Magazine article Artforum International

Train in Vain: Melissa Anderson on Bong Joon-Ho's Snowplercer

Magazine article Artforum International

Train in Vain: Melissa Anderson on Bong Joon-Ho's Snowplercer

Article excerpt

WITH CALAMITIES (economic, ecological) in the news almost every clay, the "imagination of disaster," to cite Susan Sontag's still-influential 1965 essay on sciencefiction films, has been showing signs of exhaustion lately--maybe since 2006. That year (pre--global financial crisis, pre-Fukushima, etc.) witnessed the premiere of The Host, Bong Joon-ho's third, and most successful, feature, a nimble update of monster movies popular in the 1950s and '60s that managed to be a potent, scary, and often funny eco-parable. The seeds of Bong's fifth film, the dystopian epic.Snowpiercer, reportedly took root during preproduction for The Host, when the South Korean director discovered the French graphic-novel series Le Transperceniege, which debuted in 1982 (and provides the movie its name). Yet despite some innovative set pieces, Bong's latest, recalling several other contemporary postapocalyptic spectacles, suggests just how redundant the genre has become.

Bong's adaptation, whose script he wrote with Kelly Masterson, is his first film in English and boasts a large international, multiracial cast. Unlike recent end-of-days extravanganzas--films such as last year's Elsiuni and Oblivion, which are, as Ed Halter astutely noted on this magazine's website last December, "the most expensive movies in existence, products of the same turbo-capitalism that has pushed us past the point of no return" --Snowpiercer was made completely outside the Hollywood-studio dispensation (its majority producer is the South Korean company CJ Entertainment). Still, Bong's film is often weighed down by the same thudding obviousness that defines these bigger-budget. productions.

The first dispiriting evidence of this is the fact that Snowpiercer's hero, Curtis, is played by Chris Evans--Captain America himself. The actor's blandly handsome mug may be concealed somewhat by a coating of grime and a survivalist's beard, his character made slightly more complex by a bit of unsavory backstory revealed later in the film, but Evans/Curtis is still immediately recognizable for his bro-y confidence and mantras. "We control the engine, we control the world," he tells his fellow passengers crammed into the tail section of the Snowpiercer, a train that must perpetually circuit the planet to preserve the only survivors of an environmental catastrophe--pointedly occurring in 2014 and caused by the ill-conceived release of artificial coolants to counteract global warming--that plunged earth into deep freeze, destroying all life. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.