2019 NEW YORK COMIC CON: Seven years into the future, after the earth has been devastatingly frozen to its core, a train perpetually speeds around the globe carrying the last surviving traces of humanity. That’s the premise of the cautionary post-apocalyptic series from creator, Graeme Manson (“Orphan Black”). The show is inspired by the French graphic novels and the 2013 Bong Joon-ho film of the same name, Snowpiercer.
Earth’s grave situation began with good intentions. Unfortunately, as we all know, they pave the road (or lay down the tracks) to Hell with good intentions. After years of ignoring climate change warning signs, it becomes an undeniable problem. To reverse the effects of global warming “men of science” attempt to cool the earth. However, this move accidentally set off the Great Freeze. The catastrophic event wipes out most life on Earth, leaving few survivors fighting for existence on the specially designed train.
On the surface this sounds like a somewhat familiar dystopian sci-fi theme, the show’s overall scope is much wider. “I think that’s probably the real difference from the film,” says Manson. “We have that same desire to get to the engine, but we bounce around the classes, and we’re telling a really interesting drama, a class story. That’s the basis for Snowpiercer. It’s about class, it’s about immigration, it’s about detention, it’s about climate change. It’s a beautiful existential tapestry that we get to work with here.”
Manson was joined by the series stars Oscar® winner Jennifer Connelly (“A Beautiful Mind”), Tony Award® winner Daveed Diggs (“Blindspotting”), Alison Wright (“The Americans), Mickey Sumner, Tony Award® winner Lena Hall (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”), Sheila Vand (“Argo”), and Steven Ogg (“Westworld”) at the New York Comic Con panel to discuss the upcoming series. They explained how the class struggles on the train served as a microcosm of today’s world. Starting at the front of the train and work backward, each subsequent train car has less wealth, resources and power. The ultra-rich are near the front, the artists and enforcers in the middle and the poorest in the back.
A BALANCE OF
Alison Wright, elaborated on the social dynamics of the train. “This train is a balance, there are not unlimited resources to support 10 million people. We have 3000 souls. We don’t have enough to keep the extra people who forced themselves on the train alive. There are not enough resources to support them. That wasn’t the deal. To keep the train functioning, you have to keep law and order in place.”
“There are different departments on the train. I’m in the hospitality department with Jennifer (Connelly) who is the voice of the train. We are responsible for keeping order and keeping everything running smoothly,” Wright elaborated. “There’s the police of the train – the muscle. Then you have another faction, a different sort of police, who are the stormtroopers. Everyone is in different groups, who are helping to run the train. My character has the run of the train. She has to be in the tail sometimes. But she also spends a lot of time in first-class taking care of whatever their whim is. There’s vast luxury on the train and those luxury needs have to be taken care of too. This goes down to how they may want their beef cooked.”
YOU HAVE SILVERWARE!?
Layton (Daveed Diggs), a homicide detective from Chicago. He starts to see the level of social injustice as he explores beyond the train tail trying to solve a murder mystery. “The train has a linear class structure, but the machinations of how power dynamics actually work bounce all over the place. Everybody has got something to sell or to trade. That is where the real power comes from.”
Diggs continued by elaborating on just how different life was for the have and the have-nots.”Every time he sees a new train car, it’s the first time he has seen anything like it. There’s a lot of, ‘What the f*ck! You have silverware!? So much it is just like, come on, really!? I know what the baseline is for survival, and you are so far beyond that. The fact that luxury exists on this train with the last surviving people on earth and some people still have luxury items. That’s f*cked! For there to be a one-percent when there’s only 3000 of us left.”
STYLE WITH SUBSTANCE
To convey the drastic shifts in living conditions each classes’ train cars would require their own look and feel. The individual car design requires a painstaking attention to detail. Each of the 1001 cars has its own story to tell. Attentive viewers will notice the difference between the settings. The excessive luxury in first-class, where passengers have brought unnecessary items like designer luggage and golf clubs. The third class cart is populated with repurposed items. In complete steampunk/sci-fi fashion including such items as curtains constructed of strung together Sriracha packets. In the poverty-stricken area of the train tail, there’s a struggle to even acquire the necessities of life. Therefore, they are forced to feed on insect-sourced foods while living in rags and refuse.
A beautiful opening sequence was shown (below) revealing the show’s combination of live-action and the animated sequences. The mix of mediums is visually interesting, but above all, it also connects the series to its graphic novels roots. The animation allows elements of the story that may have been limited due to budget or logistics. It will open up the storytelling beyond the current confines of the train.
The massive scale of the train alone provides endless opportunities to explore humanity. From romance and mystery to social and environmental issues – the ambitious show plans to cover this and more. The timely themes are something the casts hopes are not lost on the audience. “The best entertainment does that in a non-preachy way,” explained Mickey Sumner. “You are entertained at the same time as you are asked to see something you haven’t seen before, to see someone else’s perspective. It takes time to do that. It takes time to change people’s minds.”
When stripped down “Snowpiercer” is ultimately a parable about class warfare and climate change. Manson wants these themes to resonate, “One thing I hope is the show does make people think.”
“SNOWPIERCER” premieres in the spring of 2020 on TNT.