Snowpiercer Directed by: Bong Joon-Ho Written by: Bong Joon-Ho and Kelly Masterson (screenplay), Jacques Lob, Jean-Marc Rochette and Benjamin Legrand (graphic novel) Starring: Chris Evans, Song Kang-Ho, Octavia Spencer and Tilda Swinton
In Snowpiercer, Bong Joon-Ho and his production crew do something that is incredibly important in sci-fi films: they’ve mapped out a vision of their world down to every minute detail. This is where, for the most part, other recent films that attempt to show the horrors of tomorrow go wrong. Divergent and The Hunger Games films are competently made and their action sequences are sometimes thrillingly executed, but their generic, uninspired dystopias are almost interchangeable when arrows and bullets aren’t flying.
Snowpiercer is by no means a perfect film, but it is a transporting one. Its success is in its environment, in its imagining of a train that appears to be all that is left of civilization after an attempt to thwart global warming ended up freezing Earth and killing off nearly everything. Here a person’s value in society is, for the most part, measured by how close they are to the engine. (Spoilers ahead) Someone at the tail of the train can have their arm frozen off for protesting when their child is dragged away for work, while those in the front eat sushi and have access to a train car that is a huge night club.
Melancholia Directed by: Lars von Trier Written by: Lars von Trier (screenplay) Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland and Alexander Skarsgard
When Lars von Trier announced “No more happy endings,” after the premiere of his last film, Antichrist, people were a little dismayed. Had any of his movies actually had a happy ending in the traditional sense? Bjork dangling from a rope at the end of Dancer in the Dark, an entire village (and America by extension) facing a woman scorned at the end of Dogville, a man walking through the woods and then being overcome by persecuted female ghosts (or something like that) in Antichrist- he’s not exactly Disney material.
His latest, Melancholia, certainly contains a grim conclusion whether or not you subscribe to the “more” part of his proclamation. This is a film in which the world ends and everyone on it perishes, but not before a young woman succumbs to crippling depression during her wedding.
V for Vendetta Directed by: James McTeigue Written by: Andy & Larry Wachowski (screenplay), Alan Moore (graphic novel) Starring: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, John Hurt, and Stephen Rea
You can’t blame Alan Moore for not wanting his name put on adaptations of his graphic novels. It all began with the atrocious adaptation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and the tradition carried on with the below-average take on his most renowned work, Watchmen. In between those two garbage heaps though, one of his graphic novels was given justice. That movie was V for Vendetta (300 was just pretty.)
Though the Wachowski Brothers switch the focus of the novel to represent restrained rebellion against government rather than all-out anarchy, the movie still moves along with a purposeful pace and terrific action sequences. Moore was still outraged at their nerve, and again, you can’t really blame him. Unlike the other adaptations though, this one was made with more than a cash-in in mind.