Snowpiercer's ridden a long and winding track to make its way to genre fans' TV screens. The graphic novel film adaptation starring Chris Evans became a cult hit, leading to a show going into the works back in 2015. It got a pilot order at TNT, cast Jennifer Connelly, got picked up to series, lost its showrunner, lost its director, lost its network, returned to its original network, made waves at San Diego Comic-Con, and got a second season ahead of its debut. Now, five years after its conception (during which time its film's director, Bong Joon-ho, became an Oscar-winning all-star), Snowpiercer is coming into the station. And the reviews are out.
The show — which also counts Daveed Diggs, Alison Wright, Mickey Sumner, Susan Park, Iddo Goldberg, Katie McGuinness, Lena Hall, Annalise Basso, Sam Otto, Roberto Urbina, Sheila Vand, and Jaylin Fletcher among its cast — is about the same things the other versions of the story are: class, oppression, and a train that never stops racing through an icy post-apocalypse. And, like these lofty ideals and troubled production history may have indicated, it doesn't always work, according to the critics. But let's hear it from them.
Here's what critics are saying...
The Hollywood Reporter's Daniel Fienberg explains that longtime franchise fans "are likely to be at least somewhat disappointed by this tonally uneven, narratively confusing TV adaptation." But, don't expect a trainwreck either. Instead, the show is something in between. "Thanks to solid production values, maybe a half-dozen amusingly pitched performances and several moments of giddy lunacy, Snowpiercer settles into a watchable rhythm," he writes. And, even if things don't immediately click and things feel a bit half-formed, the show is already on track for a second season.
Daniel D'Addario writes at Variety that Snowpiercer is "watchable, but not much more." He's not sold on the show's murder-mystery because, well, the whole thing feels a bit silly, writing "beneath its coating of snow and ice lies a thick patch of corn." While D'Addario appreciates the cast's efforts, but notes that the show "has a curiosity about its characters that exceeds its grasp."
Allie Gemmill's Collider review notes the differences between the movie and show, calling the latter "a more technicolor, melodramatic spin which demands patience as it finds its footing despite commendable efforts from all hands on deck." And there's a lot going on. "A plan for the most impoverished and poorly-treated passengers to take over the train is a strong enough main arc, but it also competes for your attention with a murder investigation, a shady drug scam, possible secret experiments, and shadowy, wealthy elites trying to control the entire train," Gemmill explains - and any single one of those would be enough.
CNet's Patricia Puentes finds more to love in the "compelling and timely" drama, highlighting Connelly as a standout. While noting that the movie and show share elements, existing in the same universe but with different takes on what remains important, she appreciates that the show is "less crude and disturbing" than the film.
Writing at TV Guide, Tim Surette explains that the show is a "murder mystery — and not an intriguing one by any means — for a large part of its first season, with revolution on the back burner." That doesn't help the overstuffed cast make an impression, which is important when people get killed off. "With things so crowded, half-assed backstories are thrown into the mix, like a love triangle that doesn't serve a purpose except to flavor characters who shouldn't be there in the first place, or drug issues to bump a character from supporting to main." All that culminates to a finished product that is a "clearly inferior version of something that was already great and never needed to be revisited again."
For those keeping score Rotten Tomatoes aggregated and pegged the series at a mixed 56 percent.
Snowpiercer premieres on May 17.