Friday, August 18, 2006
Motherfucking Snakes on a Motherfucking Plane (2006, USA, David R. Ellis)
Snakes on a Plane figures to be another one of those movies that accentuates the great divide between film geeks and “respectable” film critics. The internet buzz for SoaP has been incessant, and as a result the former group of enthusiasts have been unashamedly preparing for months to indulge themselves in an orgiastic feast of b-movie silliness, while the latter group has been steadily steeling themselves for a smorgasbord of fetid film clichés. Compounding critics fears, there were no screenings for the film, which is generally a pretty clear sign of a film’s impending crap-tasticness. Once the reviews are (eventually) in, the geeks will almost certainly resume their complaints that the critics have their noses pointed so resolutely in the air that they can no longer see straight; as usual, they’ve surrendered their sense of joy in favour of snooty elitism. Critics, on the other hand, will point out that the geeks are a big part of the problem of lowering cinematic standards; as long as we reward crap like Snakes on a Plane with boffo box office, critics will complain, how can we expect real quality films to get green-lighted by bottom-line oriented studios?
As one who belongs to neither of the above groups, but who has been known to find enjoyment in both b-movie horror as well as esoteric European art films, I hope I can offer a neutral (but hopefully not neutered) opinion of the film’s merits. And my opinion is this: While SoaP has plenty of moments of individual fun, and, once we get the plane off the ground, a generally appropriate go for broke attitude when it comes to giving the snakes free rein to wreak almighty havoc aboard the flight, I must also say that the film doesn’t quite achieve the greatness of crappiness that I’d hoped for. Rather than embrace its b-movie-ness, the film plays it a bit too straight a bit too often. For starters, the McGuffin (why Sam and co. are on the plane), which could be a great way to kick this story off with some energetic and cheesy piece of nonsense, is instead tossed off without much effort at all (a symptom of things to come), and the film’s finale is far too neat and boringly tidy for those b-movie fans who are supposedly this movie’s base. Furthermore, while Sam Jackson certainly and appropriately gets the lion’s share of star search moments and smart ass quips (”Great! Snakes on crack!”), I do wish the film had followed through on some of its set-ups with a little more enthusiasm and vigor. I mean, f’rinstance, what’s with letting the Paris Hilton and Kanye West, established quite deliciously as annoyingly and obnoxiously self-involved characters, completely off the hook by the time the movie roles around to the climax? And where were the Jon-Voigt-in-Anaconda-type supporting characters? Instead, we are presented with a parade of almost entirely forgettable types—I was sorely disappointed when Clint Howard didn’t show up in a cameo--who are hardly worth the effort to fret about. I know, I know, they’re all essentially just snake bait, yet it doesn’t take much to give us some characters with a bit more life. It is entirely possible that better casting might have masked the weakly delivered script, but at this point we’ll never know.
Still, despite all my kvetching, the film certainly delivers on much of its promised humor and the requisite fright-fest. I’ll confess that the snakes generally, despite some iffy CGI and the goofy snake vision, sure did the trick on me. For the next few days, anything brushing up against me unannounced will elicit, at the very least, a shudder. More likely, I’ll scream like a school girl. Given reactions at the screening I attended, audiences will be content with what the film delivers. That my hopes were set a bit higher than said film delivered is not necessarily a condemnation of Snakes on a Plane so much as a comment on my own perhaps foolishly elevated expectations for it.