Movie Review Snakes on a Plane
When the studio big-wigs renamed the film Pacific Air Flight 121, Samuel L Jackson had some things to say about that. Namely... "Nobody wants to see Pacific Flight 121. That's like saying 'Boat To Heaven.' Bullshit! C'mon! People know what they want to see. People either want to see this movie, or they don't. So let 'em know, if you're coming to see this movie, you're going to see a plane full of deadly-ass snakes. That's what it should be called: Deadly Ass Snakes on a Plane" On March second, the studio caved, and thankfully returned the film title to it's former glory. Sam also wanted them to film the movie with an R rating in mind, rather than the watered down PG-13.
But the real driving force behind Snakes on a Plane arriving in it's final form at the box office was the mighty world wide web. Second only to Sam Jackson in it's ability to kick ass and take names, the Internet adopted Snakes on a Plane as its own long before it was a finished film. It started innocently enough a year ago with a single post by indy blogger Josh Friedman on his blog "I find your lack of faith disturbing". News of Snakes on a Plane quickly saturated the web. There were fake movie posters, Music Videos, movie contests, T-shirts, poster parodies, clips and comedy routines. And of course, millions upon millions of iterations of a made up line of dialog from the movie where Sam Jackson's character angrily refers to "motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!" There were even rocky horror style movie participation groups passing a script around the web months before the movie was scheduled to open.
The Internet buzz eventually went mainstream, with appearances on the Daily Show and the Colbert Report among other places. Better late than never, the studio caught on. They went back and re shot five days worth of footage, cranking up the movie to an R rating to appeal to the growing online fan base. They also made sure to include Samuel L Jackson's "motherfucking snakes" line. They jumped onto the viral marketing bandwagon as well, organizing online fan contests, and adding a way to get personalized calls from SLJ himself to your friends via the web. So what did all of this do for the movie itself? What did we end up with when the house lights went down and the projector started rolling? We ended up with Snakes on a Plane.
Jackson is as bad a motherfucker as ever. Sam delivers his lines as only he can, and almost makes wading into a horde of poisonous snakes with only a tazer and an attitude believable. He stars as FBI agent Neville Flynn. He and his partner Agent sanders, played by Hong Kong veteran Mark Houghton, find them selves escorting a young extreme sportsman turned murder witness from Hawai'i to Los Angles to testify against a ruthless Asian mobster. The RedBull drinking, Kawasaki riding, surfer witness is portrayed aptly enough by Wolf Creek Alumni Nathan Phillips. Terry Chen swings for the fences as the villainous Chen Leong without chewing the scenery. ER's Julliana Margulies plays lead flight attendant and heroine Clair Miller.
The premise of the film is simple. To kill the witness on his way to testify, mob boss Chen arranges to have 400 deadly snakes unleashed on the plane. This is were the movie happily goes right over the top. Take a host of stereotypical passengers; a richdebutante with a dog in her purse, a stuck up brit CEO, an effeminate male flight attendant, an Asian kickboxer, a dirty minded co-pilot, a rap star complete with entourage, a pair of young children traveling alone for the first time, a mother with her new baby, a young couple in love. Then instantly add hundreds of slithering, biting, "deadly ass",poisonous snakes. That's when the fun begins. The violence comes at you fast and furious and much of it catches you by surprise. And it's not just snakes that kill people, the general chaos that ensues also results in a slew of fatalities.
Some shots of the snakes are arguably real animals. But most of the violent snake attacks come from computer generated reptiles. It doesn't quite mesh with the real backdrop and human actors, but it's close. More along the lines of Alone in the Dark than Jurrasic Park's raptors or WETA's Balrog. There are scenes shot from the snakes POV, in green hazy Snake-O-Vision. Which brings back fond memories of Predator and Wolfen. The survivors fight a losing battle against the rampaging snakes that puts the passengers of Tail Sting to shame. They use broken bottle spears, home made flame throwers, tazers, and everything else on the plane to repel the ophidian invaders. The movie just keeps building, at one point even introducing a 30 foot long man eating anaconda!
As the movie goes on, you do start to feel for some of the characters, even in this completely unbelievable situation. And Snakes goes out of its way to break the molds of the various stereo types it establishes at thebeginning. Away from the plane, we have a stalwart FBI administrator and a snake expert coordinating things on the ground. I wont give away scenes or reveal too much of how the movie closes. But suffice it to say, I got my popcorn chewing moneys worth. And to quote Josh, "What else do you need to know? How the snakes get on the plane, what the snakes do once they're on the plane, who puts the snakes on the plane, who is trying to get the snakes off the plane...This is not for you to ponder. There are snakes on the plane. End of fucking story."
Was Snakes on a Plane a success? With a budget of only 36 million, Snakes made almost half of that in it's opening weekend. Beating out Talladega nights as the top movie of the weekend. And although the studio calls the numbersdisappointing, wait until the DVD comes out.
Wired already appointed SoaP the Best Worst Movie of the Year. And Sam Jackson has gone on record, perhaps sarcastically, stating that Snakes will win MTV's Best Movie award.
But Snakes on a Plane isn't just a movie anymore, it's also a meme. And I give them both Four Motherfucking Memestars.