Snowpiercer: how different is the TV series to Bong Joon-ho’s 2013 film?

We take a look at some of the key ways the two versions of the story differ from each other...

Snowpiercer - Netflix

While in days gone by it was common for successful TV series to make the transition to the big screen, these days the opposite is often true. In fact, many new shows that have sprung up in recent years began life as films, with Taken, Noah Hawley’s Fargo and an upcoming Clueless series just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to projects moving from big to small screen.

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Now, another series to join this trend is new sci-fi drama Snowpiercer, which takes its inspiration from Bong Joon-ho’s acclaimed 2013 film of the same name (as well as the French graphic novel on which that film was originally based).

Like many of the other shows mentioned above Snowpiercer is not a direct adaptation, instead functioning as a reboot that keeps much of the set-up, aesthetic and themes of the earlier version while telling a new story with new characters.

But what did stay the same in both versions? And what was cut out? We’ve taken a look at some of the key differences below…

How different are the characters in Snowpiercer?

Most of the characters we are introduced to in the TV series are completely new, although some of them are clearly inspired by the cast of the film.

The main protagonist in the series is Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs) who shares some clear similarities with Chris Evans’ character Curtis Everett from the film; both are revolutionary leaders much admired by their fellow passengers in the tail section of the train. However there are some important distinctions as well: we learn a lot more about Layton’s past life than we ever do about Everett, most notably that he was a homicide detective in his life prior to boarding the train.

Perhaps the most memorable character in the film was Minister Mason – the frightening and eccentric second-in-command on the train, as played by Tilda Swinton. This character has effectively been split into two in the series, with both Jennifer Connelly’s Melanie Cavill and Alison Wright’s Ruth Wardell embodying different aspects of her personality; Melanie takes the sternness and position as second-in-command and voice of the train, while Ruth takes the Northern accent and some of Mason’s more eccentric qualities (including her habit of wearing a fur coat to visit the tail of the train).

Other characters, such as Annalise Basso’s LJ Folder, Iddo Goldberg’s Bennett and Mickey Sumner’s Bess Till are more or less completely new for the series, which obviously has a lot more time to explore a wider range of passengers living on board the train.

Meanwhile one character in the film who is mentioned in the TV series is Wilford (played by Ed Harris in the movie) – but there are a few surprises in store where this character is concerned as well…

Is the setting different in Snowpiercer?

Although the basic setting – that of a huge train carrying the last remaining survivors of a climate catastrophe around a permanently frozen Earth – is more or less exactly the same, there is a change where the time is concerned.

Whereas the film took place 19 years after the incident which had forced all the passengers onto the train, the series is based slightly earlier – just six years into the train’s journey. So is this new Snowpiercer a prequel? You can’t rule anything out…

How does the story differ in Snowpiercer?

Snowpiercer - Netflix

We don’t want to give too much away about how the action unfolds on the TV show, as there are several surprises in store which are best enjoyed if left unspoiled.

However it’s safe to reveal that the set-up and structure of the series differs in fairly major ways. The series introduces a murder mystery element in the opening episode, with Layton asked by those in the train’s more affluent compartments to help solve a spate of killings which have been occurring in third class.

This leads into the structural changes. Whereas the film was told in a very linear fashion, with the protagonists constantly moving forward, the series jumps around the different compartments of the train, allowing us to spend more time in Snowpiercer’s various segments.

And one of the shows stars, Annalise Basso, told RadioTimes.com that she reckons these structural changes will go down well with viewers.

Snowpiercer

She said, “In terms of the movie, I think people will love getting to explore all these different classes.

“In the movie it just goes straight through the tail and heads up to the engine and you don’t really get any time to get to know the characters anywhere else in the train.

“So what I really love about the show is you get to really explore the whole world of Snowpiercer instead of just the plotline of one particular character.”

However, some standout moments from the Snowpiercer movie remain in the TV series, such as one character having their arm removed via extreme freezing and the use of black, tar-like bricks to feed the poor inhabitants of the train’s tail.

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Clearly, there’s plenty in this new series for both new and old fans of Snowpiercer – even if we will still miss having Chris Evans involved…

Snowpiercer arrives on Netflix on Friday 25th May – check out our list of the best TV shows on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix, or see what else is on with our TV Guide