After months and months of bickering back and forth, North America recently got a concrete release date for director Bong Joon-ho’s English-language debut, the post-apocalyptic Snowpiercer. The film hits a limited number of theaters, and presumably the video on demand market, on June 27. A select few viewers will get to lay eyes on it a few weeks earlier, since the film has been selected to open the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 11.
Based on the French graphic novel La Transperceneige, Snowpiercer is set in a futuristic world where attempts to reverse global warming have kicked off a new ice age—in the comics a war causes this catastrophe. The only survivors live inside of a train powered by a perpetual motion engine that endlessly circles the frozen wastes. Inside, the remaining passengers are divided by a rigid caste system—the wealthy elite living a life of leisure up front while the poor starve at the back—and resentment and rebellion bubbles and festers until it erupts in violence.
With a fantastic international cast that includes Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Song Kang-ho, Ko Ah-sung, John Hurt, Ed Harris, and a ton more, Snowpiercer has been opening around the world to rave reviews and strong box office takes. The film broke records for ticket sales in August when it was released in Bong’s native Korea, and has since opened in France, Japan, and more with similar success.
Despite the acclaim, The Weinstein Company, who own the distribution rights to most of the English-speaking world, demanded 20-minutes of cuts to character and story because head Harvey Weinstein doesn’t think audiences in Middle America are smart enough to understand the movie. There was even talk of having Neil Gaiman write a prologue and epilogue. Snowpiercer isn’t overlong, clocking in at about two hours, and when a movie has been hailed by many as a masterpiece—a word that has been bandied about on many occasions—of course the first thing you want to do is hack out the heart and soul of it. Whether the film lives up to that hype or not remains to be seen, but we’ll find out eventually.
This went back and forth for I don’t know how long, with reports from both sides varying. Initially, Bong was diplomatic and appeared okay with the cuts, but as time wore on it became clear that he wasn’t exactly on board, and was even pissed off about the interference. That’s understandable, especially when the director’s cut tested much better with American audiences than the Weinstein version.
At the end of 2012, when the film had wrapped production, I listed Snowpiercer as one of my anticipated movies, sci-fi or otherwise, of 2013. Every photo, trailer, clip, and positive review that came out since, only made us more excited, and it’s finally almost here.