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Movie Review: Snakes on a Plane Slithers Too Slowly

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We already can visualize the chaos, the horror and violence and places victims will get bit. What is there after that? Not much. There are lots of ways for the snakes to deliver that impending bite, but when you don’t have a Hitchcock helming a simple concept (i.e. The Birds), you won’t get a very deep celluloid experience.

First a note: this movie is a high profile B-movie, NOT a spoof. This movie sets up the audience to laugh, react, and have fun. This one-time raunchy experience succeeds with most audiences and that’s about it. My audience rocked the house with yells several times. Thunderous cheers when Samuel L. Jackson’s name appears on the screen… his coolness level and cursing voice were also on people’s lips. “Samuel Jackson is so cool. This movie is going to be sooo bad. It’s going to be awesome,” said one patron during the pre-show discussions. Team America was a similar experience — lots of short term buzz and reactionary scenes, but it hasn’t exactly stayed on the radar. Neither will this movie.

You weren’t really compelled to see the witness return safely. You don’t really care about rapper 3Gs. You weren’t really scared of bad guy Eddie Kim – one of the worst antagonists ever (though he didn’t have much screen time, thank goodness). You just knew that they were necessary. A talented writer would’ve loved the challenge of breaking through those conventions to create a faster-paced experience. The setup is much too long and there are too many supporting passenger characters.

Mr. Jackson predictably spends much of his time with an actor close to his caliber, namely Julianna Margulies, while trying to help his witness, the passengers and predictably expendable partner… um… forget his name. Anyway, Jackson’s suggestion for a title switch (the alternative was Pacific Air 121) was a great contribution, but his performance would’ve been better if he played off his personality more, not the script. Jackson will remain unscathed professionally because of his constant stream of good performances. I think the current box office king (thanks to the Star Wars prequels) is averaging about five films a year.

This pop culture event (not phenomenon) has garnered a lot of attention and spawned some entertaining spoofs, but no one takes it too seriously. Of the recent ultra-wide release movies (more than 3000 theaters) – only Herbie Fully Loaded has done worse than this movie. Still, can you really call a 15 million dollar plus opening bad if the film’s entire budget was 30 million?

The movies also suffers from previous related airplane films that repeat similar experiences until fickle audiences lose interest and/or they can’t suck any more money out of your pockets, which leaves the whole experience empty. This constant recycling of clichés, genres, and stereotypes has grown tiresome. I believe there’s originality in Hollywood, but it resides in the smaller, independent films with more talented filmmakers. Hollywood, please leave filmmaking in the hands of real filmmakers as much as you can (I’m realistic) — not amateurs who listened to a bunch of fans that have never made a movie.

As for the all important Internet buzz, most user reviews I read don’t make any sense and/or involve personal issue unrelated to the work. The Blair Witch Project succeeded because of repeat business. Most audiences aren’t likely to see this one twice. Maybe I’ll make a thriller like Squatters in my House and see how it turns out.

Snakes on a Plane

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