Last night, Mike, Emily, Morah, and I went to see Snakes on a Plane.
With all the hype surrounding this film, it was no surprise that the AMC had it showing in one of their giant theatres. You know, the ones that hold hundreds of people. So was it any surprise that, in Spokane, on a Saturday night, Snakes on a Plane was able to draw =almost a dozen people= to the theatre?
Okay, okay, there were probably more like fifteen or twenty people there. But even if half the theatre had been full, I would have been disappointed by the turnout. Perhaps later showings had bigger crowds. Or perhaps everyone went on Friday night, so they had already seen it. Either way, I’ll be interested to see what the opening-weekend grosses are like. If the screening I attended was any indication of other screenings around the country, this movie is in big trouble.
The film opens with a delightful song and a helicopter shot across the water. The camera tilts up to reveal the Diamond Head Lighthouse. As the helicopter lazily drifts toward Waikiki, a small group of hotels is visible. The one on the far end is The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel, where Morah and I will be having our wedding reception in a couple of months.
It quickly goes downhill from there.
In case you don’t know the plot, here’s a quick rundown:
Some surfer dude sees Asian mob boss Eddie Kim kill some other dude. Eddie Kim’s cronies try to kill him, but Sam Jackson saves his ass. He convinces the surfer dude to go back to L.A. and testify against Eddie Kim. They board a civilian plane, which Eddie Kim manages to have filled with hundreds of poisonous snakes. A few hours into the flight, the snakes are released, and all hell breaks loose.
The film has a number of implausibilities that require a very heavy suspension of disbelief. For example, Eddie Kim’s gang members don’t know which plane to put the snakes on until the very last minute. Somehow, in a post 9/11 world, they’re able to get a large, unscheduled, un-inspected shipment on board the plane, without anyone noticing, even though the airport is crawling with cops. And that’s just one example.
It also tends to ignore Eddie Kim. We only see him twice in the film, and the second time, there really wasn’t a point to it. We never find out if he is successfully taken into custody (we can only assume the order to arrest him went without a hitch). In fact, while they talk a lot about him masterminding the whole scheme, we don’t get to find out very much about him. It’s great that the inciting incident came so quickly, but damn, give me a little back story. We don’t ever get to find out how smart he really is; maybe he’s not that smart. I mean, his top cronies can’t even pick a lock without making a racket.
Also, there’s a fairly sinister Asian dude on the plane. It turns out he’s a good guy, but they never really play up the whole, “he could be a baddie!” aspect of it.
What troubled me the most, however, was whose story it was. In film school, we learned that, in a classically structured story, the story is about the character who experiences a change (sometimes it’s the character who changes the most). For example, in Finding Nemo, it’s Marlin’s story, because in travelling to Sydney to rescue Nemo, he overcomes his fear of the open ocean. In Snakes on a Plane, the only character who goes through a change is the rap star (Three G’s). He’s a secondary character at best! But he’s also the only one with an arc.
It’s interesting to note that this movie is a horror film. It has many of the traditional horror film conventions. For example: The young, hot couple who leave the group to have sex are the first to be killed (includes an obligatory tit shot). When the sun comes up, the snakes become a non-issue. There’s a typical “one last scare.” There’s cheesy, excessive violence and gore. At times, we see through the eyes of the killer (in this case, there’s a fair bit of “Snake Vision”). The power goes out on the plane (sort of). Multiple toilet stall scenes. There’s a cat (and it hisses. A lot). Many laughable scares. It’s a dark and stormy night. Little kid survives.
Speaking of the little kid, the character’s name is Tommy Brown. No joke.
I’ve written a lot about what made the movie bad, but it really isn’t all that bad. In fact, if you think about it as being a horror film, it’s actually a pretty decent one. What would make the movie better, is if someone would come up with some sort of Rocky Horror style interactive script. Oh, here we go.
So, the bottom line is that this movie doesn’t try to be anything more than it claims to be. There are snakes and they’re on a plane. You don’t need to know much more than that. It doesn’t try to be too serious, and that’s a good thing. Would I go see it again? No. Do I recommend that you go see it? Hell yes. Best line in the movie? You know it by heart, so say it with me:
“I’ve had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!”