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Snakes on a Plane
At this point in time everyone knows how Snakes On A Plane came to be – a few movie execs were joking around about the worst pitch imaginable, the title came up, the internet blew it sky high, New Line added more sex, violence and bad language and voila. With so much hype around the movie there was no possible way that it would live up to everyone's expectations but even with (or, perhaps because of) the movie's huge plot holes, stereotypical cookie-cutter characters and insane logic gaps, the movie turns out to be a perfectly enjoyable action-horror hybrid. High art it is not, but it's a great beer and pizza movie.
When the movie begins, a surfer named Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) is driving around Hawaii on his dirt bike and sucking back some Red Bull when he comes across a gangster named Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson) in the midst of killing someone who got just a little too close to him. Unfortunately for Sean, Kim sees him and sends his cronies after him – they can't leave any witnesses alive. Sean heads back to his apartment (which is stocked with more Red Bull) and just as he hears someone breaking in through the front door he heads out back and meets Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson), an F.B.I. agent who has somehow managed to find out what's happening and arrive just in time to save him from certain death.
After Flynn and his partner convince Sean to testify against Kim, they decide to fly him back to Los Angeles where the trial is going to happen. They commandeer the first class section of a big ol' jetliner and, with the rest of the supporting cast tucked firmly away in coach and a witty pilot named Rick Archibald (David Koechner) in the cockpit, they leave Hawaii for the lengthy trip over the Pacific Ocean to sunny California. Unfortunately for everyone on board, Kim has somehow managed to get a gigantic box of poisonous snakes on the plane and has had all of the lei's that the passengers were given by the airline doused in a pheromone that is known to make snakes unusually aggressive. Once they're up in the air, the snakes are unleashed and Neville has to take charge of the situation to make sure that he gets Sean safely to L.A. while trying to save as many innocent civilians as possible. Thankfully, he's not completely alone – there are four members of the flight crew (Lin Shaye, Julianna Margulies, Sunny Mabrey and Bruce James), a rapper (Flex Alexander – a great name for an action figure!) and his two body guards, a couple of kids flying alone for the first time (Curtis Brown and Tommy Brown), a cute but ditzy rich chick with a dog (Rachal Blanchard), a snooty English dude (Gerard Plunkett) who doesn't like Americans or the rich chick's dog, and a young foreign lady (Elsa Pataky) and her newborn baby. Oh, and there's a competitive kickboxer (Terry Chen) on the plane too, but he doesn't really do much.
While Jackson's screen presence and penchant for chewing through even the thickest of scenery are reason enough to give this a look, the best part of the movie is the creativity and complete stupidity of the snake attacks themselves. You wanna see a couple who smoke a doobie and try to join the mile high club get attacked by snakes? You got it. Why not have the snake chomp down on her titty while you're at it! Maybe a guy should go to the rest room and take a leak and a snake should jump out of the toilet and bite his wang... yep, they thought of that too. Snakes are all over this plane, biting women in the eyes and fat black dudes on the ass with reckless abandon. You've got big snakes, small snakes, in-between snakes - snakes of many colors, shapes and size are all here, and they're all biting people like crazy.
If you're the type of viewer who wants realism in their cinema, Snakes On A Plane is not the movie for you. Even if you're able to suspend your disbelief easily enough, it's hard not to scratch your head wondering why certain characters do what they do or even how exactly the snakes got on the plane undetected in the first place. There are so many flubs in the film that it's hard to keep track of them all, and nothing really happens for any logical reason here. The characters are all stereotypes of some sort (with Jackson playing the stereotype of himself) and the dialogue and actions of these stereotypes play exactly as you would expect them to. That being said, Snakes On A Plane is a lot of fun. It's a big, dumb trash film that works in elements from disaster movies, horror movies, and action movies with plenty of darkly comic touches. The end result is a sort of tasty can of cheap genre stew. Not something you'd order at a fancy restaurant, but a tasty meal of a movie that warms your belly and which satisfies your hunger.
The 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is really strong, though not quite perfect. You'll probably note some mild edge enhancement and a bit of aliasing on the picture, as well as some mild shimmering throughout. Other than that, however, things do look really good on this DVD. The black levels are nice and strong and there's a pretty decent level of both foreground and background detail in the picture. Color reproduction is pretty solid and there aren't any issues with mpeg compression artifacts. Print damage is virtually non-existent and although there is a bit of grain in some scenes it's very natural looking and doesn't detract from the image in the least.
New Line has supplied three ways to enjoy the sound on this disc – a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Surround Sound track, a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX Surround Sound track and a DTS 6.1 ES Surround Sound track. If you've got the hardware to handle it, the DTS mix is the best of the three as the extra channel does fill things in just a little bit more but either way, the 5.1 track and the 6.1 track are both really well done. Channel separation is strong with plenty of activity during the snake attack scenes and during the big finale on the plane. Dialogue is clean and clear and there are no problems with hiss or distortion to complain about. Levels are properly balanced and there are no difficulties understanding the performers in and amongst the many sound effects and the score. Optional subtitles are available in English and Spanish for the feature only, and closed captioning is provided in English (also for the feature only).Extras:
New Line has done a pretty impressive job packing this release with extra features starting things off with an audio commentary featuring director David Ellis and the man himself, Samuel L. Jackson. Also here are visual effects guru Erik Henry, producers Craig Berenson and Tawny Ellis, and second unit director Freddie Hice. This is a pretty active and humorous track with Jackson cracking jokes left, right and center. Along the way they talk about how the project came together and point out interesting facts along the way (like how many Ellis' were involved with the film). They cover how the movie started as a project called Venom with MTV/Paramount, then how it finally wound up at New Line. They talk about how Samuel Jackson stood by the Snakes On A Plane name, with Jackson elaborating on why he felt that it was a good name as it tells you exactly what you're going to see in the movie. They explain how snake vision was used and elaborate on little things that pop up in the movie, but generally they just seem to be having a good time watching the film together, joking about the 'snake on boob' scene and how they really took their time with that particular scene.
From there, New Line has supplied a Gag Reel (4:36) which features some flubs with the dog trainer, with the rapper and his bodyguards, with the pilot, and with some of the effects work. Up next are the Deleted/Extended Scenes, ten of them in total: Waiting At The Gate (0:54), Eddie Kim Spars (1:10), Boarding (1:58), Three G's And Mercedes (1:15), Agent Flynn And Claire (1:17), Longer Mrs. Bova Attack (1:49), Music Video Talk (1:18), Despair In The Cabin (0:38), Water Crash Prep (0:39) and Flynn's Offer (0:43). None of these really alter the movie as it was shown in theaters very much and most (though not all) were trimmed for pacing reasons if the optional commentary from David Ellis, Tawny Ellis and Craig Berenson is anything to go by.
Up next are a series of featurettes starting with Pure Venom: The Making Of Snakes On A Plane (18:00) which features some fun behind the scenes footage and interviews with most of the crew members as well as the writers and some of the cast members. They explain where the idea came from and how the project came together as well as how Jackson came on board. Jackson himself talks about his character and what he liked about the movie while a lot of the other actors talk about what it was like working with him and what it was like working with snakes. It's fairly generic and self congratulatory as far as documentaries go but there are also some refreshingly honest moments like when they discuss how they tried to work in a lot of pop culture with some of the characters, the rapper specifically. The behind the scenes footage that concentrates on the effects and how they accomplished them is pretty interesting as are the all too brief instances where we see some of the production art. We see how some of the CGI was used and how many of the scenes with the snakes in them were shot.
The second featurette is called Meet The Reptiles (12:56) and, as you could probably gather from the title, it's a segment where most of the people who were in the first featurette show up again to talk about snakes. Jackson, Shaye and a few of the others discuss the unpredictability of working with snakes and how they were incorporated into the movie. It's not a big time science piece, but it is fairly interesting. This is followed by a VFX Featurette (5:00) that shows us how big a role computer animation played in creating the interaction between the actors and the snakes that we see in the film. There's some interesting behind the scenes and raw animation footage in here that makes it worth a look.
Up next is Snakes On A Blog (10:00) and it examines the internet buzz that propelled the film long before it was even seen by any one. There are some great clips here of the fan films that were made around the time that the hype was peaking and this does a great job of documenting how it all spiraled out of control starting with a mention on Ain't It Cool News. There's some fun fan art in here as well as footage from the premiere and the blogger after party that New Line held.
Rounding out the extra features on the disc are a music video (complete with an optional making of documentary that runs roughly five-minutes), a soundtrack info text screen, five TV spots and two original theatrical trailers for the film, trailers for other New Line DVD releases, animated menus and chapter stops. For the DVD-Rom equipped, New Line has also supplied the disc with some 'Interactual' content that allows you to watch the movie with some interactive content and which features some exclusive web links. There's also an Easter Egg found in the TV Spots section that plays a mock airline safety warning.Final Thoughts:
As goofy as the movie is, it's difficult to not have at least some fun with it. Samuel L. Jackson carries the picture well and the concept itself is stupid enough to work even if it probably shouldn't. New Line has done a pretty impressive job on both the audio and the video presentation for the movie and they've assembled a very nice selection of extra features as well. Snakes On A Plane comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.