After we saw Snakes on a Plane last night, Chris Miller and I did a quick, two-minute audio review which has been posted to The Round Table and Escape Pod feeds. If you’re subscribed to either of those (and fans of speculative fiction should definitely be subscribed to Escape Pod), it’s probably already in your podcatcher. If you’re not a subscriber, here’s a direct link to the review.
Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips, Rachel Blanchard, Flex Alexander, Keith Dallas, Lin Shaye, Bruce James, Sunny Mabrey, Casey Dubois, Daniel Hogarth, Gerard Plunkett, Terry Chen, Elsa Pataky, Bobby Cannavale, David Koechner, Todd Louiso, Bryan Lawson and Fat Albert.
Directed by David R. Ellis.
Normally, I watch movies to escape reality. The characters and situations captured in celluloid are larger than life and fantastical, far removed from the people and events that I encounter on a daily basis. Snakes on a Plane, however, is different. As outlandish as it may seem, I found the movie to be a chilling reflection of a terrifying incident from my own past.
I don’t recall who first discovered that the ceiling in my parents’ basement had become home to a number of snakes, but some of my memories of removing those snakes are quite vivid. The serpentine squatters ranged in length from ten inches to nearly three feet and we extracted a total of twenty-four of them from various hidey-holes above our heads.
Though he is not an FBI agent, my father—like Agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson)—quickly took control of the situation, directing the removal process and even constructing extraction tools designed specifically to reach into the nook and crannies in which the vipers hid and retrieve them with minimal risk to life and limb.
The serpents in Snakes on a Plane are certainly more aggressive than those we evicted from the basement ceiling, not to mention more numerous and in most cases considerably larger. Another significant difference between the movie and my real-life experience (apart from the obvious lack of a plane in the latter) is the amount of profanity uttered by Samuel L. Jackson. Seriously, my father could show him a thing or two about the effective use of colorful metaphor in problem resolution.
Uncanny similarity to my own life aside, Snakes on a Plane is a fun movie.Unless you’re the guy behind me who, as the end credits began to roll, complained to his enthusiastic friend that it was “retarded.” It had everything I expected (snakes, plane, Samuel L. Jackson, profanity, and ass-kicking) and a little bit more (Mile-High Club, yappy dog, perturbed Brit and SnakeVision™).
The story (yes, there’s a story) concerns Agent Neville Flynn attempting to escort Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) from Hawaii to Los Angeles. Sean is a vital witness against crime lord Eddie Kim (Bryan Lawson), who arranges to have a large number of snakes released on Pacific Flight 121 in order to cause a fatal crash into the Pacific Ocean. It’s not the most direct method of eliminating a witness, but Eddie definitely gets points for creativity.
Once released, the snakes are attracted to the pheremone-laced leis each passenger received when boarding the flight. The first kill (speaking of leis) occurs in one of the lavatories, where an amorous couple’s coupling is cut short by a slithering voyeur who drops in through the smoke detector. The flight attendants are serious when they warn against tampering with those, and the penalty on Pacific Flight 121 is death.
The snakes continue to kill people in a variety of clever, amusing and visually-disturbing ways.Actually, there are only two ways the snakes kill, aren’t there? They either use their strong coils to squeeze the life out of their unfortunate prey or—more commonly—strike with their fangs, pumping neurotoxins into the victim’s blood. The clever, amusing and visually-disturbing bit is where the snakes choose to bite their victims. To make matters worse, the slithering serpents slip into the plane’s electrical systems and cause all sorts of trouble with the avionics. Bad is being on a plane with snakes. Worse is being on a crashing plane with snakes.
Once Agent Flynn gets wind of the problem, the asp-kicking commencesYeah, I went there.. Flynn’s initial weapon of choice is his handy taser, which he wields with all the flair and style you might expect from a Jedi Knight brandishing a lightsaber. The taser is soon replaced with a broken bottle, a makeshift flamethrower, a spear gun and eventually a semi-automatic pistol as Flynn makes it perfectly clear that he is not at all happy that the aircraft has been overrun with reptiles.
Snakes on a Plane is cheesy, but it’s big budget cheesy, like gourmet Velveeta. It’s a lot of fun to watch, doesn’t take itself too seriously, and delivers exactly what the title promises. On the entirely arbitrary, unpatented, untrademarked 27-point KJToo rating system, I give Snakes on a Plane a very respectable 22.
Samuel L. Jackson: 8 – “You either want to see that, or you don’t.” Jackson has a great attitude about this movie, and he plays exactly the character I wanted him to. The only reason he doesn’t get the full nine points is that he let that punk-ass hip-hop star (Flex Alexander) get the drop on him.
Snakes (on a motherf***ing plane): 7 – For the most part, I thought the snakes looked pretty darn good except for a few scenes where some of them were clearly computer-generated. Also, I wasn’t always clear on their motivations. Sure, they were attracted to the pheremones in the leis, but I just wasn’t feeling it. They did manage to startle me a couple of times, though, so I won’t ding them too much.
Audience Participation: 7 – Normally, the only thing I want to hear out of the audience is nothing. Tonight, however, I was surprised to find that I was clapping and cheering right along with the other moviegoers when the title appeared on the screen, and then again when Samuel L. Jackson appeared, and then again when we caught our first glimpse of the snakes. There were a few occasions when the audience was a little too enthusiastic, though, and I missed a few lines of dialogue that were buried beneath the cheering.
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.