Star-power isn’t what it once was. It used to be, if you were a big celebrity, and you face was front-and-center on a films marketing, it was a guaranteed success. Nowadays, that strategy isn’t effective, and studios that still try it usually end up eating their losses. What has come taken its place is a focus on the people creating the movie – who’s the director, the producer, and so on and so forth. This is a far better strategy; a good director alongside a good producer using talented actors is a safe bet not necessarily for financial success, but at the very least for quality control. I mention all of this because when I heard about The Snowman, I expected a certain level of quality in the final product. Tomas Alfredson, director of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Let the Right One In directed, Martin Scorsese produced the film, and Michael Fassbender played the lead role. All the signs pointed towards a good film. Hell, the trailer’s beautiful cinematography alone had me excited to see this film.
So why is The Snowman a dumpster fire?
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Release Date: October 20, 2017
The Snowman stars Michael Fassbender as detective Harry Hole, who is investigating the titular Snowman killer as snow begins to fall across the cold tundra of Norway. The snowman killer became infamous for his savage murders; he kills women he disapproves of, and leaves snowmen around the bodies of his victims. Sometimes, the body parts are embedded intro the snowmen themselves. Hole is joined by greenhorn detective Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) to catch the snowman killer before he vanishes. That’s all you need to know about The Snowman’s plot, because once the plot begins to evolve past that point, it begins to twist and turn and bend in on itself, until you’re not sure what the hell is going on anymore.
Before we get into that, let’s talk about the more positive aspects of this movie. It’s apparent that a lot of people put their heart and soul into making this film – namely the director Tomas Alfredson. Scenes are shot well – displaying relationships between characters with visual information as well as communicating plot info that may or may not be excessively convoluted. That’s fairly decent, but couple it with some gorgeous cinematography, and a distinct lack of CG (except for one noticeable flock of birds) and you get a movie that feels real. Real enough to get invested in, and Alfredson at least did a good job with that. Another good aspect is of course, the acting. This movie has several excellent performers in prominent roles. Some you’ll recognize at first glance, like Fassbender and J.K. Simmons. Others will grab your interest after one scene, such as Charlotte Gainsbourg and Ferguson.
It’s…well, it’s just a shame that they had very little to work with.
The biggest problem with The Snowman is undeniably the plot. The film not only throws red-herrings left and right to confuse the audience, but the amount of time it dedicates to these distractions is ridiculous. It’s not merely in the realm of proposing an idea for the audience to chew on, the film actively chases down these leads for the viewer in tangential scenes that have no effect on the plot. Why was this filmed? Why are we being lead down a false rabbit hole? It feels like an easily excitable fiend of the mystery genre wrote this film, and asked far more talented people to see it brought to life. The result is a movie that is technically great – the cinematography is gorgeous, with several impressive shots of the Norwegian landscape. The acting is first-class, with Gainsbourg and Fassbender delivering the best performances of the bunch. Yet the story, the plot itself has a hollowed and fragile body that tries to contort itself in a way to be interesting.
So how did this happen? How did The Snowman turn out so bad? For one, they didn’t even shoot the entire script, and that is felt during the film. Several threads are underdeveloped or incomplete, while others are overblown and hopeless (those tangents I mentioned earlier.) Still, I can’t shake the feeling that this isn’t the sole reason this movie is bad. Even if some of those threads made more sense with additional filming, the final product would still have atrocious writing and a convoluted plot. For that, I’m not sure who’s responsible. The screenwriter, the studio, who knows? And how did they not fix this problem? With a successful director, producer, and studio, how did no one see this fumble? And why did no one realize that the snowmen don’t look scary? Wait, why are they trying to set up a sequel? Maybe it is the studios fault? Huh?
I’m done trying to explain The Snowman. It’s a pulpy serial-killer movie that folds in on itself due to a scatterbrained plot that focuses on the least interesting parts of the case rather than the compelling bits. There’s better real crime and pulp fiction novels out there for your time, and better films and tv shows too. Maybe you should watch Mindhunter instead.