Snakes on a Plane
Snakes on a Plane is a 2006 high-concept action thriller film which also doubles as an Internet meme. Based on a relatively obscure Dr. Seuss book, the film highlights Samuel L. Jackson's desperate and heroic battle against some 200,000 killer snakes, all of which takes place on the titular "plane" (it should be noted that every snake on the plane was non-venomous, and in real life, the flight would have ended with a few minor bites rather than gruesome death).
Snakes on a Plane was released to highly polarized opinions. Critics griped about its lack of a comprehensive plot, inaccuracies, and nonsensical mix of sex, drugs, gore, snakes, and planes. The Internet, on the other hand, loved it, and spouted Jackson's line "I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!" about 50 million times.
Snakes on a Plane depicts the story of Neville Flynn (played by Samuel L. Jackson), a black grizzled cop archetype known for his shameless use of the word "motherfucker". Three days before his retirement, he is given the task of protecting a man in his mid-20s—despite Flynn repeatedly calling him "kid"—named Sean Jones. Sean has witnessed a murder (which is depicted in full gruesome detail), and the murderers, lead by an Asian guy called Eddie Kim, want cold blooded revenge. However, they seem to take the "cold-blooded" bit literally, as they load several hundered cratefuls of snakes and one or two guns for no reason onto the plane which will be flying Flynn and Sean to Los Angeles.
While on the plane, some chemistry builds between R. Kelly and Paris Hilton, who both play passengers. A few minutes after the plane becomes airbourne, the pilot is brutally assaulted—but not killed—by snakes that sneak into the cockpit. As he attempts to file a lawsuit on grounds of unprovoked attack, the co-pilot looks the other way and takes over flying the plane. Meanwhile, the snakes slither out of the cockpit and down the aisle, killing countless extras. R. Kelly and Paris Hilton run into an unnocupied toilet and begin to have sex, but the snakes gain almost superhuman strength and break down the door, proceeding to kill the pair immediately.
Soon, Flynn finds out what's going and pulls out a taser. He kills some of the snakes and builds a barrier of luggage in the doorway. He then gets all of the important actors out of the coach area, using the extras as character shields. More than fifty extras are killed during this process. Flynn calls up his manager, saying that he better have a coffin made of used bullets ready for him, and then shouting the iconic line, "I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!" for the first time.
Meanwhile, the morbidly obese co-pilot wants a Twinkie, so he goes into the bowels of the plane to get one. However, the weight of his massive posterior causes the plane to fall towards the ocean. Because of this, the snakes break through the barrier and start to search for the least important character. Suddenly, a huge anaconda, codename "El Monstrato", decides it's time to eat someone, and consumes a middle-aged British man with rotting teeth (luckily, he was an annoying character). As the snakes watch in awe, the actors are able to get upstairs to the first class area. The pilot, who has just finished conferring with his lawyer, notices that all the blood is going to his head and takes control of the plane, keeping it in the air for a few minutes until the co-pilot returns with his Twinkie and takes over again.
Suddenly, the power goes out and Flynn realizes that he will have to go downstairs to turn it back on. His love interest gives him a small flamethrower and he goes down. He is able to get the power back on again, and kills six snakes with a conveniently placed crossbow, yelling "I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!". Upon returning to the top, Flynn finds out that there was a snake in the co-pilot's Twinkie which killed him and the pilot after he threatened to call the local magistrate. Flynn gets pissed off and proceeds to scream: "Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking plakes on this motherfucking snane!" and shoots the windows out, despite previously saying that if a gun went off in the compressed air of the cabin, everyone would be killed. Somehow, the snakes all fly out as the passengers not only stay put and are able to breathe, but engage in a breakdance competition.
Flynn then realises that the plane is still going to crash; however, Kenan Thompson reveals that he has experience landing planes, or "at least on the PlayStation 2." Nevertheless, this proves suffice and he lands the plane, allowing the passengers to start their perilous, snake-filled car ride home.
Themes and analysis
Snakes on a Plane uses extensive metaphors and symbolism to communicate its rich and nuanced themes.
As Jones, representing the western rich, boards the “plane” of western culture and values, it's expected to be a simple and secure journey. However, snakes, symbolic for terrorism, attack the plane, causing severe damage, and killing several innocent bystanders. Samuel L. Jackson, who represents the War on Terror, responds with great vengeance and furious anger, far exceeding the corpse count of the initial terrorist attack. As the terrorist attacks continue, Samuel L. Jackson becomes more and more aggressive, to the point of endangering all of the innocents on board the plane of western culture and values to kill the terrorist snakes.
