Weinstein is Cutting 20 Minutes Out of 'Snowpiercer' for US Release?!
Say it ain't so! Not again. Not this treatment for a film that is already an international hit and looks like it might be a sci-fi/post-apocalyptic masterpiece. We have been waiting patiently for The Weinstein Company, who has US rights to release Joon-ho Bong's film Snowpiercer, to set an official US opening since their original memos said "Summer 2013." Despite a bevy of trailers, summer 2013 is almost over and we haven't heard a word yet. As expected, this means there is bad news. Twitch has discovered that apparently Harvey Weinstein, also known as "Harvey Scissorhands" for his serial desire to unnecessarily trim films for release, wants to cut out 20 minutes for the US debut of Snowpiercer. I can't help exclaiming: what the fuck?! Why?!
The buzz amongst my colleagues recently was that Snowpiercer, which hit Korean cinemas a few weeks ago, would be delayed until 2014 in the US. We haven't heard any confirmation since but that's likely the case. However, hearing this news about the delay being connected with a new cut of the movie is about as bad as it can get. Especially because of the details surrounding why Harvey wants to cut a full 20 minutes out of the ice age ensemble action drama: "According to film critic and programmer Tony Rayns 'TWC people have told Bong that their aim is to make sure the film "will be understood by audiences in Iowa … and Oklahoma."' " As they point out, TWC thinks "the American mid-west is too stupid for Snowpiercer". Wow.
Rayns continued, "Leaving aside the issue of what Weinstein thinks of its audience, it seems to say the least anomalous that the rest of the English-speaking world has to be dragged down to the presumed level of American mid-west hicks." The film critic attended the July 29th Seoul premiere of the film, and after speaking with Bong, revealed that most of the cuts would come in the form of character detail, effectively turning this rich Sci-Fi thriller into a straightforward action film. Adding further insult to injury, voiceovers will now be added to the opening and closing of the film.
This is appalling. Not only is it offensive to mid-west moviegoers that Harvey believes a movie is "too smart" for them and must be trimmed so they can "understand" it, but as Rayns says, it's even more ridiculous to alter artistic content just because a smaller demographic might "understand" it better. If Harvey were standing behind me right now, he would probably argue that it's not a "small" demographic, and they would rather reach these people and make money from them. But why does that mean the movie has to be dumbed down? If anything, this summer's mediocre box office results have shown that moviegoers are hungrier for more original, more invigorating, more challenging content that isn't dumbed down and filled with cliches.
The reason this is really stinging me is that I'm a big fan of Joon-ho Bong, I trust his filmmaking, and this is his first English-language feature. It's not hard a hard story to follow because it is essentially about an uprising of impoverished citizens on a massive train ruled by a tyranny. In fact, that plot mirrors our real world and this situation almost perfectly, so much so that maybe we need to orchestrate and uprising against Harvey like they do in the movie. Rayns makes me concerned about how much will be missing after the cut: "It is a very dark film, which may explain why the demanded cuts are so significant. If they happen where I think they will, much of what makes this film so special will be lost." So sad to hear.
Aside from reporting on this horrible news (and linking back to all the trailers so far), I don't know what else to say or do to make a difference. I would love to arrange an uprising against Harvey and demand for the original cut to be released, but it's so unlikely that will happen I'm not sure it's even worth trying. Which is how hopeless moviegoers feel in this situation. I've been excited for Joon-ho Bong's Snowpiercer (starring Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt) for many years. I want to see the movie that Joon-ho Bong made, all 126 minutes of it, without any of Harvey's cuts. That's the movie that is already a huge hit in Korean, that's the movie that has earned copious buzz so far, that's the movie all audiences deserve to see.