Coming Soon: Snakes on a Plane

This is what I had to say (in the KJToo forums) about Snakes on a Plane back on 03 October 2005:

There are apparently snakes. On a plane.

That’s the actual title of the movie, by the way. Snakes on a Plane. Why is Samuel L. Jackson in this movie? Does he owe someone a favor and/or vast amounts of money? Maybe he lost a bet.

The director, David R. Ellis, has mostly done stunt work. That doesn’t bode well. He was also a second unit director on Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone and The Matrix Reloaded, so maybe… wait, The Matrix Reloaded? Gah. Forget I said anything.

Still, Snakes on a Plane has a certain traffic accident appeal to it. Or maybe it’s more like the sensation you get when you’re looking over the edge of Niagara Falls. You know, there’s part of you that just wants to jump into the raging water, even though you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that to do so would be Bad with a capital B.

Four days later, I read an interview on Collider.com with Samuel L. Jackson and this quote caught my eye:

Samuel L. Jackson: You either want to see that, or you don’t.

Mr. Jackson’s attitude about the movie was enough to make me reconsider my initial trepidation. When you’re talking about a movie called Snakes on a Plane, there really shouldn’t be any question in your mind about what you can expect to see. Consider On Golden Pond. There’s a title that reveals little — if anything — about the content of the movie. How would you, as a potential viewer, know if On Golden Pond would be of interest to you? Well, you’d have to watch a trailer, or maybe read a summary of the plot. Snakes on a Plane has a summary of the plot built right into the title, and “you either want to see that, or you don’t.”

As someone who has watched nearly every snake movie aired on the SciFi Channel in the past three years, I would definitely fall into the “want to see that” demographic; but watching King Cobra for free on the SciFi Channel and shelling out eight bucks to see it in the theater are two very different things. There’s no way I’m plunking down eight of my hard earned dollars for the privilege of watching the monster-of-the-week movie on SciFi.

That’s where Samuel L. Jackson comes in. His mere presence is enough to elevate Snakes on a Plane from “I’ll watch it Saturday night on SciFi” to “I’ll pay to see it in a theater.” Maybe not for you, but certainly for me; maybe not for every movie, but certainly for Snakes on a Plane.

Plus, Snakes on a Plane is something of a phenomenon; a movie that generated an almost instant cult following before a single frame made its way to the Internet. The buzz created last fall was enough to make the New Line keep the original name (they had considered changing the title to Pacific Air 121) and even shoot some additional scenes to—get this—increase the gore and profanity in order to bump the MPAA rating from PG-13 to R.

Samuel L. Jackson is on a plane with snakes. You needn’t be Nostradamus to predict that the presence of snakes on the plane will not make Samuel L. Jackson happy. Is it worth $8.25 (plus $1 Fandango processing fee) to see just how Mr. Jackson deals with the snakes? I’ll let you know Friday morning.

Movie Review: Ultimate Avengers 2 (2006)

Ultimate Avengers 2 (DVD)Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther (2006)

Starring Justin Gross, Grey DeLisle, Michael Massee, Marc Worden, Olivia d’Abo, Nan McNamara, Nolan North, Andre Ware, Dave Boat, Fred Tatasciore, James K. Ward, Jeffrey D. Sams, Dave Fennoy, Howlin’ Mad Murdock and Luke Skywalker.

Directed by Curt Geda and Steven E. Gordon.

Before I launch into my review of Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther, I want to mention that my seven-month-old son, Kyle, loves the Ultimate Avengers series, as evidenced by this photo. ((I’d say he eats it up, but that would be going too far.))

And another thing: if spoilers make you want to smash puny humans, you may want to stop reading now.

Rise of the Panther is the sequel to Ultimate Avengers: The Movie, which was based on The Ultimates a re-imagining of Marvel Comics’ popular long-running series, The Avengers. If you were a fan of The Avengers or other Marvel (Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.) titles between the mid-1960’s and the turn of the century, these aren’t quite the heroes you may be used to.

The story continues where the first Ultimate Avengers movie left off: after defeating the alien Chitauri, Captain America is haunted by events from his past, Hank and Janet Pym continue to have marital difficulties, Thor is rebelling against his father, and Bruce Banner is imprisoned in a special S.H.I.E.L.D. holding cell to ensure that the Hulk will not wreak further havoc.

Unbeknownst to the heroes, Herr Klieser—the Chitauri shape-shifter who has taken the guise of a Nazi officer—survived his encounter with the Avengers. Kleiser has surfaced in Wakanda, a small, insular African nation not unfamiliar with the alien invaders. Kleiser clashes with T’Chaka, the king of Wakanda who—in the guise of the Black Panther—also acts as its protector. T’Chaka is killed in his encounter with Kleiser and his son, T’Challa, ascends to the throne.

T’Challa travels to the West to solicit the advice of Captain America. The Avengers are only too eager to eliminate the Chitauri threat in Wakanda, but all outsiders are treated as enemies. T’Challa risks losing the throne if he allows the Avengers to set foot on Wakandan soil.

The Avengers, aware of the threat the Chitauri represent, are determined to help the Wakandans fight off the alien menace. This leads directly to the Avengers getting their collective butts handed to them on a vibranium platter by the crafty Wakandans.

To make matters worse, Kleiser masquerades as the Black Panther in order to gain access to the Avengers’ ship. The Chitauri causes all kinds of trouble before escaping in a small landing craft just before the ship is destroyed. The Avengers go limping home with a major morale problem, Janet Pym in a coma and Iron Man needing some serious body work.

Eventually, the Wakandans come to their senses, thanks largely to the giant Chitauri ship that parks itself directly over the country and covers the sky with a translucent green membrane from which descend thousands of ships and multi-legged ground assault vehicles.

Of course, the only way to defeat the Chitauri mothership is to fly into the belly of the beast and cut out its heart. There are two analogies to this: the assault on the second Death Star and Will Smith’s assault on the mothership in Independence Day. In this case, Iron Man is the Milennium Falcon and Hank Pym is Jeff Goldblum. Or maybe Iron Man is Lando Calrissian, the gamma cannon is a computer virus and Hank Pym is Nien Nunb. It’s also possible that Hank Pym is Pinocchio, but then things start to get complicated. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s been done.

In the end, Hank Pym sacrifices himself just to show Janet that he’s a real hero, the Chitauri are defeated, Thor defibrillates Iron Man with mystical lightning and an Uru hammer, Bruce Banner hulks out and escapes his prison, and Captain America starts macking on the Black Widow. Hello!

All in all, Rise of the Panther isn’t bad. The animation is on par with the first installment, if not a little better; the voice acting is just as good, but the story could have been stronger. I’m also noticing a pretty significant departure from the story presented in the comic books (though I am a few issues behind on The Ultimates 2, as I’m waiting for the next trade paperback to be released), particularly in the areas of “babes with whom Captain America is hooking up” and “heroes who are not breathing anymore.”

There is no commentary track on the DVD, nor is there a trivia track such as there was on Ultimate Avengers: The Movie. Special features include a featurette on The Ultimates with commentary by creators Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada and others, “The Ultimate Gag Reel,” which contains some amusing “outtakes” from Ultimate Avengers: The Movie, the “What Avenger Are You?” DVD-ROM game, ((This appears to be identical to the game that was included on the Ultimate Avengers: The Movie DVD, right down to the fact that I’m Iron Man. I. Am. Iron Man.)) and first looks at two upcoming Lions Gate/Marvel animated features: Iron Man and Doctor Strange.