Snakes on a Plane (2006)
By: Devon B. on October 30, 2007  |  Comments ()  |  Bookmark and Share
Director: David Ellis
Starring: Samuel L Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips, Benjamin McKenzie, Rachel Blanchard, Kenan Thompson
Screenplay: John Heffernan, Sebastian Gutierrez
Country: USA
Australian Release Date: August 24, 2006
OFLC Rating: M (Moderate horror violence, Moderate coarse language, Sex scene, Incidental drug use)
How could anyone not want to see a movie called Snakes on a Plane? I know I had to, and given the public interest that's been swelling faster than you can say "Blair Witch," it would seem I'm not alone.

Snakes on a Plane is about a young man (Australian Nathan Phillips) who sees a gangster recreating a scene from The Untouchables on a helpless man. Phillips retreats from the scene of the murder, but is now an important witness against the gangster. Phillips is convinced to testify, but in an effort to prevent that from happening, the gang unleash hundreds of lethal snakes on the flight transporting him to the trial. It's up to FBI guy Samuel L. Jackson (the youngest looking 57 year old we're ever likely to see) to save the witness, save the plane, and try and save anyone else stuck on the airborne death-trap. Genre staple Lin Shaye turns up as a stewardess, as does everyone's favourite music geek from High Fidelity, Todd Louiso.

Jackson has gone on record pre-empting any criticism of the film by stating it's "not Snakes On the Waterfront." This is true, so I won't pick on the stereotypical, shallow, caricatures passing as characters. Nor will I attack the absolute lack of logic, particularly in regard to the snakes' behaviour (and I'm not even talking about their aggression, which is "explained" in the script) and how one person that probably shouldn't be incredibly resistant to cobra venom. I won't say that if no one on a plane full of people thinks to protect the pilot when the cockpit has had frequent serpentine intervention, they all deserve to die. I can let go the worst product placement this side of A Knight's Tale. I even won't mention that the film is funniest when trying to be serious, and the intended humorous moments almost all fall faster than the titular plane.

But what I will attack is a basic flaw that anyone going to see a film called Snakes on a Plane won't want: crappy snakes. Okay, some fake corals are highly visible. Okay, the first thing a snake goes after is a cat, despite the fact that cats can hold their own against snakes, as anyone who's seen Snake in the Eagle's Shadow can attest. Okay, snake cam looks like shit. Okay, someone involved thought a 22-foot Burmese python should somehow fit in the equation…actually, no, that's not okay. A 20-foot Burmese python bit my partner while I was holding the thing, and we're both alive and well. This was just a silly snake to include. The counts of death by this species are those that involve sleeping people caught unaware or children. The inclusion of this snake is just silly! But the REAL problem is shitty CGI snakes. This film would've been so much better if it were made 15 years ago, 'cause then it wouldn't be filled with horrid computer animation. The CGI snakes all look awful, and it often seems like there wasn't even any effort to match them with the real ones. While this does add a cartoonish quality, I would've preferred the computers been left out of the equation.

Not to imply I didn't like Snakes on a Plane. It may take awhile to get going, perhaps mostly due to what seemed the world's longest credits sequence, but once it gets going, it does deliver silly fun. There are even a few pleasant surprises.

Snakes was originally meant to be rated PG-13, but after poor test screening reactions, inserts were added to up the gore and profanity. These inserts all stick out sorely, one scene remixing a bit from previous snake on the loose film Venom, but the additional attacks often offer some chuckles. There was also some gore included, and I gotta say, there were two non-snake related bits that just made me wince and wince. The additions also saw the inclusion of the much loved, fan created line about wanting the motherfucking snakes off the motherfucking plane. Most of the new expletives can be heard in the score playing over the end credits, where that line is repeated often. That's kind of like what happened to Police Story III when it was re-released in the States as Super Cop. The studio cut out drug use and must've ended up with a PG-13, but included a rap song that featured the word "fuck" a lot to get their desired R. Regardless of prior studio stupidity, I enjoyed the new bloody footage, and think it's a fine tradition to be upheld…though the last time I know of it happening was Screamers.

Despite starring in the film with all these snakes, Jackson was never anywhere near any of them. This makes him seem like a bit of wuss, particularly when you remember that Treat Williams walked through a group of rattlers for Venomous, and even had one bite his boot.

Just to capitalise even more on people's serpentine fears, reportedly someone released some snakes into a theatre showing Snakes on a Plane in the States. Given Australia's preponderance of deadly snakes, hopefully no one follows suite here.

Snakes on a Plane is one to see with a rowdy audience or at a drive in where it can be openly and loudly mocked. Once it's out on DVD, it'll definitely be one to watch with friends and a slab.
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