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Making Science Fiction Genuinely Futuristic In ‘Snow Piercer’

By Alyssa Rosenberg on February 6, 2012 at 2:52 pm

"Making Science Fiction Genuinely Futuristic In ‘Snow Piercer’"

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On Wednesday, I blogged about wishing The Help would get Octavia Spencer better parts. It looks like the universe is giving me what I want and need, because this sounds fantastic:

Chris Evans, John Hurt and Tilda Swinton already are on board, as is Korean actor Kang Ho Song, who starred in Joon-Ho’s international breakthrough, the Korean monster movie The Host. Snow Piercer, which Joon-Ho co-scripted, is set in a future where, after a failed experiment to stop global warming, an Ice Age kills off all life on the planet except for the inhabitants of the Snow Piercer, a train that travels around the globe and is powered by a sacred perpetual-motion engine. A class system evolves on the train but a revolution brews. [Octavia] Spencer plays a passenger on the train who joins the revolt in order to save her son.

I’ve said this repeatedly, but I’m much more interested in culture that explores either the leadup to an apocalypse or what comes after than television or movies where people spend a lot of time running around avoiding terrible things that are going down and ultimately avert disaster. It’s much more important—and I think much more interesting—to think about the choices we can make that will let us avert catastrophic change, or to really reckon with what life would be like after, say, the world warms enough to melt away the polar ice caps. The ultimate worst-case scenario in global warming or a fuel shortage may not actually come to pass, but playing with what the consequences of those developments would be like in a genuinely frightening, compelling way is an important spur to serious thinking about the consequences of our actions.

Similarly, I’m glad to see a sci-fi action movie that’s going to star at least some people of color. The Hollywood default to a world full of white people* is particularly weird given our demographic trends. And if we’re going to play around with the idea that large swaths of habitable land would be devastated (or at least, that we’d lose a lot of major costal cities), it makes sense to set a big post-disaster movie some place other than Los Angeles or New York. Diversity means diversity of location, too, with all the benefits, constraints, and visual freshness that come with it.

*I grant a blanket Tilda Swinton past because I’m pretty sure she’s here from the future anyway.

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