I checked out Snowpiercer on VOD last week. It’s great when something turns out to be just as entertaining as you hoped it would be. It reminded me how exciting watching Terry Gilliam movies used to be.
My only hesitation about seeing the movie had to do with its concept, as I’m tired of heavy-handed science fiction allegories about a dystopian world where a privileged oligarchy makes the masses live in squalor. Joon-ho Bong (along with co-writer Kelly Masterson) has crafted a movie, though, that works beyond the clichés that bog down lesser efforts (I’m looking at you, Elysium).
The difference is in the film’s characters. The story Curtis (Chris Evans) tells about when they first arrived on the train packs way more of a punch than the generic story arcs from characters in similar movies. The guy’s come a long way since his days wisecracking as Johnny Storm.
One of the biggest topics of conversation has been the ending and what would happen immediately afterward.
***BIG SPOILERS AHEAD***
So we have two characters who have survived the horrific crash. There may be others, but we don’t see them and can’t assume. They see a polar bear walking around and the movie ends.
If you go online and check out discussions, a lot of folks point out that a) two people isn’t enough to keep the human race going and b) there’s no way a polar bear would even still be alive, as they need to eat things too.
It reminds me of a bit I remember from many years ago, when a comedian was talking about watching the Gilligan’s Island Harlem Globetrotters movie with a friend. The Globetrotters are playing a charity basketball game for the island’s orphans against evil basketball robots, programmed to defeat them. Gilligan comes into the game and his friend says, “Yeah, right. Like they’d put Gilligan in.” The comedian’s reply: “So you were buying everything up until that point?”
In Snowpiercer, the last members of the human race are living on a fast-moving train with tracks that never degrade in horrible environmental conditions, sides of beef materialize out of nowhere, enough bugs exist to become an endless supply of protein bars, and, wait a minute, why do they even have to be on a train in the first place?
And yet, after buying all this through the whole movie, a good number of viewers are questioning whether the hopeful ending is actually bleak. Sorry, but it is a hopeful ending, because Snowpiercer is a metaphorical film from top to bottom. The focus is on what it represents, not how well it would hold up in reality.
As I noted before about The Dark Knight Rises, how well we accept a metaphorical story depends on how emotionally invested we are in the characters and storyline. If we’re into it, we roll with plot and logic holes. If we don’t care, they stick out like a sore thumb. I cared about the people in Snowpiercer, so none of the questions I asked above matter. It’s also why most people questioning the logic of the movie are only flummoxed by the end. Things have concluded and for the first time, you’re not caught up in what’s going to happen next. Your brain now has room to think, logically, through what you’re seeing. I did it for a moment before catching myself.
So it doesn’t matter if the bear would just kill them, or if the bear shouldn’t even be there. Curtis has rejected the false (yet convincing) choice Willford gave him. He’s chosen humanity over the machine. All that’s left are the next generation, freed from their parent’s mistakes, on a planet where life is returning.