Its hard to describe who exactly is the bigger star in Snakes on a Plane, the CGI snakes or Samuel L. Jackson. The immortal quote in this film is a parody of the man and his roles throughout the years. Samuel L. Jackson is the definitive cultural hero of the MTV generation with his badass swagger, his cocksure disregard of the establishment and cutting quips as he walks onto a scene like he owns the damn movie. Hes exactly the sort of larger-than-life individual youd want to associate this sort of film with if you were a movie studio executive.
This truly is exemplary pulp fiction gone wild and is not a film for anyone expecting a transcendent movie experience. The shocks and thrills are instinctually predictable and extemporaneous with no meaningful introspective about gripping terror or politics. Anyone who attempts to draw comparisons to terrorism would be really off the mark and disrespectful in spite of recent events.
Suspension of belief is obviously crucial to the enjoyment of Snakes on a Plane. Its a phenomenon that lives in the moment as a product of our generations cultural zeitgeist thats (still being) driven by hype due to its raging online fan ethos and a generally high regard for escapist fare. With the premise that launched a cross-media publicity campaign demonstrating the power of fandom, it has no doubt spawned a PR legacy laying the groundwork for more of such marketing strategies to come. When all is said and done, that is the true phenomenon.
There appeared to be an urge to build this movie around the mania and hysterics of fan-written ideas that seem like they were drawn from a hat to form its plot structure. Many of the scenes felt tacked on and tedious. The editing is just that haphazard, and skips from passenger to passenger indiscriminately as fangs maul them. It practically directs itself, no thanks to David R. Ellis. Possibly its original director, Ronnie Yu, might have brought something extra to this project aside from just piling on scenarios upon scenarios of hurt without stringing them together.
Caught with its pants down halfway between satire and action, its not quite the thrill it should have been and its also not an out-and-out laugh riot. In all respects, once the creative juices run dry, so does the initial frisson. When it first gets into its groove, waves after waves of no holds barred, cringe inducing and politically incorrect scenes set the film alight with exhilaration. After awhile though, it all just goes steadily downhill.
What about the rest of the film? Well, Samuel L. Jackson plays Samuel L. Jackson who in turn plays FBI agent Neville Flynn. He has to escort a key witness to a criminal prosecution. But blah, blah and blah! Its just a means-to-an-end plot of which the mechanics are unimportant and is just plain filler for its main attraction the plane inexplicably filled with countless species of snakes that have been let loose. The kaleidoscope of cardboard, self-mocking characters/passengers are just fodder to the slithering menaces. Computerised snakes and their exaggeratedly loud hisses are not inherently scary but still manage to have more personality in its cartoonish facial (yes, facial!) expression than we ever get from the entire secondary cast, which is basically everyone else aside from the incomparable Jackson.
Perhaps its biggest failing is that its publicity created a catch-22 of sorts when its blockbuster appeal became too much of a success but also an encumbrance to pull off the particular B-grade ideal aimed. In the end, it turns out wholly disingenuous and manufactured and far from hiss-terical. Embracing the spirit of satire is one thing but when youre in on the joke while making it something so blatantly kitsch, the self-awareness just gets in the way of the fun.
As the preconceived excitement of mixing 2 rampant phobias in snakes and planes end up wearing the novelty paper-thin, its early hype contributed to its own downfall. Its the material being led around by the hype rather than the hype being wagged on by the material. Ludicrous in its execution as it was in its conception, the publicity machine in overdrive will still bring in droves. Its the kind of movie that offers no surprises and youd know if it is worth your dollar from an initial gut feeling, before even hearing any sort of feedback. No matter whats said here or anywhere else, this movie will draw you into the cinemas. Snakes on a Plane is not an absolute mess. Its farcical camp entertainment and promotional stunts will live on for years and in that respect, it is untouchable. However as much as it tries, its simply does not live up its own monster hype, no movie can.