Product categories

John Hurt

July 15, 2014

Boarding the Hype Train: Snowpiercer

POLARIZING
Snowpiercer – Polarizing

I’m really not one to buy into hype. I know what I like and while I do seek out films that peak my interest, I seldom bow down to conformity and buy into things that people universally say is good. Namely, I don’t like “South Park”, I believe that Seth MacFarlane is overrated, the same goes for Zack Snyder, and when people beat on things that are universally “hated” I usually bring up a counterpoint to either pose a challenge that will force the attacker to turn defensive and either call me a dick, or simply slink away and talk sh*t behind my back, which I’m fine with. But as a reviewer, and a contributor to this site, I have to buy into hype sometimes in order to bring an audience to the site. It’s all about the views. This brings me to “Snowpiercer” one of the most-hyped films of 2013 that still hasn’t been widely distributed. It’s a polarizing film, no pun intended, that is full of allegories, pseudo-science, and reminds me of nearly every sci-fi/action film I’ve seen the past 20 years.

“Snowpiercer” takes place 18 years after the Earth has been frozen over due to a failed experiment that was supposed to solve the Global Warming crisis. The survivors of the world-wide freeze have all been placed on a high-speed train created by the Wilford Corporation that travels around the world on an endless loop. A social system has been put in place where the tail end of the train includes the poorest of the poor, including Captain America himself, Chris Evan, who plays Curtis, a man who has seen it all and is looking to start a revolution with the help of Tin-Tin (Jamie Bell), Kane from “Alien” (John Hurt) and a few other stars that will leave you wondering, “They’re in this movie?”

Of course I’m being snarky about this film, because at times it takes itself a little to seriously. And that isn’t a bad thing. “Snowpiercer” is supposed to be a social commentary about the folly of science and the way humans interact with each other in the time of crisis. It might even be fair to say that this might be one of the most important sci-fi films since “Children of Men.” The downside of “Snowpiercer” is that the commentary is extremely heavy-handed, and at the same time, almost an afterthought in some scenes. It’s almost like it’s trying to find a balance between the two, but can’t decide what kind of movie that it wants to be, and that is where it gets a little muddled.

This isn’t to say that the film isn’t good, there is actually a lot of good in “Snowpiercer.” If you took a Terry Gilliam film, took elements of “Cube,” “Children of Men,” “City of Lost Children,” “The Hunger Games,” “Bioshock,” “300,” and put it on a moving train, ta-da; “Snowpiercer.” The acting is top notch for an sci-fi/actioneer, including a performance by Tilda Swinton that SHOULD go down as one of the best of the year. The train itself is also a wonder to behold. You don’t often see multiple sets created for a film. It’s either done via green screen or practically in a pre-exsisting environment. There is craftsmanship in “Snowpiercer” and that is most appreciated where nothing is built by hand anymore, just computers. The set designer(s) should be highly commended for their work in this film.

However, with all that I like about “Snowpiercer” there are still problems with predictability, unfinished plot elements, and an ending that is simply “meh.” It’s a film with a lot of big ideas about the folly of science, how man interacts with each other, social hierarchy, and looking for hope in hopelessness, but it kind of boils itself down into an action film on a train that also reminds me of “The Raid.”

How will “Snowpiercer” be remembered by the masses? From what I’ve seen so far, it’s quite……polarizing. People seem to love it for it’s style, use of allegory, and production value. Other people hate it for it’s overuse of allegory and to be honest with you, simply because the film is being talked about by so many people. Sure, it’s a cynical perspective, but we live in cynical times where people are going to poke holes in anything that other people might enjoy. “Snowpiercer” isn’t perfect, and maybe about 20 minutes too long, but if you look past the idea that the film might be trying to say too much, it’s an enjoyable and all together original take on the post-apocalyptic film genre.

Fun Fact: “Snowpiercer” is based on the 1982 French graphic novel “Le Transperceneige.”

