Monday, April 11, 2016

Snowpiercer (2013)

Snowpiercer is a movie about a dystopian future, which means it's full of buckets and buckets of important social commentary and symbolism! We should really listen to this movie, because it's Important with a capital I!

Director: Joon Ho Bong
Starring: Chris Evans, Kang-ho Song, Ed Harris

The movie begins with a bunch of poor, dirty looking people in rags living in the back of a giant train circling the wasted frozen carcass of the world forever. Boy, this gritty Thomas the Tank Engine reboot really isn't pulling any punches.

"My life is an endless train of misery..."

Our main character is Curtis, played by Captain America himself, Chris Evans, modeling for the 2013 Hobo Winter Catalog. He lives in the poor part of the train, apparently planning some kind of revolution, or something like that. In his spare time, he likes to try to negotiate with small children for food and he fails even at that. So this is truly a man I can get behind as the leader of a revolution.

"I'll give you five peanut shells and two mosquito wings for it!"

It turns out the police in this brutal train world are stealing the poor peoples' children from them for an unknown reason. One guy SURPRISINGLY has an issue with that, and tries to assault the main lady by throwing a shoe at her. They capture him and force him to stick his arm out the window into the freezing sub-zero weather, and then break his arm off. The crazy lady puts a shoe on the guy's head and delivers a terrible, annoying speech about how the poor exist to be stepped on and should be kept in their places. Wow, what a thinking man's movie this is. It's like the Hunger Games if it were told by a really angry teenager.

This whole time, they basically only haven't made a move because it's convenient for the script. Curtis, in all his wisdom, just keeps saying it's "not time" yet to make a move. Well, I guess their children getting kidnapped was enough incentive for them to finally make a fucking move, because they finally do. Glad you guys are so proactive! They figure out that apparently none of the guards who have been coming in have had bullets for some time now. They deduce that by saying that they've never seen them fire those guns. Well, good enough for me!

Next, they find this pair of badass Asian people who for some reason have been locked away in drawers for some time now. Naturally, given how they've been basically in hibernation for a while, the Asians prove formidable foes for Curtis and the others in the pointless fight scene that comes next. I sure am looking forward to the movie about the characters who have trouble beating up people who have been comatose in boxes for months. They also force Curtis to pay them in hallucinogenic drugs for their services, which, to be fair, is a pretty fucking good deal. That's the only way I'd hang out with this raggedy crowd.

I'm not sure why the bad guys they fight up next are dressed as ninjas. What on earth do you need ninja costumes for just to stand around guarding people on a train? What are you trying to blend in with by wearing those?

ISIS Junior Squad, at your service!

There's one part where they go into a classroom being taught by a woman who acts like a cartoon character. She has them reciting creepy cult-like chants about how the poor are all dogs and praising the holy hell out of the mysterious man who made the train. This whole sequence is about as entertaining as a pro-life protester outside an abortion clinic waving a bloody fetus picture in your face.

The dead soulless eyes, the vacant smile...yup, she does look like a pro-lifer.

Then we get a speech by Curtis detailing how awful it was living in the poor part of the train at first. He spins this whole dramatic story about how they had to start eating the weak, and how babies tasted the best. I think this speech really nails down what I hate about the movie, so bear with me here, I'm going to break character.

This whole scene is just so emotionally manipulative and trite. It's so over the top. They ate babies! They were killing mothers to steal their babies and eat them! Fuck off. My point is, every time a critic bashes an action movie, they get shit on for only wanting serious art house films or really depressing films, or whatever the strawman is. “Can't you just have FUN?” the detractors inquire. But movies like this, actual action movies, too often have these very serious overtones and overly grim, gratuitous parts. Lots of movies have some serious plot threads, that's how they keep you engaged – it isn't just something that French art house movies about postpartum depression made on shoestring budgets do or again, whatever the strawman is.

