Here’s a diatribe I’ve been waiting a long time to unleash: I’m dubious of anything with as much hype attached to it as Snakes on a Plane. In fact, the only thing that I can imagine that warrants this much pre-release attention is the Second Coming, and by all accounts I think Kirk Cameron’s got that covered. Of course, the difference between Snakes and, say, The Da Vinci Code is that the Snakes hype was generated largely by people who are supposed to remain detached from corporate machinations. The blogging world, after all, is meant to be the 52nd state; a nice blend of Jersey trash, Massachusetts intellectualism, and a big dose of the New Hampshire fuck-off mentality (well, except for the right-wing bloggers — that’s all Texas).
The problem, of course, is that somehow the very folks the blogging world was set up to rail against have gradually manipulated their way into our daily discourse. It’s incremental, to be sure, but the collective “we” is slowly being absorbed into the corporate agenda. I mean, what does it say about the blogosphere when the biggest story to break in the last six months was spearheaded by TMZ.com (which is owned by Time Warner) or that Lindsay Lohan is using the largesse of Perez Hilton to fight her PR wars? When personnel changes in the blogging world (read: Gawker Media) start making headlines or we start getting worried about double- or triple-checking sources to avoid legal skirmishes, well, one has to begin questioning the evolving blog mentality. After all, it’s hard to shit on the corporate parade when you’ve got your own hussied-out Paris Hilton float riding in it.
And what does this have to do with Snakes on a Plane? Well, everything actually. Because were it not for the blogging world, Snakes would’ve been dumped unceremoniously into a crowded weekend box office, where it would’ve netted around $5 million before silently making way for a Dukes of Hazzard sequel. But Sam Jackson said he wanted “snakes on a motherfucking plane,” someone lost his job, and what’s left of the blogosphere’s rebellious attitude kicked into overdrive, resulting inexplicably in Snakes action figures. To be sure, I’ve got nothing against Internet hype, just so long as it’s warranted. After all, were it not for the tireless efforts of a few undersexed couch potatoes with a keyboard and a verbal hard-on, “The Office” and “Veronica Mars” would’ve long since been cancelled. And hell, Joss Whedon owes half his fortune to the blogging world, and that motherfucker deserves every penny of it.
But before today, no one had even seen SoaP, yet we’d already created a large enough juggernaut to force Clerks II to reschedule its release. All because Jules Winfield used a little profanity and Defamer, et al., shoved it so far up everyone’s ass that we could feel the snakes crawling out of the back of our throats. Indeed, by deftly crafting the PR behind Snakes as the anti-establishment flick of the year, New Line Cinema pulled off a feat no less manipulative than attaching a Coldplay song to the trailers for World Trade Center. Never mind the merits of Snakes on a Plane; good, bad, or mediocre, admit this: We got played by a subsidiary of Time Warner.
And, of course New Line didn’t screen Snakes on a Plane for critics. Why? Because it motherfucking sucks. That’s why. The CGI is subpar. The plot is paper thin. The dialogue is atrocious. And the acting is downright horrendous. Hell, David Koechner actually turns in a more embarrassing performance than he did in Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector. I mean, seriously: Kenan Thompson is in it, do I have to say more?
And yet … and yet despite it all …
I haven’t had this much fun watching a movie since Ash Williams stood with a shotgun in one hand and a chainsaw in the other, beckoning: “Gimme some sugar, baby.” I shit you not, folks, Snakes on a Plane is every bit of god-awful fantastic that the hype portends. And I say this not as a movie critic, but as an enthusiast of so-bad-it’s-good. I consider the Final Destination series one of my favorite trilogies of all time; The Skulls is a minor classic, and nary anything can compare to the joy that was Cool as Ice. But Snakes on a Plane beats them all, hands down, fists balled, and middle finger to the sky. It absolutely kills. The only way I could’ve found it more entertaining is if the snake venom turned the passengers into zombies, but I suppose you gotta leave something for the sequel(s). In fact, the only analogy that could possibly do SoaP justice is one of those ear-mangling Journey ballads that you know is shittacular and yet you can’t help but crank it to an unheard-of decibel level and belt your lungs out (“Don’t stop believin’”).
Truthfully, SoaP defies everything I ever believed about filmmakers who actually set out with the intention of making a good-bad flick; I didn’t think it could be done. And maybe without the attendant hype, it couldn’t have, because damn near half of Snakes success comes from the spectacle of 75 college kids ripped to the tits chanting “Snakes on a Plane” and tossing toy planes around the theater. Indeed, Snakes absolutely demands an audience. It’s a participatory event. And it may be the only time you can ever watch a film and not hate everyone in the theater for yelling throughout, because hell if you don’t find yourself treating the whole experience like a college basketball game, just waiting for Samuel Jackson to drain the Snakes on a Motherfucking Plane to win the game. I actually applauded. More than once. And I didn’t even shake my head in wonder when the audience gave it a standing ovation as the credits rolled.
I could give you a plot summary, but really there’s little point. It is as advertised. It’s got a plane. It’s got snakes. And they attack the passengers. A lot. In fact, it is one of the few times that there are actually enough violent death scenes to quench one’s need for blood; hell, it’s got 25 Paris Hilton House of Wax moments. And you find yourself thinking the entire time that what’s about to happen isn’t going to happen but, yes, the snake does grab hold of the man’s penis while he’s taking a leak. And yes, that rattler does bore a hole through that woman’s eye. And yes, I — a grown man — found myself recoiling in my seat like a goddamn ninny.
So, what’s the take-home lesson here, folks? Bloggers, despite the influence of lethal amounts of PR machinery, still got this one right. But the real shame of it is that the Internet culture has actually managed to build something that lives up to its expectation, but in the process it’s alienated many of the people who would’ve enjoyed it. I have no doubt that SoaP will make a killing this weekend, because there are enough people out there willing to either give into or ignore the hype. But there are others who’d rather snack on their own toenails than buy into New Line’s manipulation, or who have an imaginary muzzleloader trained on the next guy who utters that Sam Jackson catch-phrase aloud. And the dubious skeptics — the kind of person with too much pride to jump on this bandwagon — will never believe that it could possibly live up to the hype. They will read this review; they will see the comments below; and they will shake their head and “baaaah.” But a friend will force them to go. Or they will sneak in when no one is looking. And they will somehow wind up sitting in front of SoaP. And, by god, they will believe.
It’s enough to drive John Yossarian to Sweden all over again.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives in a blue house with his wife in a hippie colony/college town in upstate New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.Snakes Motherfucking Bites
Film | August 23, 2006 | Comments ()