Movie Review: Snakes on a Plane
by Max Braden
Published: August 22, 2006
One of the most highly anticipated movies of the year, at least among Internet fans, has finally landed in theaters. It shouldn't be a surprise that a movie could fail to live up to its hype, but it is a surprise that with all the tweaking "Snakes on a Plane" went through it turns out to be just another cheap thriller. There's the gruesome attack or two, and Samuel L. Jackson plays the typical tough cop role as he usually does. The movie is nothing more than a standard entry in the horror genre.
With a title like "Snakes on a Plane," viewers might expect to get right into the action from the first minute. However, things start on the ground in Hawaii, where surfer Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips, "Wolf Creek") witnesses an L.A. mob boss kill a prosecutor. In swoops FBI agent Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) to fly Nathan back to testify against the mob boss, who of course decides to knock off the witness by buying dozens of exotic venomous snakes and sneaking them on the plane to wreak havoc.
On board Pacific Air Flight 121 (a temporary title for the script), Jackson, his partner, and the witness encounter some typically B-grade character types: a quartet of flight stewards (including Julianna Marguilies), a sexist copilot (David Koechner, "Talladega Nights"), a Paris Hilton-esque blonde (Rachel Blanchard, "Where the Truth Lies"), and a rapper and his two guys (one of whom, SNL's Kenan Thompson, becomes an important and funnier character by the finale). Of course, the first victims to fall prey to the snakes are a couple of mile-highers in the restroom. Due to strong buzz earlier this year, the movie's producers actually went back and shot additional footage to increase the sex and violence: it would probably be a safe bet that these are the private part attacks shown early on.
Once the snakes finally attack, it's pretty much a series of bite-scream-panic-repeat scenes. There aren't too many ways to make a snake bite exciting, or if there are, the movie doesn't showcase them. So there's general violence, but nothing to really get the office squirming. The mob boss doesn't reappear, so the crisis is simply to get out of the plane alive. In memory, even last year's lackluster plane thriller "Red Eye" (which I gave a D+) provided as much or more tension without the animal attacks. Jackson gets the so-bad-it's-funny line or two, but nothing really memorable on the order of his character Jules in "Pulp Fiction." Had "Snakes on a Plane" been released without the internet buildup, it most likely would have been panned by audiences if they'd even bothered to go see it.
The fact that the producers tweaked the movie to fulfill audience expectations and delivered this version of a horror thriller makes it even worse. If you're going to call your movie by it's raw plot device, shouldn't you go over the top? Director David R. Ellis also directed the better paced "Cellular," and "Final Destination 2," which killed off its victims in funnier and more creative ways. "Snakes" could have been more of what it was, or it could have gone in the direction of the brilliant horror satire "Shaun of the Dead." Do yourself a favor and rent any of the three titles listed above or choose the well-received horror "The Descent" in theaters before spending your money on "Snakes on a Plane." If your friends drag you in, you might as well stay through the credits to watch the movie's music video.
"Snakes on a Plane" opened in wide release on August 18, 2006.
Rated R for language, a scene of sexuality and drug use, and intense sequences of terror and violence.
1 hr 46 min.
Kenan Thompson manages to save "Snakes on a Plane" with some needed laughs.
...And Then What Happens?
-Samuel L. Jackson stars as an Iraqi war vet in "Home of the Brave" in January, and as a blues man in the drama "Black Snake Moan" in February;
Also opening this week:
The Illusionist |
Material Girls |
Trust the Man
August Movie Planner
"The Descent" review |
"Red Eye" review |
"Red Eye" review
Max's 2006 Ratings