The only thing The Snowman is going to kill this weekend is the 2 hours you won’t get back if you happen to go see it.
Director: Thomas Alfredson/2017
From the promotional materials, the cast, and the built-in fan-base for the best-selling book The Snowman is based on, you would have to say that this film is guaranteed to be a smash hit. The seventh book to feature Detective Harry Hole from Oslo, Norway, The Snowman is the first film from the book series in what the studio is hoping becomes a future franchise. Based on this first film, the odds of that happening are pretty slim, as this Snowman is already melting too fast before it even arrives at the box office.
Michael Fassbender (Alien: Covenant, X-Men: Apocalypse) plays Det. Harry Hole, a man who is disliked on his police force, an alcoholic, and yet still maintains a strong reputation for the ability of solving murders. His superior officer reminds him that if he is so good at solving murders then he shouldn’t live in the city with the lowest murder rate in the world. Of course, murder is just around the corner as Harry gets a note mailed to him with a picture of a snowman, the killer’s calling card, which he leaves at every targeted victim, and at the crime scene.
A detective named Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson-Mission:Impossible-Rogue Nation, Life) has recently transferred to Oslo and is pursuing a case that may be tied in. Soon she and Hole are working together on the case. This ties in Dr. Svennson (Toby Jones-The Hunger Games, Captain America: The First Avenger), a man with a questionable side business, with a connection to Arve Stop (J.K. Simmons-Whiplash, Spider-Man) a billionaire seeking to bring the Winter Games to Norway. From the opening scene, we see the backstory on the killer, and the possible motivation for what set him off to begin targeting victims on the first snowfall of the year. This connects us to Val Kilmer’s (Tombstone, Top Gun) character of Rafto, a disgraced police detective, also with a drinking problem.
Det. Hole is still close with an ex-girlfriend named Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg-Nymph()maniac Vol. I & II, Anti-Christ) whose son Oleg (Michael Yates) looks up to Hole as a father figure/mentor, but who does not know who his real father is. His mother’s current boyfriend Mathias (Jonas Karlsson), is a much more stable and permanent presence in his life, but it seems that Oleg still would rather be around Det. Hole, and at times you get the feeling that so does Rakel, putting Mathias in an unenviable position.
That’s a bare-bones set-up, but somewhere in the midst of all this is a killer, which of course is the whole reason for the film. Unfortunately, the director is already out apologizing for running out of time to film, and not having the complete story with them when filming in Oslo, creating a very serious problem. As he admits, whole storylines were never filmed as a result of this mishap, and as a result, in his own words, this film was like a puzzle they were trying to put together with several pieces missing, so we don’t truly see the whole picture. Hats off to the studio and director to still make a compelling enough marketing campaign to still expect opening weekend to generate $10 million, but I think once audiences see it, the drop off rate for weekend number 2 will be significantly larger.
I won’t spoil the film in terms of plot points, but let me say that J.K. Simmons’ character doesn’t need to even be in this film. There is really nothing explained about why he is even a part of this mystery, really. Why does Det. Hole drink constantly to the point of passing out in the street all night, or on a park bench? Why? Never mind, don’t worry about it. The film doesn’t need to really explain it, as they introduce us to the detective this way, and mention it throughout the film. I’m sure being the 7th book in the series, there is something driving it, but if you haven’t read the book, don’t expect the film to tell you why this is such a pivotal plot point, especially in the first film when you are trying to ESTABLISH the characters.
The climax begins with much promise and then….POOF…..its over! No big ending. And then they apparently tease the next case for the studio’s assumed sequel with a hint towards a big villian like everyone will know exactly which story is next. It is much like when Thanos first appeared at the end credit scene of the original Avengers, and the audience geeked out with excitement, only it wasn’t like that at all….mainly people just looked around and shrugged at one another looking for the one audience member who read the book who could clue them in. Some advice to the studio: If we don’t care about this detective character after sitting through this film, what makes you think we will care about you teasing the next story? Also, remember that Universal is putting this out and already pre-planning the next installment, much like earlier this summer when they put out The Mummy, planning many installments of their new “Dark Universe” before that had to be reassessed….
In terms of marketing, while the trailer was clever enough to generate a buzz, I found it odd that lots of footage in the trailer never made the final cut of the film. It’s obvious they made a cool trailer before even figuring out the story they actually had to tell from the minimal footage they had shot. I’m convinced they didn’t even know what parts of the story they had filmed to be able to tell, much less how it was all going to connect and make sense, but hey, if you can cut the little footage you do have into an impressive enough trailer, then I guess you can maybe fool a few more people to come see the film and get a few more dollars than you would have, which is a win.
The cast is pretty good overall in spite of it all, but it was sad to see Val Kilmer in the shape he is in, especially after he has been tweeting about being ready to roll on Top Gun 2. Well, The Snowman has put Iceman on ice permanently, in terms of being camera ready for that sequel….I’m also pretty sure that Val Kilmer’s lines were dubbed in, rather poorly, in post-production as his lips do not match up with what is being said, or in the same speed of his audible speech. It was hard to watch, but I’m glad he’s trying, especially after his reported health scares.
So, in short, The Snowman’s ice is already thin and cracking before anyone has had the chance to venture out in the ice and snow and check it out. The box office is definitely going to thaw out when it arrives. This Snowman will be reduced to a puddle before the first week is over if people are honest about what a mess this is. The reception to this film will be as cold as ice (Foreigner song reference). I’m sure I can come up with more bad puns, but I’ll spare you the misery, despite this paragraph being more entertaining than the movie. I did have a random thought about how maybe in a few years it might be worth watching this again with the sound of the film turned down and instead putting Elvis Costello’s “Watching the Detectives” on a continuous loop throughout the film….surely that would be less maddening than watching this mess. The only thing The Snowman is going to kill this weekend, is the 2 hours you won’t get back if you happen to go see it.