Believe it or not, the aptly titled “Snakes on a Plane” began life when studio execs tried to come up with the worst movie concept ever: a myriad of venomous and very angry snakes are released on a plane while in mid-air and start attacking passengers. As a joke, they put this idea on a website, to see what the public reaction would be. However, in a surprising twist, people loved it, and began to post up ideas for scenes and casting on internet forums. Even the odd “fan fiction” script was written. “Snakes on a Plane” (or “SoaP” for short) quickly became the biggest goldmine in Hollywood for years. And, with the script being translated more or less exactly from fans’ ideas and Samuel L. Jackson cast as lead, “SoaP” was championed as the film that would save America’s waning movie industry. So, with millions of fans and a wealth of hype behind it, only one question remains: is “Snakes on a Plane” as good as it’s cracked up to be? The answer: a resounding “no”.
Don’t get me wrong, “SoaP” is not a bad movie; it’s light-hearted, funny and pretty entertaining throughout. It’s just not great. The plot is incredibly contrived, leaving the storyline completely predictable to anyone familiar with 80s slasher flicks and 90s disaster movies: the titular snakes are released in the vague hope that this will end the life of passenger Sean Jones (Nathan Philips), a witness against Eddie Kim, a Chinese/Hawaiian gangster. It is up to the archetypal “armed forces badass” (in this case FBI agent Neville Flynn, played by Samuel L. Jackson) to save the day, as the passengers and crew begin to die.
“SoaP” sticks steadfastly to the conventions of the aforementioned genres, without even aspiring to do anything different. This could be viewed as a cinematic technique; creating a film that is rooted undeniably in genre as opposed to creating something new, a la Quentin Tarantino. However, unlike Tarantino’s films, this damages the movie incredibly. Every single aspect of “SoaP” is horribly generic, from stock characters such as token blacks and a supercilious Englishman, to the oh-so-predictable ending. Everyone knows that in movies of this calibre, the first people to die are those who have sex or those who get high; so is it really any surprise that the first victims of the snakes are a young couple who have sex whilst getting high?
As well as lacking in originality, “SoaP” also lacks consistency in a big way. It’s obvious that countless people contributed to the story, as the movie feels disjointed in terms of story and style. We start off in Hawaii , as Sean Jones witnesses a murder at the hands of Kim. Somehow, Kim’s men find out where he lives, and try to break into his house. Even more miraculously, agent Neville Flynn manages to find him before the gangsters do and whisks him off to an airport so he can fly out to LA and testify in a murder trial. Every occurrence in “SoaP” seems way too convenient, and any coherency it may have falls through giant plot holes. For example, if Eddie Kim really wanted Sean Jones dead, why didn’t he just wait until he arrived in LA and kill him there, rather than go to the trouble of smuggling hundreds of species of poisonous snakes onto a heavily-guarded plane?
But, if you’re watching a movie called “Snakes on a Plane” for the plot then you’re probably watching it for the wrong reason. “SoaP” is a funny, cheesy and fairly entertaining film. What’s more, it’s actually funny on purpose. Samuel L. Jackson delivers some quality lines in a way that only he can, and saves the movie with his very presence. There are some pretty cool deaths to boot, although most are deliberate in trying to make the viewer squirm (the snakes instinctively go for nipples, eyeballs, tongues and one guy’s penis). Most importantly, however, “SoaP” does not take itself seriously at all, and never tries to give you anything other than 90 minutes of action, black humour and snake-related fatalities.
I probably would have enjoyed “SoaP” a lot more if there weren’t so much hype. After hearing literally millions of people talk the film up for six months, it’s only natural to be a little disappointed by the end product. However, fans of the film continue to champion it as an Oscar-worthy flick, rating it very high on IMDb. Which is a shame, because too much hype can ruin a film. “Snakes on a Plane” should be enjoyed as light entertainment, nothing more. It’s not deep, and it’s not great, but it is a good popcorn movie.
David R. Ellis (director) / Sebastian Gutierrez, David Dalessandro, John Heffernan (screenplay)
CAST: Samuel L. Jackson …. Neville Flynn
Julianna Margulies …. Claire Miller
Nathan Phillips …. Sean Jones
Rachel Blanchard …. Mercedes Harbont
Flex Alexander …. Clarence Dewey
Kenan Thompson …. Troy McDaniel
Keith Dallas …. Big Leroy DuBois
Lin Shaye …. Grace Bresson
Bruce James …. Ken Cosette
Sunny Mabrey …. Tiffany Engelhard