I admit lately I’ve been spoiled by movies that I actually enjoyed. I’ve been giving out four and five star reviews like candy in the last couple of months, which has made me forget how horrible some movies can be. Well much to my dismay I got an unfortunate reminder last night of what a horrible film looks like when I took a chance on “The Snowman” despite its horrid reviews. I thought, well maybe other critics are just being hard on a film based on a popular source material…but come to find out they were all correct. This is just a bad movie.
“The Snowman” is based on the 2007 novel of the same name and features Michael Fassbender as a drug and alcohol addicted ace detective Harry Hole in Norway who teams with a young rookie named Katrine, played by Rebecca Ferguson, to solve a series of disappearances and murders where the killer leaves snowmen as his calling card. As the detectives try to connect past cases with present murders Harry learns Katrine may have a personal stake in solving the case and that the killer may be closer than he originally believed.
Where do I start with “The Snowman”? It’s just an all around mess. To put it bluntly, and because it would probably frustrate me to try and articulate every little detail I felt didn’t work in this film, it’s choppy, seemingly unfinished, lazy, and uninteresting and that’s just scratching the surface. Now I never read the novel this film was based on, but I hear it’s a lot better than this adaptation. The performances are bland, the story is unmemorable, and it’s interesting premise is wasted on what feels like a summarized script and screenplay of a much better movie.
The sad part is this film had a pretty talented cast at the helm. Michael Fassbender plays Detective Harry Hole, an unfortunately named lead who is bound to get snickers from anyone even mildly amused by easy puns. That aside though I have to say I have tried to like Michael Fassbender. There are some works of his that I truly enjoy but I couldn’t help but feel watching him on screen in this mess that he just plays the same brooding, moody character all the time. Once in a while we see him break that mold and add some true human qualities to his work, such as his turns in the “Alien” franchise and the “X-Men” prequel series, but for the most part he has settled for a stale slate of unoriginal works and this project just adds to a long string of boring, dry, and uninteresting characters he has chosen to play. There’s no nuances or subtleties to Harry. We know who he is and he fits every major down-on-his-luck detective cliché there is. We get glimpses of a deeper character here and there, but the film never does anything with it. In the end Fassbender is just unlikable in this role and what talent he does have is completely absent as he tries to tackle the same old cliché he is so used to bringing to life once again.
Possibly even more wasted is Rebecca Ferguson who has proven in the last couple of years to be a true talent at her craft. She is actually more likable, interesting and complex than Fassbender’s detective Hole. Her story arc is more complete, her character development is relatively well defined, and her motives are made pretty clear and it’s genuinely surprising when you realize why she wants to find the Snowman Killer so badly. Honestly I would have settled for a film based on her experience more than Detective Hole’s. Her story just seems more complex and fitting of the narrative, but instead she’s relegated to a side character and even after she comes face to face with the Snowman Killer her fate is left undetermined and she is pretty much ignored for the remainder of the film. She’s treated as nothing more than a piece of the bigger puzzle and considering that Ferguson’s performance might be the best in this entire film, which isn’t saying much really, she deserved more. I know it probably wouldn’t have gone along with the storyline of the original novel, but from what I understand this film didn’t follow that book very closely anyway.
The most annoying this about this movie is it truly feels unfinished. The development of the narrative feels completely phoned in with unwarranted flashbacks bringing the history of the Snowman Killer to the forefront. These flashbacks feature Val Kilmer in a surprise role as a past detective that investigated the case named Gert Rafto and, in possibly the most egregious example of phoning it in, Kilmer’s vocals were clearly dubbed over with a deeper tone and the vocals don’t even match his lip movements. There seems to have been no effort at all to properly dub over the original scenes and it doesn’t seem warranted to even have that redub take place. Why is it there? There really is no need for it and it doesn’t add to Kilmer’s character at all. And on top of all that the flashbacks seems completely out of place and only serve to build on the back-story of Rebecca Ferguson’s character, who again turned out to be nothing but a side note in the larger story anyway.
The biggest sin of all though when looking at “The Snowman” is it’s just plain boring. It’s horribly uninteresting and painfully slow and even once you find out who the killer really is there’s no big payoff. It sees obvious in hindsight and the final confrontation proves to be less brutal and more poetic, almost in an attempt to present some deeper moral or message that this film truly doesn’t deserve. What’s sad is there was plenty of potential. The concept seems interesting, the mystery could have been fun to follow, but what we get is one of the most bland and uninspired films of the year and one that truly disappoints on every level. There were even some interesting visuals in the trailer that are completely removed from the film itself. Clearly what we got was not the story the filmmakers wanted to tell, but in the end they are judged on what we received.
There have not been many absolutely undeniable duds in 2017, but sadly “The Snowman” is one of them. It’s boring, cliché, unfinished, and bland by every definition of the word. It almost feels like a low-budget attempt at cashing in on a popular source material and does little respect to the legacy of the book or to any of the talented actors on board the project. I guess it’s only fitting that a film about a killer who uses snowmen as his calling card turns out to be a cold, lifeless shell. Hopefully this one will melt away fast and that brighter skies are ahead as Oscar season rolls in.