|Snowpiercer (2014) - Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho|
Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette was published back in 1982 and is a cult sensation. The comics tell the story about a world destroyed by a new ice age. The last of humanity rushed onto a special train 1,001 cars long and are endlessly circling the globe. The poorest people are sealed in the tail section and the richest are in the first-class section with the rest of humanity divided among the cars. When Proloff, the main character, escapes from the tail and he's taken to meet the leaders of the train. Along the way, an activist named Adaline befriends Proloff and the two form a friendship traveling the length of the train.
The three volumes are so obscure, there isn't even a Wikipedia page for it (yet). The main reason is it's in French. Recently, Titan Books published the first English translation of the first novel named Snowpiercer Vol. 1: The Escape. I have to start off by saying the book is rated mature. I mean really mature. The nickname for those in the tail section is "Tail-F***ers." That's pretty much how everyone talks in the novel with swear words punctuating every other sentence. It works for the novel because it portrays a society that has sunk into the depths of depravity and despair. The society is hard-edged and cruel and the language reflects that. The first-class section is marked by debauchery and opulence and that's where the nudity comes in.
I don't normally read these kinds of books, but Titan sent me a copy, so I read it. I was enthralled. Here are the most obvious changes from the original novel.
1. Social Class vs. Ecology
In the Movie: The class structure on the train is the most important thing. The rich are in the front and the poor are in the back.
In the Novel: The topic of environmentalism is the most important thing.
Why it's important: The topic of dwindling resources is a constant theme. It's not stated exactly what caused it in this novel, but it's implied that a type of weapon went awry. Besides the environmental disaster, the inhabitants of the train are all fighting for food, shelter and clothing on the train. It's a microcosm of our world. Jean-Marc Rochette, one of the artists on the graphic novel said the book wasn't supposed to be focused on social justice. He said, "...I think we were more concerned with ecology at the time; I was an activist against nuclear power plants and Lob was also very concerned with pollution and animal protection, but I don’t remember any discussions between us about social inequality."
In the Movie: Chris Evans plays Curtis who leads a revolution to the front of the train.
In the Novel: The main character, Proloff, just wants to get out of the tail section. He doesn't want to lead a revolution.
Why it's important: What's compelling about Proloff is he freely admits he has no interest in helping anyone in the tail section and it's only at the prodding of Adaline that he does anything. While the two make they're way to the front it's not as a revolution and they travel by themselves with the guards. No one else from the tail follows them.
In the Movie: The main hero has a full head of hair and a thick beard.
In the Novel: The hero is shaved bald.
Why it's important: The train believes that those living in the tail section are full of disease and vermin. He's shaved to prevent him from spreading lice or disease. It symbolizes the taking away of his humanity and the contempt they have for him.
In the Movie: A scene shows huge slabs of beef hanging on hooks.
In the Novel: There are only four known sources of food on the entire train. The first is rats of course. The second is a slab of synthetic meat known as "Mama" that the middle-class eats. Then there's rabbit which are raised by a tyrannical owner who carefully controls the breeding and stock of the animals. Finally, the rich eat fruits and vegetables from an atrium.
Why it's important: There's a feeling of desperation on the train and it's reflected in the dwindling resources. What happens if the rabbits die? What if Mama stops replicating? The last of humanity dies a slow death on the trains. Plus, the train in the novel is really narrow. There's no space on the train for people, much less cows.
5. Living Conditions
In the Movie: The tail section is crowded, but there's light, room to walk around and sleep in cubbies. There are windows and beautiful interior design in the main section.
In the Novel: We don't get a lot of looks at the tail section but what we do see is insanely crowded. There's no privacy whatsoever and one man's fondest wish is to be alone for an hour.
Why it's Important: The tail section is described as "hell" and it looks like it. It's filthy, dirty, dark and crowded. The conditions are inhuman which makes the first-class section so much more repugnant. But even the first class doesn't fair that well. It's still dark and oppressive.
Do these changes mean the movie isn't good? Only time will tell, but it interesting to see how a movie can interpret a graphic novel so differently from it's source material.
What do you think of the novel or the movie? Do you think the changes will make any difference?
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