Saturday, August 19, 2006

Snakes on a Plane

As the ultra-run ride that is "Snakes on a Plane" took flight, I couldn't help but think back to Wolfgang Petersen's woefully unnecessary "Poseidon" remake. Everything that bloated disaster got wrong, SoaP got just right.

From the outset, after we get past the surfer-witnessing-really bad guy-committing-murder necessary to set what little plot there is in motion, director David R. Ellis and his writers keep it very fast and often very funny.

Does it live up to the hype? Maybe not, but what could have? All I was expecting was a great B-movie that made me squirm in my seat, and this one delivered all that and more.

Knowing all the snakes (except, apparently, some of the little black ones) were CGI-created made it a little easier to watch, but as they were slithering among the passengers' bare feet I could feel a distinct chill run up my spine. As the people start to die, it's almost like a morality play. The first to get it are two people about to enter the mile high club, a scene much more funny than creepy. You can sort of guess who's gonna get it from the way they behave, but you won't hear any more about that from me. Find out for yourself, if you somehow haven't already.

So, how's the acting? As good as could possibly be expected from fare like this. What made it work for me was, even though the audience was in on the joke from the beginning, none of the actors let on that they were. I have no idea how Julianna Margulies ended up in this, but she's always a welcome sight. Todd Louiso's turn as the snake doctor just made me think what would have happened if his character from "High Fidelity" grew up and applied himself to something appropriately odd.

And what can you say about Samuel L. Jackson except that he'll never need to carry a wallet that says "Bad Motherf*ker" to prove he is one. Like Robert Mitchum and Lee Marvin before him, he's just a tough dude, and he's clearly having fun here. He was a leading force in keeping SoaP on its glorious B path, and thankfully they saved his signature line from this one until near the very end.

Sure, parts of it do defy reality. The odds that you could blow a huge hole in the side of an airplane and have noone get sucked out of it, or that someone could land a plane based on playing a flight simulation game are, well, way beyond impossible, but so what? This isn't just the most fun I've had at the movies this summer, it's the most fun I've had since seeing "King Kong," and that says
a lot.

I've read people's remarks (as I love to do) about this one, and many people have started out by saying "It's not a good movie, but" ... Well, screw that. That's why people are giving critics such a hard time nowadays.

To me, one sure definition of a "good movie" is it keeps me rapt from start to finish and makes me laugh - a lot. By that standard, SoaP isn't just a good movie, it's a great one.


Linda said...

I enjoyed SoaP as well. The tongue was firmly planted in cheek from beginning to end. I smell cult classic, and it's only day 3!

Reel Fanatic said...

I definitely agree, Linda ... Not only cult classic, but I think the first weekend box office will be much more than solid . I'm banking on $30M or more

Chris said...

We'll see tomorrow (or rather, later today) but Snakes will be lucky to hit $20 mil after a $6 mil estimated Friday ($7.5 after the Thursday special shows).

Interesting to hear the people who love this movie. I actually thought it wasn't over the top enough and was a wealth of missed opportunities. As far as the actors acting as if not in on the joke, I wonder if they knew there was a joke to be in on considering the movie was renamed Pacific Air Flight 121 at one point before Jackson made them change it back--and 5 extra days of reshoots were allowed after the internet furor, which helped changed the movie to knowing camp from oblivious camp. We'll never really know.

Of course, what does it really matter?

Reel Fanatic said...

That's an interestng point, Chris ... They may have all been playing it straight because they didn't know any better, but either way, it worked for me

Ted Pavlic said...

It's hard to imagine that everyone involved in this movie wasn't in on the joke. Some of the hype for this movie had to come from within the production crew, much of it came so long ago that it may have even overlapped with the filming, and this movie is so delightfully B-esque that it would be hard to take it seriously. I think it was clear exactly what was going on, and I think it was clear that in order for it to deliver, in true B fashion it would have to ooze "spoof" without actually being one.

Personally, I think the movie beat the hype. Maybe that makes me sound silly and overly fanatic, but on some levels the movie was everything I expected and yet on other levels it did things that I was completely surprised about. It picked up where the hype left off and actually BUILDED from there.

It's really too bad that it's not doing better in the box office. I've fan into large groups of people who insist on not seeing this movie. For one, I don't think THESE people are in on the joke. (they only caught the hype a month or two ago, and some of them didn't even catch that!)

However, like you say, this really is a B movie. Is it a failure if it doesn't perform like a B movie? Probably not.

I'm glad it was made.

*lynne* said...

it's weird... i was never sold at all on going to see this movie ... but reading a few blogs on how excellent the total movie experience was [i.e. not just the movie but that audience participation] I'm getting more and more tempted.

Reel Fanatic said...

If you can stomach it, Lynne, I definitely recommend it ... be warned, from the opening snake attack on a couple coupling in the bathroom, it will offend many people not ready for the experience .. it's all extremely silly, but also a big ball of fun

Sameer Vasta said...

glad to know i wasn't the only one that really enjoyed this one. riotous fun, and if you see it with the right audience, it may be the ultimate movie-watching experience.

Marty said...

Excellent site you have here!
I came over because you called George Bush a "warmongering tyrant." That is awesome, and true.
I'll have to read further into your site, but have you seen 'V for Vendetta?' I just saw it, and loved it.
(I'm a fellow cinephile myself)

Haven't seen 'Snakes,' and have no desire. Looks too much like a campy B movie for me.

Reel Fanatic said...

That's exactly what it is, Marty, so if it's not your cup of tea, definitely stay away .. I have seen "V for Vendetta," and enjoyed it quite a bit .. though it was originally about Thatcher's England, it's certainly applicable to our world today, and a fairly great movie to boot

Brandon said...

Nice post! I'm just waiting to see what their weekend $ take will be. I'm a little worried that we will have a resurgence of truly bad B-movies if Soap does too well.

For what it's worth, they did actually have 500+ real snakes in the filming of the movie...but, yes, the snakes that magically chewed through the plane's electronics systems were undoubtedly CGI. I hope.

Reel Fanatic said...

That is a worry, Brandon ... any glint of hope for Hollywood gets aped incessantly .. that said, I'd gladly take that risk for a big, big opening weekend for SoaP!

Judah Gabriel Himango said...

Maybe I'd go see it if weren't for the unimaginative and simpleton's title of "Snakes on a Plane". See my post here on the subject.

Terence Towles Canote said...

I just saw Snakes on a Plane and I loved it. Like you, RF, I can't understand why people are saying, "It's not a good movie, but..." This is a great movie. It is fun. It kept my attention from the very beginning. It even had some scary moments. Unlike many other films, I'd say it was well worth the money for my ticket!

Reel Fanatic said...

I would never let the title of a movie keep me from seeing it, Judah

Danny Smooth said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog, RF.

This movie was pure summer, pop-corn fodder. It's far from being great film in any genre but it will hardly disappoint those who watch it.

"cult classic" may also be a bit of a stretch, but if internet fanaticism has taught me anything, it's that fandom is directly proportional to the foolishness of the idea.