Snowpiercer's serious elements really want you to take away the pain and sorrow and unfairness of the way the poor people were treated. But it's so bad here. It's done in such a piss poor manner, with no subtlety or shade or nuance. They just shove it in your face. That would be fine if all this wanted to be was a loud, brutal action movie – but this very clearly wants to be a super grim social commentary and it wants you to take it seriously. You kinda need more complex writing if you want to do that. It's not really an optional thing.

This movie's only manner of getting you invested is to throw stories about dead babies at you. So, yeah, if I'm in the mood for horrifically depressing stories about bad things happening, I think I will take the pretentious indie arthouse flick next time. At least if my only other choice is Snowpiercer.

But I digress. They then immediately find the place where the Big Bad is, like right after that, because the script was getting long and they couldn't think of any more dead baby stories to tell. We find out that the man behind the curtain in this is actually Ed Harris with some 5 o'clock shadow going on, so they probably just dragged him out of his house while he was still groggy drinking his morning coffee, and just threw him on the set.

He just goes on and on for like fifteen fucking minutes about how it's necessary to keep everyone in their place on the train and everyone has to stay in their place. He says they have staged revolutions before and Curtis's was just one more to keep people in their place, because chaos needs to exist for people to be normal! Well, after even a moment of thought, that makes no sense. Ask the people in Brussels how well that chaos is helping them live normally. I guess I get what they were trying to say, but it comes off a bit weird to say the least...

He then gives Curtis the choice to choose whether or not to keep the train running. I don't know why he does this, maybe just because he's bored for shits and giggles. He says it's Curtis's destiny now, and he can either stop the train or keep it going by feeding it children from the poor section – yes, THAT'S why they were taking the kids in the beginning of the movie. I guess the movie wasn't quite out of dead baby stories yet. You know, those are the only way to have a deep story! Dead kids!

Then the movie ends in a true fitting fashion for such a thought provoking picture: Curtis beats the shit out of Ed Harris with his bare hands like a caveman. Yes. That really drives the point home: Ed Harris is bad. I think we've learned a lesson here.

Would've been better with the Captain America shield in the shot. You really missed that opportunity, you dumb movie, you.

The visuals are pretty good as the train comes off its tracks. So there is that. They crash land in some snowy mountainside, and I'm guessing most of the people who survived are just mad Curtis couldn't wait until they passed by the sunny tropics to crash the train.

I know the feeling.

Honestly, this movie sucks. It's just not a good story. While I liked the action and some of the visuals were nice, the writing was just terrible. Everything was suffocatingly grim and over the top, and the message conveyed was delivered in a clunky, cloying and overly obvious manner that left very little to the imagination. I can see this film was trying to do something a little different and I can appreciate that, but it just doesn't have the depth of writing or script needed to be really smart. Instead, it just comes off as grandiloquent, self-serving, huffing and puffing crap stuck up its own ass with how smart it thinks it is.

I just think this is telling about what the action movie genre's big problems are. You get movies like this and John Wick touted as these really great, serious new action movies, and it's a blurry line, because neither one is really that bad – they both have their moments. But the writing for both is just so shallow. There are very few relatable characters, very little of anything compelling or intriguing about the way these themes pushed forward. Both movies are as deep as kids' wading pools in a shitty hotel, littered with used condoms and beer cans. But people accepted them just because they were better than Michael Bay Transformers crap and something alternative to Marvel. Even though they aren't really that great.

I'm NOT saying these movies have to divert from the action to show us long artsy sequences of the characters' relationships or something. By all means, give us some great, high energy action scenes! More really good ones would be a plus! But if you're making these fucking dark, brooding, serious films, that frankly do carry themselves with the pretense of a social message or trying to be a “thinking man's movie,” then I think I'm in the right to expect some kind of quality writing or storytelling. Or are writing and storytelling arbitrary tools of the upper echelon bourgeoise, only for pretentious dickwads who hate fun? I dunno. Maybe they are, then.

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