February 9, 2013

London Calling: V For Vendetta

FORGOTTEN

With the Oscar season here and the summer movie season fast approaching, I wanted to talk about a film I think fits into both.  Now comic book films are usually shrugged off as just popcorn fluff.  Most times, they are.  To this day, however, there hasn’t been a comic book film that has challenged me intellectually more than V For Vendetta.  It is one of the most intelligently made, beautifully shot, well performed films of the genre.  But sadly for some reason, it is FORGOTTEN.
V For Vendetta plot revolves around a knife wielding masked terrorist/freedom fighter trying to take down an oppressive British government in the not too distant future.  I put terrorist/freedom fighter because the film blurs the line between the two.  It makes you question the difference and presents the perspective of people on either side of the chaos.  Some would argue that the character of V is clearly the hero and the government is bad.  However, when you really get into the specifics of V’s acts, it is hard to paint him as a true blue hero.  Even an antihero for that matter.  Robin Hood robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.  V is out for vengeance, admittedly so.  He kills in cold blood.  He kills innocents.  He kidnaps.  He tortures.  He does whatever it takes to accomplish his goals.  You might say the ends justify his means, but his acts seen through a different spectrum can easily be construed as terror.  That is why I love this film.  It can be dissected and analyzed even to this day.  The Avengers is my favorite comic book movie of all time, however, V For Vendetta is much meatier when it comes to substance.
Comic book legend Alan Moore is famous for angrily dismissing and disavowing any adaptations of his work.  This is thanks primarily to the abysmal League Of Extraordinary Gentleman.  I wish he’d take a slightly lighter stance on this though.  It might be easy for me to say but, films aren’t bad solely because the filmmakers take liberties with the source material.  I detest Michael Bay’s Transformer films and Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man not just because they changed things.  I detest them because they are poorly written, horribly performed, lowest common denominator catering tripe.  Their changes weren’t done to add anything new or stimulating to the material.  They were made for convenience sake.  The same cannot be said for V For Vendetta.  Yes, V is a warmer character in the film than he was in the comic book.  However, I think that makes him even more complicated when compared to the coldness of his methods.  Yes, the fascist vs. anarchist theme was more liberal vs. neo-conservatism.  However, that is a lot timelier for today’s political atmosphere and still has the nod to the fascist’s ideas of purity from the comic book.  My point being that the alterations made in V For Vendetta do not weaken it as a story.  It merely updates it. 
The Wachowskis, the source material meddlers in this case, exist in a weird place for me as a film fan.  I was highly disappointed with their conclusion of The Matrix trilogy, but still respect the fact they always take crazy chances.  They entrusted the directing duties to long time collaborator James McTeigue, while staying on to write and produce.  However, their fingerprints are still all over this picture.  Finding and concentrating on the heart of their cinematic worlds is a common Wachowski m.o..  Where a film like V For Vendetta could have just fallen into the basic action vehicle cliché, the Wachowskis don’t let it.  There are genuinely moving moments in the film that still stun me.  The action scenes are terrific, but always serve as a tool to tell the story.  Not the other way around.
Before The Dark Knight came along, V For Vendetta was my choice for best ensemble cast performance in a comic book film.  Strange category, I know.  However, it is always a relief and a thrill for me when I see great talent trying to do great work in a genre film such as a comic book movie.  It thrilled me in History Of Violence, it thrilled me in The Dark Knight, and it thrilled me in V For Vendetta.  It is still a common misconception that the genre should be treated the way Schumacher treated Batman.  But there can be some amazing work turned in with the cape and cowl subset.  For example, this is by far my favorite performance by Hugo Weaving.  Yes, even more than his iconic Agent Smith.  Odd, seeing as we never see his face and that he was a last second replacement for James Purefoy.  Despite his Oscar, I’d put Weaving’s V right up there with Ledger’s Joker.  To accomplish the subtleties of V’s rage, anguish, humor and theatricality through an emotionless mask with only a voice is no small feat.  Portman, who I’ve loved since Leon: The Professional, seems to be playing a stereotypical damsel at first.  Much like she did in Thor.  However, Evey has the strongest arc in the film.  Her performance highpoint happens during the film’s big twist.  Her emotional journey during the four minute long scene hints at the Oscar caliber performance she had in her in the years to come.  Other than the leads, you have stellar supporting performances from John Hurt, Stephen Fry, Roger Allam, and the unsung anchor of the film, Stephen Rea.  There is absolutely no phoning it in here.
V For Vendetta doesn’t get nearly as much love as it should.  Even from it’s creator.  It seems to get misplaced amongst it’s lesser comic book movie brethren   For me, however, it is a film that shall never be FORGOT.  Remember, remember…to watch it….then tell me I’m wrong.  

Welcome to the new home of SimplisticReviews.net - We're currently still working on the site. You might notice a few issues, please be patient with us. Thanks! (Store also in testing — no orders shall be fulfilled.)
Scroll to top