The Snowman (2017)
The Snowman is a 2017 psychological thriller film directed by Tomas Alfredson and written by Hossein Amini, Peter Straughan, and Søren Sveistrup. An international co-production between the United Kingdom, United States, Sweden, and Japan, the story is based on the novel of the same name by Jo Nesbø. The film stars Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, and J. K. Simmons, and follows inspector Harry Hole as he tracks a serial killer who builds snowmen at his crime scenes.
Principal photography began on 18 January 2016 in Norway, before moving to London and Sweden. The film premiered on 7 October 2017 at the Haifa International Film Festival and was theatrically released by Universal Pictures, on 13 October 2017 in the United Kingdom and 20 October 2017 in the United States. The film grossed $43 million worldwide against a $35 million budget, and it was widely panned by critics, who called it "clichéd and uninvolving. Alfredson later attributed many of the film's problems to the film's rushed production schedule, claiming that 15-20% of the film's story was never shot.
Not to be confused with the 1978 Raymond Briggs story or the 1982 animated film of the same name.
Harry Hole is a detective in the Oslo Police, and a highly successful one too. However, he has been having some personal problems of late, resulting in him turning to alcohol and prescription drugs. The lack of a case to solve isn't helping either. Then a woman disappears and another is murdered. This is looking like the work of a serial killer, one with a particular calling card - a snowman.
According to Variety, the initial hope with the film to was to create a series in the vein of the Alex Cross film adaptations. Screen Rant has suggested that the film was inspired by the success of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
For a while, Martin Scorsese was attached to direct, although he dropped out in 2013. The next year, Tomas Alfredson was hired to direct. Prior to Alfredson, the studio had considered Morten Tyldum and Baltasar Kormákur, although they declined. By September 2015, Michael Fassbender was in talks to star in the film, and Rebecca Ferguson and Charlotte Gainsbourg were in talks to join the cast by that October and December, respectively.
Principal photography on the film commenced on 18 January 2016 in Oslo, Norway. Fassbender was spotted on set on 21 January, in the Barcode area of Oslo, shooting a scene on the tram. A large scene depicting a party, which required over 300 extras, was shot in Oslo City Hall on 5 February. Production moved to Rjukan on 9 February, and to Bergen on 23 February. Filming in Bergen includes scenes on the mountain of Ulriken, Bryggen, and the Skansen fire station. Production moved back to Oslo for the remainder of filming, in mid-March. This included scenes at Restaurant Schrøder, where Harry Hole is a regular in the novel series. Filming also took place in Drammen, and on the Atlantic Ocean Road, and ended on 1 April 2016.
Reshoots and additional filming took place in Norway during the spring of 2017.
In response to the negative critical reviews, Alfredson blamed the heavily-condensed pre-production and rushed filming schedule, in which 10% to 15% of the screenplay remained unfilmed. This led to narrative problems when editing commenced:
Our shoot time in Norway was way too short, we didn't get the whole story with us and when we started cutting we discovered that a lot was missing. It's like when you're making a big jigsaw puzzle and a few pieces are missing so you don't see the whole picture.
Alfredson also stated that he had a lack of time to prepare the film properly:
It happened very abruptly, suddenly we got notice that we had the money and could start the shoot in London.
Actor Val Kilmer suffered from an enlarged tongue during filming due to recent treatment for throat cancer. As such, many of his scenes were filmed without the actor visibly speaking as so to allow easier dubbing during post-production. To that end, all of Kilmer's dialogue is dubbed.
Why It Sucks
- Although the movie takes place in Norway, none of the actors are Norwegian, and none of them use Norwegian accents (in fact, most of them use British accents).
- The killer, as portrayed in the movie, sends juvenile letters and scribblings, which makes him hard to take seriously.
- The film was conceived in 2011 but took until 2016 for production to begin after a number of directors dropped out.
- As a result, the plot is extremely incoherent.
- The film's production was rushed. According to Alfredson, 10-15% of the scenes were not filmed.
- Due to the missing scenes, there are a number of plot holes, continuity errors, and plot threads and characters that disappear or are never resolved.
- Due to medical problems, Val Kilmer's lines were unintelligible, leaving his lines to be poorly dubbed in by someone else.
- The characters are all flat, with no development or known motivations.
- There are quite a few scenes that are weird and irrelevant and could be cut without affecting the movie.
- The movie is just unspeakably boring, with many scenes that just drag on.
- The finale is anticlimactic.
- The actors at least put some effort into their work, though in the end, it's wasted by the terrible script and underuse of some characters.
- The scenery shots of Norway are great.
- Okay acting for the most part, especially from Michael Fassbender, J.K. Simmons, and Rebecca Ferguson.
Critical and audience response
The Snowman was panned by critics, who derided what they saw as the film's scattered and incomprehensible plotline, as well as a lack of direction for its main cast members. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 7%, based on 188 reviews, with an average rating of 3.04/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "A mystery that feels as mashed together and perishable as its title, The Snowman squanders its bestselling source material as well as a top-notch ensemble cast.". On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 23 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". It currently has a 5.1 on IMDb as well. On Letterboxd, the film has an average rating of 1.8/5. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "D" on an A+ to F scale.
The movie currently has a Google users rating of "62% of users liked this film".
Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a negative review, writing "There's probably a good movie or several buried in the frigid wilds of Nesbø's fiction, and with more time and cultural nuance and fewer cooks in the kitchen, it might well be realized. Watching this bungled slopsicle of a movie, it's hard not to conclude that somebody let the wrong one in." Variety's Guy Lodge also called the film a disappointment, saying: "If The Snowman were merely a chilly, streamlined precis of a knottier page-turner, it could stolidly pass muster. The sad surprise here, considering how deftly Alfredson and Straughan previously navigated the far more serpentine plot machinations of a John le Carré classic [Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy], is the snowballing incoherence of proceedings." Manohla Dargis of The New York Times called the film a "leaden, clotted, exasperating mess".
The Snowman grossed $6.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $36.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $43.1 million, against a production budget of $35 million.
In the United States and Canada, The Snowman was released alongside Boo 2! A Madea Halloween, Geostorm, and Only The Brave, and was expected to gross around $10 million from 1,813 theaters in its opening weekend. However, after making $1.3 million on its first day (including $270,000 from Thursday night previews), weekend predictions were lowered to $4 million. The film went on to debut to $3.2 million, finishing 8th at the box office. In its second weekend, the film dropped 64% to $1.2 million, falling to 17th place at the box office. The film was then pulled from 1,291 theaters in its third week, and fell 86% to $167,685, finishing 33rd.
- Jo Nesbø, the author of the original novel, disowned the film.