Thoughts on Snowpiercer

I loved this movie for the sheer entertainment although the ending was a bit of a let down and didn’t quite punctuate the action up to that point, if that makes sense. Spoilers below.

A lot of people have been talking about the social critiques and it’s the kind of movie that could be claimed by people on both sides of social/political/economic issues. You can read it as a warning about global warming, but on the other hand, the solution to global warming in the movie basically destroyed earth.

I saw it as a critique of the perils of a social structure that has an underclass for whom meaningful participation in society is impossible. They’re kept down and there’s no way to move forward on the train. In the movie, this is done at gunpoint, overtly. In America, the mechanisms are more subtle. So you feel righteous as the back of the train rises up against oppression, especially against such a decadent ruling class, but the nice little vicious twist is that the revolution, while just, basically ends civilization as they know it. The train derails and almost everyone on it dies.

It’s hard to see the ending and think “this is a great alternative to where we started two hours ago, for all its faults and injustices.” Or did you take solace in the fact that we all get to start over in the snow? Because the missing act in that movie, what happens next, is that two children starve/freeze to death and get eaten by a polar bear, which may be more or less inconsequential to the future of carbon-based organisms on the thawing planet, but it’s not an optimistic picture of the future of humanity.

The (ironic?) thing is that the movie doesn’t really consider a third way–it frames the question in your mind as a binary–society as is, or obliteration? Well obviously you choose status quo because you don’t want everyone to die. But that’s a trick because there’s also an infinite number of alternatives along the spectrum of keeping things similar but changing certain things at the margins. Keep the class structure but make it merit-based. Or keep it and make life more humane for those at the bottom. Or change it entirely to something more egalitarian. Or send everyone at the front to the back and vice versa. Just to name a few.

Why didn’t this ever occur to Curtis or Wilford?

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