Ultimately, Jackson's efforts would have no effect, because the pilot was killed while he was distracted by his crusade. By having some fat dude land the plane, the film is attempting to portray the importance of ordinary people in extraordinary situations.
Snakes on a Plane had a troubled pre-production period. As admitted by the producers and screenwriters, the idea for the name, plot, and pitch for movie came to them while drunk at a party watching the opening sequence from Raiders of the Lost Ark. They pitched the movie concept to the studio, and it was greenlit on the basis of the name alone.
But the writing team was in trouble now, for how could they possibly make a film along the lines of Snakes on a Plane, while keeping it believable, realistic, suspenseful, highly philosophical, and artistic? Here are some of the rejected ideas they had:
- Planes on a Snake
This concept took place in the distant future, where runways had long been considered obsolete, and had been replaced with giant snakes. Giant snakes were seen as being much more effective then traditional runways because a giant snake had the capacity to shift itself to position of the incoming plane. This movie was made to be a mockumentary, satirizing the ineptness of the American air traffic system. However, this script idea was rejected because it was seen as being too exciting, and because the writers didn't want their plane tickets to be rejected out of hate.
- Planes on a Plane
Though considered an intriguing concept at first, PoaP was ultimately trashed due to its lack of motherfucking snakes.
- Snakes on a Snake
Though considered an intriguing concept at first, SoaS was ultimately trashed due to its lack of motherfucking planes.
Earlier ideas which were even more stupid, before the decision to include snakes and planes.
Snakes on a Plane was famous even before its release, possibly due to certain Internet blog posts and comments which claimed the film was a high-concept action thriller with rich philosophical themes, spewing such nonsense as "i can't wait for Snakes on a Plane!!1! It looks like the BEST MOIVE EVAR LOLOLBRB!!11!1". This assumption soon spread throughout the Internet in a viral manner, causing the film to become a meme. When the film was released, many bloggers were no doubt dissapointed with its relatively shallow content.
Later, it was revealed that the film's producers had posted those comments and shilled their movie, leading to a considerable amount of controversy. Internet users felt "cheated" and that they had "been made to heighten their expectations". Soon, comments implying that this deceptive nature of pre-release advertising was an experiment in the appeal of various forms of stimuli upon a mainstream audience emerged. Due to the popularity of the film before its release, this experiment is generally considered to be a success.
Much was made of the aforementioned Internet mania that surrounded the movie, even before its release, let to critics sighing at what they predicted the actual film would be about, and various magazines and media outlets reporting that this signified a dark new age of moviegoers dictating the content of movies; as if the idea that giving moviegoers what they wanted was tantamount to a horrible breach of moviemaking integrity.
Thus, the greatness of the film was ignored, and Snakes on a Plane received poor critical reception. Roger Ebert said in his review of the film: "Snakes on a Plane is pure brainless insanity. I have never seen a more pointless, pathetic film." Ebert also criticized the film's incredible inaccuracy, as every snake on that plane was non-venomous and the flight would have ended "with a few minor bites rather than gruesome death and partial nudity." It also had disappointing domestic box office numbers, and elitists gloated for several weeks, reassured that films were still a bastion of dignified art.
Snakes on a Plane came in second place for the coveted "Most Obvious Title" award, losing to Disney/Pixar's Cars. It also won "Cheesiest Catchphrase", "Worst Screenplay", and "Best Marketing Ever"; in addition to setting up posters depicting a naked Paris Hilton, the film's advertising department decided to promote Snakes on a Plane by literally releasing 200,000 snakes onto a random plane in Cleveland. This event was saddled with controversy and about 60 people died, but fortunately all of them died wishing they had seen the movie.
Upon discovering the film's modest success, New Line Cinema immediately sketched out the plotline for a possible sequel. It was to be called More Snakes on More Planes, returning Samuel L. Jackson as a retired FBI agent turned snake wrangler called in to save the president from a mass of snakes trapping him on Air Force One. The plot borrowed elements from some of the aforementioned scrapped concepts, as well as from other films.
The film was in early jeopardy as members of the original cast, namely Samuel L. Jackson, had refused to film a sequel because tempers had flared during the shooting of the first film. Caught in a circle, New Line execs resorted to offering Jackson's role to Shawn Waynas. Unfortunately, Waynas refused, and New Line had no choice but to scrap the sequel.