(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for a poem about the possible, so I tackled the improbability/possibility of sci-fi dystopias.)
What would you call an improbable threat
For the future that no one has witnessed as yet?
Dystopian visions are dozens per dime,
Propped up by the volatile nature of time.
Who knows if we might be supplanted by apes,
Or drive over ruined, deserted landscapes?
Who knows if we might be beset by undead,
Or banned from free thought by a Big Brother head?
Perhaps we might battle an alien foe
That strikes from above or attacks from below.
The sun may desert us or scorch us to ash,
Or robots may kill us or clean up our trash,
Or humans may live in a virtual setting
That no one recalls since it’s built on forgetting.
Or maybe, just maybe, mankind may well learn
From all its mistakes that so often return
And set up a world of the peaceful and wise,
Not built on the backs of control and dark lies.
But with all of the ifs that end nightmarishly,
I think that’s unlikely, but hey, it might be.
MPAA rating: R
It’s hard to know how I feel about Snowpiercer. On the one hand, I can appreciate the ambition that went into this epic dystopian vision, and on the other, I’m confounded by the bizarrely unrealistic concept that remains straight-faced throughout all its weirdness and violence. It’s a film I’m glad to have seen once, but I’m not sure I want to see it again.
After a half-baked attempt to stop global warming sends the planet into a deep freeze, the only remaining humans are those aboard the Snowpiercer, a high-speed train looping endlessly across the globe. The wealthy live in luxury in the front of the train, while those in the back scrape by in squalor and authoritarian suppression, personified by the loathsome Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton with false teeth). After seventeen years, the have-nots make their final push for change as their leader Curtis (Chris Evans) aims to take the engine.
The biggest problem with Snowpiercer is buying into its unlikely dystopia without being distracted by just how unlikely it is. So much science fiction is dedicated to conjuring future worlds where vices are taken to extremes or improbable outcomes challenge our perceptions, so in some ways, Snowpiercer is in good company. But then again (and my views may be tainted by a semi-famous and extremely negative review I read a while back), there is such a thing as too many plot holes. Why is one Korean girl psychic? How is it that the wealthy of the front section have perfectly maintained amenities and clean clothes with no visible manufacturing or service areas? It’s a train after all; there’s only so much room in the cars, all of which Curtis passes through to get to the front, often with random themes, like an aquarium or a rave. Surely this train isn’t as self-sustainable as it appears with no outside resources. Considering the body count and how pyrrhic the battle becomes, how can the ending be viewed as anything but a total downer waving a shred of false hope?
It’s a lot to overlook, yet, if you can, there’s much to appreciate as well. The set design and limited CGI effects (mainly any exterior shots) have a convincing world-building flair, and the fight scenes, while unnecessarily bloody, are tense and shocking, with a strange preoccupation with limb amputations. The film does excel as an action movie and has moments of pointed social commentary about the breakdown of society, though its almost cartoonish class struggle themes were done far better in The Hunger Games series.
Snowpiercer seems to be divisive, and all in all, I can’t completely agree with either end of the spectrum. It’s not a total train wreck (pun intended) as some faultfinders have derided it, but neither does it seem worthy of its effusive critical praise and 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m somewhere in the middle, dubiously positive you might say. If you can manage to take its grim craziness in stride, Snowpiercer may be the dystopia for you.
Best line: (Wilford, the creator of the train) “Curtis, everyone has their preordained position, and everyone is in their place except you.” (Curtis) “That’s what people in the best place say to the people in the worst place.”
Rank: Honorable Mention
© 2019 S.G. Liput
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