The Hero Must Have Something Everyone Else Lacks: This movie has the quickest and simplest version of this: We begin with Fascist troops ordering a traincar of people to stand and then sit back down in rows. Everybody sits down except one man. Okay, so now we know that he’s our hero. But can we trust him, or is he just engaging in empty rebellion? No, his friend asks, “What were you doing?” and he says, “Counting,” and we see that he was timing the number of second before the doors close. Okay, so now we now we trust him, but will he be too heroic to empathize with? Will he be vulnerable? Yes: The next time the soldiers demand they sit down, it is someone else who won’t sit, for non-strategic reasons, and we see the anguish on our hero’s face. Should he wait for the right time, and leave this man (who was probably inspired by him) to his fate? Now he must choose between strategy and bravery, which is a painful dilemma. Empathizing with that dilemma, we are now fully bonded to the hero.
Art Requires Distance,
and Tough Decisions Must have Tough Consequences: After this series, we’ll do another Meddler week on another
2014 movie that didn’t quite work, and one problem with it is that it sets up a
critique of video-game logic but ultimately replicates that logic when it should be subverting it.
Even moreso than that
movie, Snowpiercer cleverly establishes a real-world Double-Dragon-style linear
sidescroller, as our heroes have to “clear each board” before they move on to a
new self-contained environment.
The movie however, uses this set-up to totally impeach the video-game storytelling
mode. Our “everyman” hero turns out
to be not so every (we find out he has some very disturbing motives) and
his relentless march forward turns out to be ironically self-defeating precisely because he foolishly believes in the myth of linear progress. Even when he succeeds, the results are so instantly
catastrophic that the cure is clearly worse than the disease, with no reset
button to undo the consequences.
The result is a seemingly clean, linear narrative that ends up being
Tomorrow: A familiar face...