Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Paul Thomas Anderson Says 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Is "F*cking Great," Also Loves 'Grand Budapest Hotel'  Paul Thomas Anderson Says 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Is "F*cking Great," Also Loves 'Grand Budapest Hotel' 10 Unaired TV Pilots By A-List Directors That We Want To See 10 Unaired TV Pilots By A-List Directors That We Want To See 'Kick-Ass' Creator Mark Millar Says A Hit-Girl Solo Movie Was Once In The Works With 'The Raid' Director Gareth Evans 'Kick-Ass' Creator Mark Millar Says A Hit-Girl Solo Movie Was Once In The Works With 'The Raid' Director Gareth Evans Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot 30 Films You Forgot Were Oscar Winners 30 Films You Forgot Were Oscar Winners Watch: Tom Hardy & Gary Oldman Face Off In The First Trailer For Thriller ‘Child 44’ Watch: Tom Hardy & Gary Oldman Face Off In The First Trailer For Thriller ‘Child 44’ The 10 Best Films Of 2005 The 10 Best Films Of 2005 Review: Documentary 'Night Will Fall' Is A Powerful Reminder Of The Horrors Of The Holocaust Review: Documentary 'Night Will Fall' Is A Powerful Reminder Of The Horrors Of The Holocaust Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point

Book Review: Graphic Novel 'Snowpiercer Volume 2: The Explorers' Takes The Story To Darker Corners

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist March 28, 2014 at 4:24PM

Before we get into this, it's probably fair to warn that if you haven't read "Snowpiercer Volume 1: The Escape," there are spoilers ahead. That said, I'm not going to go too deep into plot mechanics, because if anything, once Jacques Lob's story winds up, it's the journey and experience of the tale that takes precedent. And if 'The Escape' was chilly and grim, then 'The Explorers' doubles down, with a view of humanity that isn't quite pessimistic, but certainly embraces the notion that times of crisis can bring out in the worst in people, just as it can the best. But it all kicks off with an approach that completely reorients the point-of-view laid out so far.
0
Snowpiercer Volume 2: The Explorers

Before we get into this, it's probably fair to warn that if you haven't read "Snowpiercer Volume 1: The Escape," there are spoilers ahead. That said, I'm not going to go too deep into plot mechanics, because if anything, once Jacques Lob's story winds up, it's the journey and experience of the tale that takes precedent. And if 'The Escape' was chilly and grim, then 'The Explorers' doubles down, with a view of humanity that isn't quite pessimistic, but certainly embraces the notion that times of crisis can bring out in the worst in people, just as it can the best. But it all kicks off with an approach that completely reorients the point-of-view laid out so far.

Yes, "Snowpiercer" is still set on a train, forever traveling through a post-apocalyptic wintry wasteland on an otherwise uninhabitable Earth, but in 'The Explorers' we're dropped into a second train of survivors. It turns out that more than one vehicle for survival was built, and while this one is a bit higher tech, with a group of travelers slightly more progressive and perhaps marginally less depraved than the other train hurtling around in circles it's still plagued with power struggles, turmoil between religious nuts and politicians, a populace that needs to be controlled and of course, one rogue man who will have to do the right thing to ensure everyone's survival. And while the narrative is nicely twisted, in form, Lob's work stays largely the same.

Again, we're taken from tail to head of this second Snowpiercer, learning about its fancy capabilities, but it's also a touch familiar. The tug of war between the leaders, religious groups and the military feels slightly like a retread, which is a shame when the ability of the Snowpiercer 2 to brake (or at least slow down enough to allow for outside exploration) is a thread that demands to be unfurled further. And that's not to mention a romance that develops between bad boy Puig, and the leader's daughter Val, that feels rushed and somewhat like a cheap device to add some dimension of emotion to the proceedings. It never quite pays off that way, and their bond often feels like an afterthought in the story, their brief bouts of passion a device, rather than something organically developed.

But where 'The Explorers' does find its most compelling hook is in the overall mood and tone, which is grim, dark and bleak. With fears that Snowpiercer 2 will crash into the other train out there, not to mention faith-based fervor building up a conspiracy theory that everyone is actually in outer space, a faintly-detected beacon from across the ocean gives hope that there are others out there. But to find out, Snowpiercer 2 will have to jump the tracks, and move slowly across the frozen waters to discover what, if anything or anyone, awaits. And it's here where 'The Explorers' finds its true thrust, and where it doesn't disappoint. The decision to break the predetermined course is not without consequences, and this journey into the unknown inspires the most engaging and creative writing and artwork of the two volumes. And the closing panels are less about the resolution of the plot, and more about the lingering thoughts about how we survive our darkest times.

How closely (or not) Bong Joon-ho's film adaptation sticks with the graphic novels, I'm not quite sure, though it seems he takes the basic idea and runs with it in his own direction. But it's clear why the filmmaker found inspiration in both volumes. Story-wise, the graphic novel has issues, from being muddled in some instances, to repetitive in others, with pacing that can sometimes fluctuate wildly. But the core ideas underneath are rich, with a premise that is undeniable unique, even if it strains credulity (something tells us if anything like that the event in the graphic novel happened, plans would be more elaborate than sticking everyone on a train running in a loop). Lob is at his best, and most interesting, when he's working with those textures of loss, love, God and how we manage and react in extreme situations of peril. But the need for a "traditional" story structure, and the effort to spell everything out often gets in the way, ultimately making "Snowpiercer" a train with one too many stops. [B-]

This article is related to: Reviews, Review, Snowpiercer


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates