Viking Night: Snakes on a Plane
By Bruce Hall
September 18, 2012
Savvy readers will remember how, in the summer of 2006, you couldn't go anywhere without hearing about Snakes on a Plane. Not only did it have snakes on a plane; it had Samuel L. Jackson yelling at those snakes on that plane. It had a music video, and a logo that looks like something a professional wrestler might have tattooed across his back. So what gives? You've got the best title ever, a hilarious premise and one of America's favorite tough guys doing the honors. How do you tank your opening weekend? The answer is that even dumb movies have to follow certain rules. You can play dumb.
You just can't BE dumb.
Snakes on a Plane at least starts right, with a great title card and a sweeping helicopter shot of Hawaii. There, Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) is having a great day, speed biking across the island and chugging Red Bull. On an untimely pit stop, Sean witnesses celebrity mobster Eddie Kim (Byron Larson) doing some dental work a Federal prosecutor with an aluminum bat. Eddie's gang tracks him down, but Super-bad-ass FBI agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) intervenes. He takes Sean into protective custody in exchange for testimony against Kim. All Sean and Neville have to do is survive a relaxing, uneventful plane ride to Los Angeles, and Eddie goes to the gas chamber.
This is where you need to go ahead and put your brain on standby.
There are many inexpensive ways to do bring down an airplane, ranging from a short range missile to a couple of sticks of dynamite and an alarm clock. But this is a movie called Snakes on a Plane, and nobody's gonna put a bomb on a plane in a movie called Snakes on a Plane. Eddie collects not just some snakes, but hundreds of snakes. And they're not just hundreds of your average rattlesnakes. It's at least one of every poisonous, expensive, colorful snake on the planet. Some of them are so rare, I'm pretty sure it would have cost less to build a Terminator and send it back in time to kill Sean's mother. But Eddie goes with snakes as his weapon of choice, fulfilling the movie's prophetic title.
There are other passengers on the plane, and they represent the usual grab bag of quirks and stereotypes. It doesn't matter because once the snakes are released, it's fairly easy to tell who's going to die. But they're usually dispatched with such humorless, predictable dispatch that it takes all the morbid fun away. And there are only so many ways to film someone being murdered by snakes, so it gets old surprisingly fast. For those of you into Torture Porn there are moments, but the shock value evaporates quickly. If you're afraid of snakes, don't worry. This is a $30 million film, so the visual effects are so bad even the real snakes look phony. That’s rough, because when your movie is called Snakes on a Plane, the snakes should have a little personality.