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Snowpiercer is a timely commentary about the ongoing climate crisis and class warfare. The 2013 Bong Joon-Ho movie is the most famous version of the story, but it was based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette and has since been adapted into a TV series for TNT in the United States. (Netflix carries the show in the rest of the world.) The setting is famously a perpetually moving train across a frozen hellscape. However, filming for the show’s fourth and final season had to shut down for the exact opposite reason: It was way too hot. 

‘Snowpiercer’ is a train-based allegory for modern tensions

Snowpiercer filming shut down
Katie McGuinness and Daveed Diggs in ‘Snowpiercer’ Season 3 Episode 1 | David Bukach/Warner Media, LLC

Snowpiercer takes place in the eerily near future of 2026 after an apocalypse has transformed the planet into a wintry wasteland, destroying most remnants of society. To save themselves, the survivors hopped onto a train of 1,001 carriages. Even in the end times, people still look for ways to place themselves at the top of the pecking order. The passengers stuck at the back of the train live in squalor with scarce food, while the residents of the front cars live like royalty amid various upper-class comforts.  

The instigating incident for the first season is a murder that unveils a greater conspiracy on the train. Former detective Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs) arrives to solve the crime while using the information he finds to support the revolution brewing in the tail section. The face of the ruling class is Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly) — the head of hospitality and the voice of the train’s PA system, who also acts as the spokesperson for Mr. Wilford, the reclusive creator of the train. 

Real-life climate concerns halted ‘Snowpiercer’ production

Snowpiercer Season 4 was announced as its last season, making the show the final scripted original series to air on TNT before the network transitions to reality TV projects and Marvel movie reruns. Filming began on March 28 in southwest British Columbia. However, in late July, extreme temperatures in the area interrupted production. (Alexa, play Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic.”)

The summer highs soared into the mid-90s, and given that many of the actors were dressed in heavy winter gear to inhabit this dystopian ice age, you can see where the problems arose. According to Deadline, ambulances took 14 people, including crew members and background actors, to local hospitals because they were in such poor shape. 

“Out of an abundance of caution, production of Snowpiercer wrapped early yesterday and was suspended for today due to extreme heat on location,” said a spokesperson for Tomorrow Studios, which produces the show for TNT. “The health and well-being of show cast and crew remains top priority.”

The person added that cooling tents were made available for the cast and crew, and medical personnel was on set to lend aid. In the event of overheating, everyone was told at the beginning of the day to let the people in charge of production know as soon as possible so they could receive medical attention.

Filming eventually concluded on August 6. 

The TV series takes some creative license from the movie


Fan Theory Explains How ‘Snowpiercer’ Is the Sequel to ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’

To expand on the world first shown in Bong’s movie, the TV version of Snowpiercer had to make several changes to lengthen the story and fill the space of the episodic format. The show took the long route to the small screen. The pre-production process went through two showrunners over five years when the original pilot for the series was thrown out. Eventually, the new creative team, led by Graeme Manson, found a way forward by discarding almost everything from the film.

The characters played by Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton are nonexistent in the series, replaced with an original crew and a new plot in a slightly different set-up. That was probably a wise decision considering the acclaim of Bong’s rendition of this world. Building too much on what he had done with the IP would just lead to endless comparisons with what had come before. 

The TV version of Snowpiercer doesn’t boast the movie’s reputation, but it has earned some praise from viewers. It has a 75% rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.