SNAKES!!! on a PLANE!!!

Jonathan Adams is not ready for it – please do not bring it.

As of this writing, Snakes on a Plane has yet to be released in any theatre anywhere, and it is already the most terrifying thing I have ever seen.

If you haven’t yet heard the story behind this movie, here it is in summary: last year, Josh Friedman, a Hollywood screenwriter, posted a story on his popular blog I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing in which he described having been approached to work on a movie in pre-production with New Line Cinema, tentatively titled Snakes on a Plane. At once smitten with the bald audacity of this title, calling it “the single greatest movie title of all time,” Friedman jumped at the chance to do a rewrite of the script. By that point, however, New Line had gotten self-conscious, and told Friedman the title had been changed to PACIFIC AIR FLIGHT 121. Friedman was crestfallen, and immediately withdrew his name from the project. A couple of months later, he read the news that the studio was going back to the original title, reportedly because its star, Samuel L. Jackson, was insistent that the movie he was making was going to be called Snakes on a Plane.

Friedman’s blog created a buzz in the online community of young, urban moviegoers. Fans began making stickers, t-shirts, and other paraphernalia, in addition to writing their own scenarios and making their own trailers for the movie. Jackson’s on-screen persona (particularly, a certain epithet he is known to utter) fed a lot of these jokes, and led to the coining of the now infamous line (repeated ad nauseum in message boards dedicated to the movie), “I have had it with these motherfuckin’ snakes on this motherfuckin’ plane!”

As New Line grew aware of the tremendous and widespread enthusiasm for the movie, it ordered reshoots to make the movie conform more closely to these fans’ expectations. Notably, the “motherfuckin’ snakes” line, originally a joke among fans, was added, and is now featured (in slightly edited form) in much of the studio’s official marketing.

There are a couple ways of looking at this whole phenomenon. An optimist might say, At last! We the people finally have some genuine creative input in the production of the movies we pay to see! And yet it is not entirely cynical either to see this as a new benchmark in pandering, a back-and-forth marketing practice that’s about as subtle as a giant handjob:

STUDIO: Hey, kid. We’re making a movie and we’d like to know your answer to a few questions. Do you like snakes?
JOHN Q. MOVIEFAN: Oh, yes.
STUDIO: How about planes?
JQM: Planes too. Almost equally, I think.
STUDIO: What do you think of Samuel L. Jackson?
JQM: My favourite!
STUDIO: Wonderful.
JQM: Um, could I add something?
STUDIO: Absolutely.
JQM: I really like it when Samuel L. Jackson says “motherfucker.”
STUDIO: We would hate to disappoint you.

Some people have begun speculating that the movie cannot possibly live up to the hype. This could only happen if Snakes on a Plane turned out to have neither snakes nor planes in it. And then it would be a brilliant hoax and possibly one of the great works of art of this century. No one expects this outcome.

Nevertheless, people are clearly going to be holding this movie to a certain standard of idiocy. (The reams of fan-made material in this regard have set the bar pretty high.) The official plot of the movie involves a mobster who rigs up an airliner with thousands of snakes designed to be released in the middle of the flight so that one of the mobster’s former employees, a passenger on the flight, will not have the opportunity to testify against the mobster in court.

You will have to grant that this is pretty damned stupid, even by Hollywood standards. Personally, though, I think the movie will have a hard time topping some of its promotional material for sheer mind-numbing, life-sucking vacuity. I’m thinking especially of the song from the forthcoming Snakes on a Plane soundtrack (of course!) by Cobra Starship, a pop group as manufactured as everything else related to this movie. Happening upon the video for their song “Snakes on a Plane (Bring It)” on YouTube, I am embarrassed to admit how many times I played and replayed it, watching each time with a mixture of titillation and horror I haven’t felt since 9/11. The song is possibly the greatest teenage navel-gazing suicide-fantasy bubblegum anthem that will ever be written. These kids know they’re boarding a plane on which thousands of venomous snakes are about to be released, and their only concern is maintaining an attitude of militant apathy: “Fuck ’em, I don’t care!/ Pop the cheap champagne, we’re goin’ down in flames, yeah!”

This makes me wish I was thirteen again. That’s not a compliment.

– Jonathan Adams

Snakes on a Plane premieres in St. John’s tonight (Thursday) at Studio 12 at 10pm. You’re going to go no matter what Jonathan tells you.

“Snakes on a Plane (Bring It)” by Cobra Starship

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