If fans of science fiction, action and adventure are wondering whether they’ll get more bang for their buck by purchasing a ticket for Michael Bay‘s “Transformers: Age of Extinction” or Joon-ho Bong’s “Snowpiercer,” the answer is most definitely “Transformers.” According to critics, the Paramount release is easily louder — but “Snowpiercer” is better.
The Radius-TWC limited release has garnered an 89 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes with 39 out of 44 reviews praising the post-apocalyptic film is as exciting and smart.
TheWrap‘s Inkoo Kang, however, was among the minority who found “nothing connects” in the social inequality tale that she described as “a surprising experiment in tone and character that also works as a self-conscious action flick, simultaneously embracing and rejecting Hollywood blockbuster conventions.”
“In superlative previous films like ‘The Host’ and ‘Mother,’ Bong elevated, then transcended, the humble genres of the monster movie and the murder mystery by refashioning them into exquisitely heart-wrenching human drama. Disappointingly, then, his alchemical touch is absent here,” Kang wrote in her review. “‘Snowpiercer’ warms the heart, but doesn’t penetrate it.”
“Snowpiercer” stars Chris Evans as the leader of a social uprising taking place 17 years in the future, where what’s left of the world’s population lives on a long train speeding around the now-frozen world after an attempt to combat global warming backfires. Jamie Bell co-stars as one of the third-class rebels attempting to battle from the very back of the train to the front, where the privileged — like Tilda Swinton‘s villainous character — live in peace and excess.
A.V. Club critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky gave Bong’s English-language debut an “A-,” citing “shocking violence and black humor,” plus a pronounced “pessimistic political conscience.” Vishnevetsky also seemed impressed with the ending “that isn’t conventionally satisfying, but displays a too-rare sense of integrity” — even if it will be up for debate amongst viewers.
“Any revolution that happens aboard is a byproduct of the train’s enclosed system, and changing the direction of political power only helps to preserve its existing layout. The only solution involves disrupting the momentum and focus of the narrative. That’s bound to peeve some viewers, but that’s the point,” Vishnevetsky wrote. “‘Snowpiercer’s’ self-destructive ‘no gods, no masters’ politics aren’t meant to be agreeable — they’re meant to upend the movie itself. Whether they succeed is a matter of debate.”
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“Don’t miss it — this is enormously fun visionary filmmaking, with a witty script and a great international cast,” Lumenick wrote.
“How many times have you found yourself sitting through a movie, hating almost every minute of it, so appalled by the grotesque violence that you find a lot of it unwatchable, yet so transfixed by the vision, artistry, technical expertise and ravishing imagery that you can’t take your eyes off what you are watching or go away without feeling devastated?” Reed wrote. “In my case, very rarely indeed. Yet that is exactly my reaction to the amazing ‘Snowpiercer’, an upscale, high-concept $40 million futuristic epic.”
Film.com critic James Rocchi applauded the unconventional sci-fi flick for being “bold” and “brutal,” but ultimately found flaws in the “storytelling that strains plausibility.” For Rocchi, however, it’s Evans’ performance that steals the show.
“If the film has one element that never flags or falters, it’s Evans,” Rocchi wrote. “While Marvel’s plans have made Evans a global action star, he’s always been more interesting than that — willing to take chances with talented directors (“Sunshine”), willing to take small parts in interesting films (“The Iceman”) — and it’s hard to imagine any of his peers being willing to show up to play the brutal believer behind a violent revolution, never mind playing it so well.”