The Snowman is not good. This realization really caught me by surprise as I walked out of the cinema last week. I saw it with Craig – whose 5/10 review is still kinder than I would have been – and we both immediately agreed that the movie just stank to high heaven of production troubles. And it’s a pity because on paper this one was a surefire hit. Instead we got something that should rather have been tossed into the fire.
The Snowman is based on a best-selling pulpy but thrilling serial killer novel from Jo Nesbo, was directed by the critically acclaimed Tomas Alfredson after his brilliant work on Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and starred thespian standouts like Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, JK Simmons, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Toby Jones and Val Kilmer. And somehow it’s an unforgivably disjointed disaster made up of plot threads that lead nowhere, odd casting choices where A-list actors just randomly show up and then disappear out the story, laughably clumsy editing, massive plot holes (including an unintentionally hilarious literal one in the film’s final act), and a voiceover dub of Val Kilmer’s lines that are so bad that I was fully expecting a young Jackie Chan to show up and demand revenge for somebody killing his master.
Critics around the world have subsequently not been kind (it’s hovering around 26% on Rottentomatoes) and it’s performed rather poorly in all the locations its opened up in thus far. So what happened? How did one of the most anticipated, star-studded thrillers of the year go so wrong? It seems it all came down to time. Specifically not enough of it.
To anybody familiar with the film’s production history, that may sound odd as The Snowman has been in development since 2011 already. Originally, Martin Scorsese was supposed to direct, but he dropped out in 2013 (though he remained onboard as exec producer). The next year Alfredson was tapped as his replacement and by the end of 2015 the lead actors had all signed on. But the leisurely pace at which the production had been coming together suddenly changed as Alfredson explained to the NRK – the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (translated via Yahoo UK):
It happened very abruptly, suddenly we got notice that we had the money and could start the shoot in London.
In January 2016, just a few weeks after the lead roles had been cast, The Snowman was rushed into production in Oslo, Norway without much in the way of pre-production. However, as frantic as the scramble had been to get cameras rolling, it seems that it was just as frantic to get everything wrapped up. Speaking very candidly, the director continued, explaining how he was unable to shoot 10-15% of the script due to just not being allowed enough time to do it properly.
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.
With key plot points and connective scenes not filmed, Alfredson and co had to somehow piece together what they had in a semi-coherent manner in the editing suite. From what I’ve seen in the movie, character arcs were excised (the most obvious being Chloe Sevigny showing up as the twin sister of a murder victim only to never be seen again), narrative direction was altered (there are story beats in the trailers that never happen in the movie), and already filmed dialogue was changed probably while the actors were no longer available for additional work (because nobody will ever convince me that that is really Val Kilmer talking on screen). Alfredson basically produced a movie held together by tape.
Taken in that light, what he delivered on is surprisingly not as utterly unwatchable as it could have been. However, it’s still unbelievable disappointing and aggravating based on how good this should have been. The Snowman was originally being positioned as the start of a new thriller franchise, but I think its safe to say that that hope has melted away into a sad puddle.
Last Updated: October 19, 2017