TNT’s upcoming television adaptation of Bong Joon-ho’s "Snowpiercer," a film about unchecked economic inequality in a capitalist society, is the perfect show for these uncertain times. As COVID-19 continues to spread across the world, a lot of the upper class has managed to get richer while the middle and lower classes have been impacted by a variety of issues, including widespread layoffs (leading to depressing unemployment numbers that have increased to historic levels). The layoffs have left many Americans without health insurance during one of the most devastating public health crises in modern history.
Now that we've grounded ourselves on how relevant "Snowpiercer" stands as a metaphor to current events, we have one important question to answer: How does TNT's version of "Snowpiercer" compare to Bong's film?
Let's start off with the original source material. Bong's film was actually based on the French graphic novel "Le Transperceneige" by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochettel. The film takes place on the Snowpiercer train, which is carrying the last living humans on earth 15 years following an "extinction event." The event was a disastrous climate engineering attempt (in an effort to stop global warming), which created a manmade Ice Age.
It's no secret that Bong is the darling of international cinema right now -- hot off winning Best Director and Best Picture at the Academy Awards for Parasite. However, this adaptation of Snowpiercer isn’t a recent undertaking. This adaptation has been in the works since 2015 and has undergone a lot of change from when it was first pitched.
And if you're concerned that the TNT series is going to be a straight-up adaptation of everything that took place in Bong's film, you can take a deep breath and relax. This series will be in the same world as Bong's film, but it occurs at a different point in the Snowpiercer timeline. The show takes place 7 years after the extinction event, while Bong's film takes place 15 years after the event.
Earlier this year, showrunner Graeme Manson said, "I’m a huge fan of director Bong (Joon Ho)’s movie and huge fan of the graphic novels, and it took a long time to get it right and we got it right.” He added, "I wanted to create a character drama, and wanted (us) to get to know the classes in all the episodes.”
It's great to hear that Manson is going to spend time world building and creating strong connections with the characters. In the film, Bong built such beautiful, unique environments within each car of the Snowpiercer train. Each car was so awesome in its own way that I wanted to spend more time in each of them while getting to know the types of people that lived there. However, I realize that it simply wasn't possible to spend a ton of time in each car due to the limited amount of time Bong had to work with in the film. That's one of the drawbacks (i.e.: dilemmas) of movies: When you build such an interesting world, how do you manage to give the audience enough of that world to truly satisfy them? That's where TV can come in and solve the problem. On TV, showrunners are able to satisfy viewers by spreading world-building over many episodes and hours.
Also, one issue with Bong's film is that it was difficult to build a strong connection with the protagonist of the film (Chris Evans). We never had a chance to truly get to know him and learn what makes him tick. Let's keep our fingers crossed that we’ll get to know Daveed Diggs better than we ever knew Evans’ character so that we can confidently cheer Diggs on as he carries out the hero’s journey from the back of the train to the rich lead car of Snowpiercer.
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