Friday, July 26, 2013

Review: Snakes on a Plane

Quick Note: Sorry I haven't posted something new in a while. I'm currently very immersed in another writing project so that's been taking up a lot of my free time. Here's a post I wrote and meant to post a while back on a modern cult classic!

My Edition: Single disc widescreen day one release copy.

History: This one has quite a bit of history. Essentially it was one of the first movies to be born from the internet, if not THE first. Snakes on a Plane started out as the movie's working title and was at one point going to be titled Pacific Air Flight 121. It was also originally going to be directed by Ronny Yu (who previously directed Freddy vs. Jason and a ton of movies back in China) but left due to creative differences and was replaced by David Ellis (may he rest in peace). The movie's B-ticket style gained tons of popularity online and even somewhat determined how the movie turned out in the end. It was originally being aimed at a wider audience with a PG-13 rating, but after the internet spoke up there were re-shoots done to make it an R with some intense snake violence. It also spawned the famous line, "I've had it with these mother fucking snakes on this mother fucking plane!" spoken by Samuel L. Jackson and is now one of his most quoted lines. Speaking of Sam Jackson, there was a point where his agent insisted the title be changed because Sam "couldn't" work on a movie with it's original title. When Sam found out about this he opposed it saying the only reason he accepted the role was because of the title. The movie released at #1 on it's opening weekend and eventually grossed a little over $60 Million. It remains a cult classic and if you watch the bonus feature that talks about the fans on the DVD you'll see tons of examples of fan art and projects based around the movie. One of those items includes a destruction derby car with 'Snakes on a Car' painted across the hood with a snake drawing, something that my freshman college roommate designed.

Personal History: I saw this opening weekend, actually at a Thursday night early screening with a few friends of mine. The place was packed with people all my age and mindset ready to see Sam Jackson kick snake ass! Got the DVD immediately when it hit stores and have watched it countless times since.

Review: Snakes on a Plane is truly a unique title. It's a movie that was born out of the bizarre sense of the humor that is thrown around on the internet through memes and other jokes. I do think this movie could have existed in a previous decade only it wouldn't be the same approach. I'm imagining a way too serious horror film with the same theme and not nearly as fun of a title. So for it being what it is, is what makes it so great. Cause the whole thing is one big joke and that's what I think a lot of people were missing when this first came out. Let me stop myself right there before I go much further. I'm starting to sound like one of my pet peeves. It's okay for people to simply not like this movie despite if they get the joke or not. Maybe it's not their sense of humor. However I think that the perspective on it is absurd because it's seen as so stupid, when a lot of people I believe don't get that the point is for it to be stupid like that. Snakes on a Plane is not a horror movie. It's a comedy that tells the jokes straight faced, and that's what I like about it.
Quick sidenote on comedy. My favorite kind of comedy is when it's just like this. Let the jokes do the work. I like not just dead-pan humor, but straight faced acting that goes with it. I do not like the Adam Sandler-type of comedy where it has the actors telling jokes but trying to be funny in the process. This is why I liked, let's say, Airplane for example. Leslie Nielson is absolutely brilliant because he's not jumping around trying to act silly. The comedy is in his portrayal. He takes a comedic scripts but plays it like a drama and it's way funnier than it would ever be if it were the "trying to act funny" kind of comedy. Now I realize comparing Snakes on a Plane to Airplane is both unfair and appropriate at the same time. Unfair because it's a comparison to the Zucker Brothers who have stood the test of time with their comedies, but appropriate because it's on a plane. But all I'm trying to say is that this movie is clearly a comedy. Whether or not you get the joke it's a comedy. I just think that since it plays the comedy straight then people get confused about what it really is.
I am playing it off like this movie has a lot of hate. I don't think that's the case. It hasn't lived through the ages cause I think anyone looks at it like they look at a Furby. A fad that was huge for a little while but now is an old forgotten joke. But in the movie's defense it had a niche audience from the start. This was never meant for the mainstreams. It knew who would love it and it focused on that to make it perfect for those people. I think that's what I liked about it so much. Instead of trying to appeal to everyone it just did what it could to appeal to the people who wanted it. It's very Kevin Smith-like. And all in all the movie is honest. It doesn't try to sell you on anything less. It says right there in the title, Snakes on a Plane. The fact that it presented itself in such a way shows it knows that it is. If it was call something like Flight 42, or something like that it would give the impression that it is trying to be something different. It would be false advertising. I love the fact that it is titled Snakes on a Plane. Like many others that title sold me on the movie alone.

