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    Snowpiercer, review of a wasted opportunity

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    Marie-Ange Demory

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    It was in the year two thousand and thirteen when Bong Joon-Ho, future director of the award-winning Parasite, presented his at the Rome Film Festival Snowpiercer, very personal and crazy adaptation of the French graphic novel The Transperceneige (1982, by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette). A sci-fi film that would soon have received the unanimous favor of critics and audiences, thanks to a very original subject and a fervent staging full of symbolism.

    After only seven years, therefore, here we are in the presence of this sort of serial reboot, produced by CJ Entertainment, Dog Fish Films and Tomorrow Studios for the American network DTT, coming up Netflix Italy starting next May XNUMX with the first two episodes, with then one episode a week.

    Murder on the Snowpiercer Express

    For those not accustomed to the imagery of films and graphic novels, the Snowpiercer is a huge and very long train-ark whose approximately three thousand passengers represent the last survivors of all humanity. In fact, due to a clumsy attempt to lower the temperature of the planet, scientists have caused a new ice age by putting an end to human civilization. The creator of the Snowpiercer, Mr. Wilford, from the "sacred" locomotive controls and maintains the precarious social order of the convoy.

    In fact, not all train passengers are the same. Regular passengers are in fact divided into three classes (first, second and third exactly as on any passenger train) and the quality of their life substantially depends on the cost of the ticket purchased.

    The theme of the class struggle, the backbone of Bong Joon-ho's film, is here flanked by the investigative element.

    Then there are some outsiders, the inhabitants of the "bottom", passengers clandestinely boarded and repressed in the last wagons by force. They feed on blocks of protein, a cheap food that the military serve Wilford Industries they provide them on a daily basis and expect nothing more than an opportunity for revenge against the wealthiest classes and the system itself.

    The theme of the class struggle, the backbone of Bong Joon-ho's film, is here flanked by the investigative element. In fact, when a series of murders threaten the order of the first classes, Mr. Wilford decides to rely on Layton (Daveed Diggs), a cross-country skier and former police investigator.

    A train without rhyme or reason

    Too bad that the choice to focus the story on the investigation ends up weakening the theme of the revolution right from the start, also thanks to a series of decidedly unsuitable choices.

    Among these, first and foremost, that of showing practically every place in the convoy from the first episode, from the bottom to the first class, from the night car (a sort of night club, place of dealing and perdition) to the locomotive. If in the film the spectator discovered the train, carriage after carriage, alongside the revolutionary cross-country skiers led by Chris Evans, here he is offered everything in the first 60 minutes of the series. This places the viewer in a condition of "geographical omniscience" which ends up dramatically limiting their interest in the whole story.

    Furthermore, once Layton has accepted his assignment, moving into the first classes, the narrative line relating to the cross-country runners and their class struggle ends up dramatically fading.

    Equally unfortunate is the cast choice. Daveed Diggs as Layton is a truly monotonous protagonist. Protagonist then up to a certain point, since the series immediately favors a choral narration, also in this case poorly supported by a plethora of characters badly written and supported by actor performances worthy of a soap opera.

    The only discreet exception is the charming one Jennifer Connelly, who here plays the role of Melanie Cavill, the "voice of the train" and right-hand man of the elusive Mr. Wilford. His character is also certainly the best written and most three-dimensional of the package, albeit far from the iconic characters of the two thousand and thirteen film (someone said Tilda Swinton?).

    The narrative plot is often frayed and drowns in the myriad of secondary situations dedicated to uninteresting characters

    Unfortunately, it's not just the writing of the characters that is deficient. The narrative plot is often frayed and drowns in the myriad of secondary situations dedicated to uninteresting characters who often seem to be forced into the plot. Even the main junctions that carry the story forward are often spurious and the events are never linked by a credible cause-effect relationship.

    Often, moreover, we try to capture the viewer with particularly cruel scenes or situations with effect that are forced and irremediably compromise the fruition pact. A real shame in the light of the interesting themes of the subject, which, over a series of ten episodes, could certainly have found an interesting study.


    To complete the not very rosy picture is added a decidedly uninspired technical and artistic development: everything is terribly standard in Snowpiercer. There direction it comes out particularly badly in the merciless comparison with the film, but also with photography, make-up, costumes and editing. Everything here is worse than Bong Joon-ho's acclaimed film and the feeling is that you are often in the presence of a "poor" version of the same universe.

    In general, this Snowpiercer has the big defect of not excelling in anything.

    La photography in particular he runs into unhappy aesthetic choices especially in flashbacks / dream moments, with bad taste filters and worthy of b series productions. The scenographies are a little better, albeit substantially derived from the film. Even these, however, sometimes lack consistency, with some carriages that seem enormous compared to the width of the train and others particularly narrow.

    Analogous speech for the computer graphics, really mediocre in most cases and often unable to return in a worthy way the desolation of this post-apocalyptic glacial world.

    In principle, therefore, this Snowpiercer has the big defect of not excelling in anything, even if probably without the inevitable comparison with the film the judgment on the series would have been more positive. However, we are faced with a product unable to expand the excellent subject and the interesting themes underlying this narrative universe, and it is surprising that not even the involvement of Bong Joon-ho himself, here as a producer, has been able to add value to a product unable to find its own identity.

    If the second half of the season were to change pace and reserve surprises we will be ready to update our judgment on the show. However at the moment our advice, if you are approaching the Snowpiercer narrative universe for the first time, is undoubtedly to go elsewhere.

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