard to see that this had much going for it. I like train movies too but kaka, ham fisted Morlocks vs Kate Winslets class warfare tropefests like this better have a reason for foisting that crap at audiences besides they feel like it. Sounds like it was written by Captain Obvious and directed by same. Will avoid. What cretins had this on a top ten list?! Harolds clods? Has Beaks and Hordling bait written all over it.

    • Jarv says :

      Have a look at the wiki page for it. Faraci, weeney are expected but there’s a load of people who should know better as wekl

      • tombando says :

        Feraci is basically lame, can’t be bothered. Drew Should know better but he’s essentially a junket whore now, plus anything associated with Harold never gets away from that.

      • Jarv says :

        I think it falls into the wanker trap of being superficially “about” things and so they can delude themselves that they’ve got a genre film that’s “deep” (see also turdmen).

      • tombando says :

        Turdmen was awful. I never liked the comic much, Really felt the movie was lousy and got worse and stupider as it went along. Better off with stuff like Congo which are just whatever you think they are, big dumb fun(with ape suits. Can’t go wrong there).

  8. Judge Droid says :

    Yeah this is a shit movie. I don’t think it was even visually interesting.

  9. kloipy says :

    this movie sucks balls

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