There's no getting around it: The Snowman was one of the most anticipated crime thrillers of 2017, and in almost every conceivable way, it's failed to live up to expectations. The largely negative reviews are a particular surprise given that, unlike most misfires of the genre, this one appeared to have all the ingredients needed for a frightening murder mystery that would stand out from the crowd. A film adaptation of Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø's bestselling novel of the same name has been in the cards for a few years now, with Martin Scorsese himself having been attached to direct at one point. Tomas Alfredson took the helm shortly after Scorsese left the project, and given the critical acclaim his last two directorial efforts (Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) garnered, things were definitely looking promising.
But The Snowman's greatest perceived strength was widely perceived to be the all-star cast Alfredson managed to put together. Hollywood A-lister Michael Fassbender leads the way as Detective Harry Hole (yep, that's really the character's name), and with a supporting crew led by Oscar winner J.K. Simmons and crazy talented rising star Rebecca Ferguson, the tale of the hunt for Norway's first known serial killer was nothing if not loaded with potential.
So what went wrong, exactly? Well...
Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but there’s no fire — delightful or otherwise — inside “The Snowman,” a suitably frosty but flaccid first attempt at Hollywoodizing the oeuvre of popular Norwegian noir merchant Jo Nesbø. -- Variety
In a film that revels in the gruesome nature of its deaths and the impenetrable mysteries of murder, the climactic showdown is so unimaginative it should be sent to the bottom of the screenwriting class and made to repeat the year. -- The Wrap
Watching him [Michael Fassbender] wheel around one scene atop a library cart, we’re struck chiefly by the actor’s own boredom, and it’s a sticking point when your leading man appears bored an hour into a possible franchise-starter. After two hours of “The Snowman,” we know precisely why Harry Hole takes to drinking in bus shelters. We may even be tempted to join him there. -- IndieWire
But The Snowman does not do subtext. Indeed, its by-the-numbers script barely qualifies as text. When the killer's risible psychological motivation is finally revealed, it feels as if the screenwriters began reading Freud for Dummies, but did not even get to the end. -- The Hollywood Reporter
The Snowman starts bad, gets worse, and finishes somewhere suboceanic. It may take decades for researcher to plumb its badness; perhaps only with technology yet to be invented... [it's] proof that not everything can be fixed in post, unless we’re talking about hitting ‘delete all’. -- Student Edge
The Snowman goes wrong quickly, permanently, and in a spiral, turning into a nonsensical nightmare of Scandi-noir howlers from which you sometimes feel you may never awaken...If The Snowman merely aimed to max out on swooping chopper shots of frosty Norwegian harbourfronts, and otherwise to be abominable, consider the job done. -- The Telegraph
It looks as if writers kept being drafted in to fix stuff, but found themselves tasked with cramming a square peg through a round hole. A lot of it doesn't make sense. -- The Arts Desk
The ending is hopeless too, but by then that’s not a surprise since it has ceased to be unintentionally amusing. Because The Snowman is not Showgirls or Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s not the latest Nicolas Cage action travesty either. It’s not a cheap knock-off made by second-rate personnel. It’s a serious thriller, made for adult filmgoers, by the best movie-makers in the business. And that’s why it’s so depressing. -- The Times (UK)
The complex plot is nasty and uninvolving and director Tomas Alfredson gets a terrible rush of sexist blood about two-thirds of the way through. -- Daily Mail (UK)
There isn’t a single thing about Oslo detective Harry Hole that is unique, new, or even vaguely interesting, except his name, which is presumably his porn name serving for some reason as a nom de police, and even then, it only elicits snorts of derision from the viewer. (Maybe there is something vaguely fresh in the Harry Hole series of novels by Nordic noir novelist Jo Nesbø, one of which this is based on, but if so, none of it made it onto the screen.) Hole is not intriguing, not appealing, not anything, not even here, where he is played by the usually hella sexy Michael Fassbender. So strike that off The Snowman’s list of Potential Reasons for This Movie to Exist. -- Flick Filosopher
The novel version of The Snowman is actually the seventh in Jo Nesbø's Harry Hole (yep, that's still his name) series, so the folks behind the scenes were likely hoping that this film would be successful enough to kickstart a franchise. With reviews like these piling up, a sequel looks to be a longshot.