Friday, August 18, 2006

Rush Review: Snakes on a Plane

Snakes on a plane. (phr.) A simple existential observation that has the same meaning as "Whaddya gonna do?" or "Shit Happens". Taken from the upcoming Samuel L. Jackson movie of the same name... .
The rush reviews are starting to fly in from yesterday's world premier of Snakes on a Plane. Mr. Wizard's was the first we've seen.

There are others. For example, here ("an instant, if minor, classic"), and here ("the best bad movie I have seen), and here ("Samuel Jackson battling anacondas with a spork"). Already, there's even a movie cheat-sheet here.

Even if it isn't the only one, or the best, Mr. Wiz' review will serve our present purposes, which is to take a peek at the latest turn in American culture, post-911. About the movie, he writes:
It’s crude. It’s gory. It gleefully travels well beyond traditional standards of decency. But it’s also.... quite a lot of fun, the most, in fact, you’re likely to have at a cinema this year. * * * [E]very "flaw" serv[es] only to enhance the campiness of it all. Know that going in, and you’ll have a ball.
If you're old enough to remember the Iranian hostage crisis, then you probably don't know much about this latest cultural wildfire. But your kids do. On the other hand, if you're so old you remember dressing down and slapping on cosmetics to see Rocky Horror Picture Show then you'll have some idea of what's going on.

Since both occurred within a few years of each other, maybe it's not an age thing so much as a cultural mind-set. In any event, here's a quick synopsis for fellow cultural curmudgeons out there:
  • It all started one year and one day ago, shortly after Hollywood film writer Josh Friedman (Black Dahlia, War of the Worlds) started a blog titled, "I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing." In the second entry, on August 17, 2005, he blogged a wry report describing how he'd been asked to doctor a movie script whose movie title producers wanted to change from "Snakes on a Plane" to the far more prosaic "Pacific Air 121."

  • The name change story turns out to have been almost apocryphal, as director David R. Ellis has explained.

  • In any event, the B-movie idea of an airplane disaster movie with snakes antedates 9-11. Eight years ago, the original producers were considering "Venom" as the original title.

  • After Friedman's blog mentioned the pending title change other bloggers across the planet took a fancy to the sardonic saga of Samuel Jackson signing on to star in the movie, script unseen, just because of its title. They joined him, as they believed, in a fight to restore the (second) original title to a bad movie that hadn't even been made yet.

  • Purported scripts for trailers advertising the movie began popping up on the Internet.

  • Parody movie posters, first draft movie script reviews, and musical satires sprang up.

  • A "meme" had developed, as they say. For those in the know, the short-hand for "Snakes on a Plane" became "SoaP."

  • As the "fan base" grew exponentially, New Line Cinema, recognizing profits when they smelled them in the making, recalled the cast and shot new scenes, as suggested by bloggers themselves, and added dirtier dialogue to earn a coveted R-rating.

  • Long before the movie was ready for release, "Snakes on a Plane" was being promoted through all the Internet "pipes" as well as on T-shirts, books, coffee mugs, and other merchandise.

  • As one blogger put it, "This movie has spawned an entire online community which shows no sign of slowing down. There are thousands of blogs and fansites dedicated to this movie with regular updates, trivia and all kinds of silliness... ."
  • Our favorite spin-off is the newly released music-video by the newly-named Cobra Starship. Definitely worth watching and hearing.
Ironically, despite the central role the Internet played in promoting the movie, the best way -- really the only way -- to fully enjoy the film is to attend with a lot of other extroverts in the audience who can join you in screaming and throwing things at the screen. Meet-ups to ensure a boistrous crowd are even being organized.

"Don't wear open-toed shoes" is the best advice we've seen for movie goers. Rubber snakes, snake balloons, and flashlights are optional.

The blog "Snakes on a Plane" has posted an interactive audience script for those lame enough to need it. Here's a short sample:

__When:__ Whenever "Flight 121" is mentioned.

__When:_Whenever anyone orders a drink on the plane
__What:_Scream out "lets get legless!!"

Sure, what's behind all the hype is yet another instance of unbridled capitalism cheapening our culture. But it's forgivable.

Humor, psychologists tell us, is a great antidote to fear. When the "crayons come out at election time," as Why Now? puts it, we should all have a meet-up and take in the show.

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