With "Snowpiercer" Bong Joon-Ho released a socially critical film six years before "Parasite". The Netflix series of the same name has now taken this film as the basis. You can find the trailer directly under this series review.
In order to stop the ongoing global warming, many nations decided to spray the atmosphere with a refrigerant. However, the amount was miscalculated to such an extent that the earth turned into an uninhabitable ice desert. In order to be able to offer mankind a chance of survival, a train is built. Under the leadership of Wilford, a rail enthusiast, an unparalleled ark is created. The iron train comprises a total of 1001 wagons and is intended to ensure the preservation of the flora and fauna.
This basic story comes from the "snow cruiser" comics by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette. The story is mainly about the class struggles and the power system inside the train. So its occupants are not fairly distributed, but divided into several grades. While the front classes can live a happy life, this standard of living is carried by the back of the train. Instead of booze and booze there is toil, while only black protein blocks have to serve as food.
Bong Joon-Ho succeeded in staging this very elegantly in 2013. With actors such as Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, he pointed out abuses despite the action genre, creating one of the stronger genre representatives. Although there was a lot of brute action in the film, it always served to reinforce the motifs.
In the new "Snowpiercer" series, you choose a very similar approach. A short animation sequence at the beginning gives a quick overview of the background. Then you quickly switch to the real film and show scenes of the departure of the train. We find ourselves from this moment on, at the end of the train. The first fights take place before the actual journey. This end of the train is "The Tail".
Murder on the Ice Express
A jump in time follows. The train has been rolling around the world for almost seven years now and the first riots are threatening to destroy the balance of the train. At the beginning, the leader of the rebels Andre Layton is introduced. In a scene based on Chris Evan's role, they are planning a first counter-strike. However, the prepared attack does not occur. Layton has to go forward on the train. As a former police officer, he is said to investigate a murder in one of the front wagons. At the same time, the Tails still attempt to coup, but fail after just one car. To save the lives of his followers, Layton must take the investigation to find information for a takeover if possible.
It quickly becomes clear in this series that everything is very much based on the film. The concept of class division is not rethought and expanded, but adopted 1: 1. The biggest difference to the film lies in the murder investigation, which plays a major role. At Layton, she constantly encounters discrimination and the differences between the front classes.
However, it is nowhere near as creative as with "Parasite". While the actually poor and uncivilized family adapts there, the characters in "Snowpiercer" are stagnant. Instead of intelligent characters, the main roles only deliver exactly what is expected. This also doesn't work for various reasons.
Stereotypes and logic errors
For one thing, the train has only been running for almost seven years, unlike in the film. Nevertheless, the rear passengers are presented as if they had never lived in a civilization.
The protagonist even takes the unbelievability to the extreme. Even in the presence of the higher classes, he cannot adapt, despite his previous job as a police officer. While "Parasite" emphasizes the intelligence and intrigue, in "Snowpiercer" you have to be satisfied with mere stereotypes.
This makes it clear that Bong-Joon Ho had very little to do with this adaptation. He is named as an executive producer, but someone else directed it. This position was occupied by Graeme Manson, who was already responsible for "Orphan Black".
The series can mainly impress visually. The scenes always look stylish and trigger astonishment as in the prototype. A lot more work was done on the special effects. But the spacious set design also poses a new problem. The oppressive narrowness of the train fades completely. The train is so spacious that it is possible to dive in an aquarium and an entire transport system – like a train on the train – exists. In addition to the atmosphere, realism is also lost.
"Snowpiercer" appears visually ambitious and at the same time like a forced work to skim off the success of its big brother. No new approaches were sought for the adaptation. The cast used rather small names, which however cannot bear the already weak story. In “Snowpiercer”, it is unfortunately not the social pressure that is overwhelming, but the length of the episode. The long black screens for a TV broadcast give hope for an end several times in each episode.