As Holly mentioned, we watched Snowpiercer last week. This movie came out directly on demand, and it’ll be interesting to see how it does because of that. Of course, for our purposes – for doing a LitFlix – it made it odd for a deadline. I finally read the comic, and then we rented the movie. We’ll probably buy it on disc eventually… but it’s not even out that way yet!
All that is to say, sorry this is late. Also, I acknowledge that many of you have probably not seen this movie. With our LitFlix, we compare to the comics, which I am also thinking you haven’t read. I would recommend both – the movie was great, and the comic was great.
I recommend both also because they are very different from one another. Which I found fascinating, after reading it – certainly, it was a very adaptable story. One that got very changed. It’s interesting after watching Sin City recently, and seeing a comic so directly adapted – followed by one that departed so completely – was interesting!
Sensitive to the fact that I don’t anticipate many people have seen this movie yet, I will keep the spoilers minimal, sticking with the initial thread of the plot in both comic and movie. After all, if I tried to describe similarities and differences, I’d be at it all week!
Snowpiercer – the Comic
In Snowpiercer, the French comic by Jacques Lob, we start with a single man who, through daringly braving the harsh, outside cold, makes his way into the second class section of the train. This all becomes quickly apparent from the first pages, so I feel safe in saying this much.
But even that quick statement says a lot about this story, so let’s consider: it’s a freezing wasteland outside, first and foremost. There was an event, a disaster, a global collapse. As far as anyone on this train, the Snowpiercer, knows – they are the last of humanity. Saved by this train that they had the good fortune to be on, that had been built to run constantly, and non-stop, in a global trek.
Good fodder for visuals in both a comic and a movie, right there. Also, a harsh society – defined by limited space, limited resources. You can’t expand outside of the train, nor can you access anything outside of it. As you might expect, the likelihood of a dystopian, unequal society forming in this situation is pretty much 100%.
There’s more in my statement, then: a man who moves from the back of the train, the third class, into the second class section. Why this travel? Is third class so bad? We don’t necessarily see it so we have to listen to this man about his account of it. So I can leave that in the comic. There’s also the fact that there’s a first class: what must life be like for them? And is it worth trying to make it forward to join them?
A very simple core idea, which spins into a lot of possibilities and thoughts. A great pitch for a story, and easy to see how this got turned into a movie. So how does the movie compare?
Snowpiercer – the Movie
So let’s see if I can do for the movie what I did for the comic, and sum it up in a sentence. In Snowpiercer, the movie by Korean director Joon-ho Bong, the people from the tail of the train fight their way forward in the train to try to take over. Hmmm, not as easy to explain, I guess… have a trailer!
In the comic, it’s the journey of one man through the train, and the people who are with him and escorting him along. His journey through is used as a means of showing what life on the train is like. We still get to travel through the train and see what life is like in the movie – but in an entirely different way.
The main difference is about the people. In the comic, it’s one man who makes it out of the tail of the train – in the movie, it’s a whole host of people. It’s a regular revolution! This makes all of the encounters different, adds a lot of characters to the plot, and in general makes a bunch of small and large changes.
External to these changes, there also seems to be a bit of a change in the class system. There was military in both, and people in the tail in both. But the movie kind of cuts straight to the first class, to the rich living a life of luxury while the poor are in squalor. It felt like a modern sort of commentary: the poor and the 1%. In the comic, it felt attached to French history to me: the three estates, people living these different lives, and questioning the equality of it all.
Anyway, I loved the added characters and events. I will say that adding a lot of people increases the violence of the encounters quite a bit, so I will warn you that this is a pretty violent dystopian movie.
I liked both stories, fully recognizing they are very different. There’s a big change, in the end, on what the reveal is at the front of the train… but in the end, a lot of the thought is similar even through the change.
I have not read the second comic, Snowpiercer 2. It is subtitled “The Explorers”, and flipping through it, I don’t think there’s anything I missed in there for the movie. I’ll have to read it at some point!
They reprinted a copy of Snowpiercer which mentioned the movie, so the comic is obtainable (checking the copyright, it’s from 1984!). Unlike my recent experience with finding The Incal – which, despite coming up in a new documentary (Jodorowsky’s Dune), was not reprinted. Which brings me to a last point.
Reading this comic really reminded me of The Incal. I really wonder how much of it just has to do with them both being translated international comics, if there is a similarity in style there that is different from English-language comics. If The Incal has so much of an impact on international comics, perhaps, as well – and that this is part of the impact that I haven’t quite seen, but that is supposed to be there. They’re also contemporaries from the 80’s, so maybe that’s some of it too perhaps.
Despite the vague feelings of similarity, though, Snowpiercer is its own, unique story, and one I recommend! So if you’ve read the comic or seen the movie, let me know what you think in the comments below!