Snakes on a Plane
is truly an event film. Call it what you will. Popcorn movie. B-movie. Exploitation cinema. It is all of those, and so much more. Considering the well-documented internet and corresponding media frenzy about this film, it was destined to be a different flavor of entertainment. The unprecedented reshoots and the famous Money Line (tm) "I have had it with these Motherfucking Snakes on this Motherfucking Plane" added in response to this frenzy gauranteed it to be a cult film out of the box. And so, even with it's relatively unstellar (15 million) take at the box office, it will live on and still make bucks for New Line (budget of only 32 million). One could use descriptors like "schlockfest", "camp classic", and "extra cheese" to paste onto SoaP
, but it transcends such labels. It is truly, in my mind, one of the most gloriously over-the-top films I have ever seen, and it is completely secure and celebratory of its utter ridiculousness.
What did SoaP
promise? Aside from the obvious of snakes, it promised Samuel L. Jackson dropping f-bombs, amazing one-liners, gruesome deaths of both people and snakes, and general mayhem. What did SoaP
deliver? Check all those boxes. I won't say whether it exceeded or met my expectations, because I found it incredibly difficult to form expectations. I expected greatness, but I did not know from whence it would come. I had the fear that many did, that this movie would turn out to be a dead-serious groaner whose laughs were all unintentional. Not so, this movie knows it is completely out of its mind, and it knows its script is not Oscar-caliber, it knows its cast of characters is 100% stock stereotypes, and it knows it is gratuitous. And you know what? This film is okay with all of those things. Better yet, SoaP
is almost engaged in a constant effort to one-up itself, one ludicrous situation after another, throughout its entire running time. At the theater I saw this, the showing previous to mine had to be stopped as the cops were called in to disperse and pacify the crowd. And this was in Charlottesville, VA, people. That's the kind of movie this is. It's where the first tit shot elicits a triumphant cry of "BOOBS ON A PLANE!" from someone. It's the kind where the entire crowd emits endless "ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss" hissing during the lulls. And this more or less will happen automatically. You can't help it.
My beefs are short. The movie takes a little long to get them on the plane, and to bring out the snakes. This does have some payoff while you watch characters you may have some sympathy for get offed in increasingly gruesome and hilarious ways (the infamous "Snake in a Barfbag routine" a great example), but not enough to justify how long it takes. Second, the inclusion of an Anaconda was pretty freaking boundary-pushing even for a movie like this, especially because once they add it the thing gets way too little screentime. That said, some of the characters and possibilities are very underutilized. For instance, one passenger, a kickboxer, truly held infinite potential for killing massive amounts of snakes with his bare hands. But alas, that didn't happen. Some of this is for good reason, mainly to keep the spotlight on our beloved hero Sam, but it still represents missed opportunities for gleeful absurdity. Then there is the groaning dialogue and delivery. Obviously we're not going to get Oscar caliber acting here, but it could've used some basic work to enhance it greatly. The writer and director don't really know what to do before the mayhem sets in, setting up awkward introduction after wooden exchange, but they do hit their stride once the biting starts.
And the biting brings us to what is truly marvelous about this little screen gem. I wondered myself how anyone would survive such an incident if it occurred in real life, and this movie pretty much answers that question by killing off a good 3/4s of the plane passengers. Much of this happens in the first ten minutes of the snakes' rampage, and there is variety. People are bitten in their nipples, genitals, knecks, chests, asses, arms, legs, and eyesockets by a bewilderingly colorful variety of snakes that strike and kill at a lightning pace. The death scenes are graphic, brutal, exploitative, and diabolically eclectic. The movie creates a sense that it is going to take a miracle, namely a human one called Samuel L. Jackson, to get them out of it. And boy does Sam pull it off. From his tazer cracking snake holocaust to his barking and badass leadership ("We need to form a barrier between us and the snakes now!") its no doubt that he saves the day. He's not any anti-hero who has issues like a struggling cop or an ex-military guy, he is an alpha badass who rises to the occasion without motherfucking hesitation. It's almost refreshing to see a movie almost trot out and old archetype like Jackson's Agent Neville Flynn, who's almost like Clint Eastwood, John McClane (without the alcoholism), and Jules Winnfield all at once. There's even a bizarre nod to Jurassic Park when Jackson has to go reset the circuit breakers in the plane, an almost subconscious allusion to how his character Arnold famously failed at the task when he ran into some raptors in the generator room.
But enough of that. The bottom line is that this is quite obviously an experience film. There's nothing really like it out there, and it operates on a whole different plane of reason and reality that mainstream cinema nowadays is too afraid to risk. See it. Now. Or I'll customize a Samuel L. Jackson
call for your ass.