While my personal policy is to read books prior to seeing the movie adaptation, there are times when that isn’t always possible. This often happens to me because a friend or family member invites me out to see a movie before I’ve had a chance to read (or finish reading) the book. But sometimes, I end up watching the movie first because I had no idea that it was based on a book.
This is what happened to me with the movie Snowpiercer. Snowpiercer is a phenomenal science fiction movie, which I first learned about on Twitter, courtesy of a tweet by Chris Evans. I actually wrote about my impressions of the movie (and several other great SciFi titles) on my original blog, Uncommon Considerations, back in April of 2019. If you’d like to read that post, you can find it here.
If you’re not familiar with the movie, the Snowpiercer is a train that is carrying the last survivors of a planet-wide apocalypse, caused when scientists attempted to correct Global Warming…and turned the planet into a frozen wasteland instead.
The train is segregated according to wealth, with the wealthiest passengers living in luxury at the front of the train, and the poorest living in squalor at the back. The passengers in the tail have attempted to rebel several times in the past, and have been beaten down with every attempt, but a character named Curtis (played by Chris Evans) is ready to try again. With several companions from the tail, he starts to fight his way to the front of the train, intending to change how things are run.
Since watching the movie for the first time, Snowpiercer has become one of my all-time favorite science fiction movies. In fact, it actually made it into my top five, alongside Star Trek: The Voyage Home, Blade Runner, The Fifth Element, and Arrival.
So imagine my surprise when I learned that the movie was based on a comic book, originally published in France back in 1984, under the title Transperceneige. And then imagine my delight when I was able to locate both graphic novel collections at my local book store.
The graphic novel version of Snowpiercer is similar to the movie in terms of the setting, but the story is radically different. The first volume, which is titled The Escape, focuses on a single refugee from the tail section of the train (named Proloff), who is trying to escape the horrible conditions that exist back there. He is quickly captured by soldiers guarding the train, and eventually taken (along with an aid worker who wants to help those in third class) to the front so he can be questioned by those in charge.
The second volume is actually a collection of the second and third parts of the story, The Explorers and Terminus. It takes place on a second train called Icebreaker, which is running on the same track as Snowpiercer. Unlike Snowpiercer, Icebreaker occasionally stops so that explorers can journey outside the train to bring back artifacts from the frozen planet. Most of the people living on Icebreaker live with the fear that their train might eventually collide with Snowpiercer, while others have convinced themselves that they are not on a train at all…but on a spaceship.
Both the movie and graphic novels definitely earn an R-rating, as they contain a lot of strong language and violence, but the books also contain a large amount of nudity and a number of sexual situations as well.
While I thought the graphic novels were interesting because of the differences in their plots, I have to confess that I was actually far more impressed with the movie. Snowpiercer, like so many great SciFi films that have come before it, does a wonderful job of presenting real-world problems of climate change and financial disparity in a fictional environment. The movie is a fantastic example of dystopian science fiction, but what really gives it the edge over the graphic novel series is the acting performances of the cast, including: Chris Evans, Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton, and John Hurt (just to name a few).
If you’re interested in the graphic novels or movie, you might also like to know that this year, beginning on May 31st, TNT is actually going to begin airing a Snowpiercer television series. After watching the trailer, it appears that the series is going to include a combination of elements from both the graphic novels and movie adaptation. It also looks like it will include a different cast of characters from either version. Unfortunately, I don’t have cable television…but hopefully it will be available for online streaming on the network’s website, because the series looks really good.