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Snakes On A Plane (2006)

Snakes On A Plane. Feature film. (2006, 105 mins) IMDB

...one too many snakes on a plane...

H

as there every been a movie with such internet buzz before it was even made? That's the legacy of this film, not the film itself.

Snakes on a plane sums it up. Not much else to say, but I'll throw out a few comments.

Oddly the film was first setup with Paramount, but after a while they decided they didn't want to produce it. The death of a screenplay, except the people behind it bought it back, known as turnaround, and got a new deal with New Line Cinema. Turnarounds don't happen very often. Studios buy more screenplays than they put into production and if they don't green-light it, it sits on a dusty shelf--think of the closing scene of RAIDERS and where the ark ended up. It's just the nature of the Hollywood system. William Goldman in his book WHAT LIE DID I TELL? suggests if he were the head of a studio, he'd hire a bunch of readers and comb through all the scripts the studio owns, but never produced. There might be some gems hidden there.

But back to the film on the screen. The story line goes like this: whatever the hell the filmmakers needed to get a whole bunch of people on a plane with a lot of poisonous snakes. That's the narrative. Start to finish.

The film starts out like a comedy with images of sun and fun in Hawaii. We know a fun ride will follow, parts reminded me of the opening of AIRPLANE!, but once the snakes are loose, it's no longer a comedy. It becomes part action film and mainly a horror film. I'm not a fan of horror films and not once did I feel frightened or terrified by these snakes on the screen, but if it had been on that plane, I'd would have been frightened to shade of pale worse than death.

What surprised me was the relentlessness and intensity and number of snake attacks on countless passengers. Some images are gruesome. The deal toll sounds like a body count from a battle.

Prior to the film's release, the buzz on the internet was unprecedented. I think everyone involved in making the film had visions of a STAR WARS like blockbuster, but after a big opening weekend, the film tanked. Word of mouth brought it up and it brought it down. Why?

I can offer a few reasons. An R rating will obviously impact who can see it. It limits the potential target market. The irony is the studio wanted and got a PG-13 film, but based on the buzz and expectation about Samuel L. Jackson saying a certain line using a certain explicative, the film was reshoot. To use the word motherfucker once meant an R so they added scenes to make it even more R rated. I'm not sure if it made the film better or worse, but it limited the potential audience.

Second, starting out with comic overtones then changing genres throws off people. Not consciously, but they are confused and wonder what the filmmakers were doing.

Finally, it was overkill with the snakes. Too many. Too many attacks. Too many deaths. Too gruesome. Too horrific. That's my opinion and some will disagree, but consider this. If you knew there was one poisonous snake roaming around your home and you couldn't find it, what would you do? How frightened would you be? How effective would it be in getting your attention?

Posted 2009/03/25 at 20h30ET in Movie Commentary.

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