Sunday, April 26, 2015

SNOWPIERCER and the Perils of Internet Hype

I do not own the above image.  Copyright The Weinstein Company.  All Rights Reserved.

            I sit here, 6 days from the American opening of THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON.  Some of you who live overseas have already seen it and have thrown your two cents into the ring.  I also sit here less than 24 hours before my wife & I see EX MACHINA, a small science fiction film that has finally entered my neck of the woods after weeks of praise from those I admire, respect & follow for their knowledge of film.
            Most of the time, I take their (or your, if you are one of those people described above) advice when something comes along, sometimes under the radar, that blows your mind that you can’t stop talking about.  A review is sometimes not enough.  You take to Twitter to argue over every single element of said movie, all the while begging the general movie going public to see it instead of junk like 50 SHADES OF GREY.  But what happens when one of your own (and I use that term very, very loosely) sees one of these movies and just shrugs his shoulders at the supposed greatness.
            SNOWPIERCER is the English-language debut of acclaimed South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, whose previous films have been completely overlooked by my eyes.  SNOWPIERCER follows the oppressed passengers of the titular train circumnavigating the globe after a failed attempt to stop global climate change turned Earth into a giant ball of ice.  One such passenger Curtis (Evans) leads a mutiny on the train that has been planned for some time.  Can they reach the front and stop the class war?
            Ultimately, I grew frustrated really quickly because the movie is nothing more than the hype surrounding it.  I’m not saying the movie is terrible or anything like that.  But where the movie loses me is the action/chase second act.  The entire middle hour of SNOWPIERCER is action scene upon action scene.  Each is unique and never duplicated.  They are shot decent enough but what purpose do they serve in the end?
            But where the hype destroyed the desired effect is in the social commentary.  Every single moment where someone isn’t getting stabbed there are elements of Atlas Shrugged all over the place.  I mean, they’re even on a freaking train.  And Tilda Swinton, let’s be honest, PLAYS AYN F*CKING RAND!  The look, the mannerisms, the condescending attitude.  We get it.  She is the devil incarnate!


            But worst of all, she doesn’t meet her end appropriately.  Ayn…I mean, Mason, meets her maker in the middle of the movie.  Yeah, just shot in the head after one of the many action sequences.  The villain from that point forward is just one of her unnamed minions with a gun.  Instead, our hero (yes, hero, singular) gets into a mano-a-mano with John Galt.  Fine, he’s the conductor/owner of the train Wilford.  It is Wilford (and Wilford alone) who delivers the third act stinger.  Sure, the mysterious Wilford was hyped as this God among men.  But for a majority of the movie, Curtis had this main villain to chase after then have her (him?) as a hostage.  The movie misses a perfect opportunity to have “Ayn Rand”, “John Galt” and our hero have one profound discussion in the front of the train about the past, present & future of the journey the human race is taking.  And I guess there’s my problem with the entire movie: the missed opportunities to expand on the social commentary and the emotional payoffs.  Curtis’ emotional monologue at the beginning of the third act doesn’t have the desired effect when so much time & action has occurred since the characters were killed off in one of the many action scenes. 


            On the surface, SNOWPIERCER is somewhat exciting at times & exquisitely shot.  Each action sequence is unique in its design & style.  The performances are top notch, especially Swinton, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary, she’s great in everything.  The entire story is set up almost perfectly.  It’s the execution that’s the problem.  I liked what I watched while watching, I just hated thinking about it after.
            Hype can lead a film to the promised land: the general movie-going public’s mind.  Whether it be in a theatre at a multiplex or in their own home, every great movie needs to be seen & available to everyone.  But hype has its downsides.  You just read one.  Sometimes, a movie, if not seen right away, can be destroyed by the hype machine, whether it be critically or commercially.  Film is fragile.  Film is special.  Let us not attach too much to a movie, lest it be too much for us to handle.  And that is why I don’t watch trailers or read reviews before seeing movies: Hype kills movies.


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