Okay let's talk about the actual movie instead of my crush I have for it. As you can imagine, this is a movie about snakes who show up on a plane. But the thing is that there needs to be some level, even the slightest, of logic that may make sense to get the snakes on the plane. Really anyone who is legitimately interested in this movie for what it is doesn't care about the plot but I guess it's somewhat necessary. So in short there are snakes on the plane because an unsuspecting citizen of Hawaii stumbles upon a murder by some mob dude. After barely escaping Samuel L. Jackson (playing himself) shows up at his place telling the witness that they need to fly to LA so he can testify against this mob dude. So they jump on the plane and take off and that's when shit hits the fan, cause Mr Mob Man snuck on a whole mess of snakes to take down the witness and everyone else on board. The scenes with this guy and the brief scenes of investigation surrounding it are easily the least interesting parts. For one, it's shoehorned, and therefore cliche. Secondly, who cares cause I came to see snakes. Lastly, it takes time away from Sam Jackson on screen, the only thing more people are interested in seeing above the snakes. I guess having the character in the story was necessary or else it's just a plane full of snakes for no reason. Maybe the (mob dude) could have been so much wackier or over the top like everything else here. Then maybe it would have been better when he was on screen. Thankfully these scenes are very brief.
Now all the characters on the plane itself are pretty wild as well. There's the germaphobic rapper who is constantly applying hand sanitizer. Then there are his two goofy "bodyguards" (I guess), one of which is played by Kenan Thompson! There's a new mother, a martial artist, a pompous business man, the male stewardess who everyone thinks is gay, a Paris Hilton-esque character, and the list goes on. These very un-P.C. stereotypes are a part of what gives the movie as a whole it's B-Ticket fun! Also a lot of them are pretty much bitches or dicks so you find yourself rooting for the snakes because you want to see these people dead, most of them.

Unlike the way the birds start attacking out of nowhere in Birdemic the typical horror fashion kicks in with a slow progression of kills by the snakes before it becomes flat out insanity. When I went to the first screening of this there was a lot of laughs and cheering at different parts but I think these first kills got some of the biggest screams. The first couple kills we see happen in the bathroom on board. One is when a guy is taking a leak. The snake comes up from the toilet and snatches on the guy's dick. We see him thrashing about while swinging the snake around everywhere and it is absolutely hilarious! The other is when a young, attractive couple go into the other bathroom to join the mile high club. While they're making out and getting naked they get attacked. And yes, the girl gets her tit bit. These caused a hilarious reaction in the theatre and whenever I watch it at home with a group. It's a great way to make fun of the typical horror movie tropes of having a kill either during or around a sex scene.
What happens next is complete insanity. Suddenly snakes are everywhere. All the different kills that come up seem to try and top the last one. A man gets trampled and then a woman's heel digs into his ear, people are getting bitten and swelling up having a puss-filled death. It's just complete insanity from here on out until the plane lands. But outside of the insanity there is something you'll discover. Somehow in the mix of all these crazy characters who are essentially glorified stereotypes, you'll find you have empathy for some of them. One good example revolves around two young boys who are going to meet their mom in L.A. They are flying alone. The younger of the two brothers is bitten by one of the snakes causing his arm to swell up really bad. While waiting and anticipating what will happen next, and then when the new mom comes to the rescue but sucking the poison out of his arm you feel this great sense of release and care for the kid. The great thing is that despite the silliness of the story and character execution you may be dang near brought to tears because of some of their actions (Maybe a slight exaggeration). The other prime example I have is when the very likable older lady stewardess runs into a crowd of snakes to save a helpless baby. The poor woman is of course bitten but the baby is safe. It's a bummer because she was a really fun character so seeing her die, and in such a heroic and heartfelt way, it tugs at the heart strings.

I think I may be thinking too hard because I'm honestly having trouble figuring out what all to talk about. I mean, the thing is that there's not a lot of depth but in the crazy B-Ticket department it's just so wonderful. So there's not much of the story or character to discuss. It's just that this is one of those titles that really needs to be seen to believe. If I keep talking it'll just be me describing all the other crazy shit that happens throughout and part of the fun is not seeing it coming. Much like I sated earlier all the kills just get weirder and weirder. Even the way they fight back can get great, too! One of my favorite parts of the movie is when the male stewardess is fighting one of the smaller snakes, and kills it off by picking up, throwing it in the microwave and blasting it on while screaming, "Who's your daddy now, bitch!" followed by a snake literally exploding. And a lot of the other stuff I don't even want to try and describe here because I won't do it justice. Just know that what else happens in this movie is both insane and hilarious. The dickhole characters get what's coming to them, too. Another one of my favorite scenes is towards the end when the jerk of a businessman gets eaten whole by the (big snake).
Now over the course of the third act the story does need to come into play again to help resolve the issue. Since a lot of people were bitten and nobody on board knows anything about snake venom they're stressing out big time on who will live and who will die when they land. So they call up one crazy character of a snake expert who is also kind of a dick but a dick that's easier to work with. Basically everything that happens on ground from here on out is like a watered down crime show with another cliche of a cop character tracking down the bad guy so they can get all the right antidotes to the exotic snakes. It makes you want to get back on the plane which does happen pretty quickly.
So essentially through the rest of the movie they find an insane way to get all the snakes off the plane, then find out that Kenan Thompson has over 1000 hours of flight experience putting him in the captain's chair, we then find out it's for a video game and that he was never able to land, etc etc etc, tension ensues, celebration. It's just hard to talk about this cause it's such a crowd movie. Part of the fun is watching it with a crowd and I don't think I've ever watched this movie alone come to think of it. I've seen it multiple times but every single time has been with people. And it's always been a blast because it is straight up good fun. So watching on your own would probably be fine if you're into intentionally chessy and over the top flicks, but I still think you would have a better time with it if you watched it with a willing group of good friends.

And the movie's credit sequence song is really badass.

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