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Snakes on a Plane

New Line // R // September 29, 2009 // Region 0
List Price: $28.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted October 11, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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I'll say this: the movie's definitely set on a plane, and there are a who-o-o-o-ole helluva lot of snakes on it.

That's kind of the brilliance of Snakes on a Plane; I could pretty much cut this review off at the title, and that'd tell you absolutely everything you need to know. Yeah, there's a whole thing with a surfer type witnessing a prosecutor being butchered by a crime kingpin in Hawaii, and it's up to FBI agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) to shuttle the kid off to sunny California to take the stand in one piece. Agent Flynn took all the right precautions, but the badniks are still able to cram a few thousand pissed-off snakes onto the cargo bay, and...yeah. Snakes. Plane. The smart money says you can connect the rest of the dots from there.

I was one of those guys: y'know, obsessed with the concept from the instant I first read about it on Josh Friedman's blog...bought one of those bootleg Snakes on a Plane shirts....the whole thing. Even with that wide-eyed anticipation and all, I hafta admit that I...kinda hated Snakes on a Plane back when it was making the rounds in theaters. It felt like it took waaaaaaaaay too long -- that's nine "a"s worth! -- to get to any muthafuckin' snakes on a muthafuckin' plane. It dragged on forever setting up the unhinged-gangster-kingpin subplot that could've been nicked from any of a couple hundred direct-to-video Jean Claude Van Damme flicks, and if I clenched my fists and tried really, really hard, maybe I could've cared a little less about the red shirts' stabs at characterization. Okay, okay, we're twiddling our thumbs in the airport. Shove all those guys on the plane! C'mon, hurry up and cram it full with a few thousand snakes already!

Watching it again now, though...? Snakes on a Plane doesn't drag on at all. Sure, I do still think it could lose somewhere between twenty and twenty-five minutes and maybe wind up playing even better, but I had an inhuman amount of fun with Snakes... with this second pass. What's not to like? You're lookin' at:
  • Sam Jackson going after a snake with a spear gun.
  • Sam Jackson pan-searing those writhing little bastards with a homemade flamethrower.
  • Sam Jackson frickin' tasing snakes.
  • The first attack in the movie is a Mile High
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    Club thing where a snake latches onto some busty blonde bimbo's boob.
  • A guy's just trying to drain his one-eyed snake and winds up with the two-eyed variety chomping into it, so he screams, "Get off my dick! Get off my dick!"
  • One snake leaps out of the air-mask-recepticle-thingie.
  • Another snake darts out of a barf bag.
  • Oh, and one snake wriggles up a dumpy middle-aged broad's muumuu, writhes around for a while to do a little low-key When Harry Met Sally... thing, and then carves a path clean through her eyesocket.
  • A 350 lb. python opens wide and starts swallowing one obnoxious prick whole.
  • Green-tinted snake-o-vision.
  • An all-star cast including that girl from Clueless (the TV show, not the...yeah), the other dude from Good Burger, Julianna Margulies, who seems way too old to be reshuffling from flight attendent to a lawyer now,! Even Tim Riggins.
So where am I going with all of this? Clearly, Snakes on a Plane is the most amazing movie ever. Okay, that's obviously not true. (As if anything could ever hope to top Leprechaun 4: In Space.) The flick delivers exactly what it promises, though: Sam Jackson kicking snake-ass 30,000 feet up. It's big, dumb, and unapologetically campy fun. You're either onboard with it or you're not, so...give the title another onceover, and that's your review. Me...? Recommended.

Nice. New Line has a kinda nasty habit of dredging their catalog titles through excessive noise reduction and then awkwardly oversharpening 'em, and pretty much everything with their logo stamped on it winds up looking artificially processed as a result. Snakes on a Plane, though...? They've more or less left it as-is, and I guess that worked out 'cause the flick looks great in high-def. The scope image is ridiculously crisp and detailed, and it's packing a solid sense of depth and dimensionality while it's at it. Snakes on a Plane opts for an extremely bright and vivid palette, not just on the sunny shores of Hawaii but even once the movie lugs its cameras inside the plane as well. The gritty texture of the film grain is crisply defined and doesn't look as if any of it's been digitally smeared away at all. There's really not much for me to grouse about here. Contrast looks kinda murky in a few scattered shots early on, and there was one downward pan where the compression of the film grain doesn't seem altogether stable. Otherwise, this looks pretty much perfect to me.

Snakes on a Plane is served up on a single layer platter, and the 2.39:1 image has been compressed with VC-1.

It doesn't have the capital-letters-BIG theatrical sound I'd kinda expect so much, no, but Snakes on a Plane is still lugging around a solid Dolby TrueHD track. The surrounds are kept pretty active, what with all the slithering snakes, whizzing bullets, and random chatter and clinking and clanking inside the plane. The low-end doesn't rattle the room but is still healthy enough just the same, from the rattle of a turbulent storm all the way to the meaty thud of a 350 lb. Burmese python dropping to the ground. All of the sound effects, dialogue, and snippets of music are consistently rendered cleanly and clearly. I was expecting it all to snarl with a little more ferocity, sure, but the lossless audio still sounds nice enough.

There aren't any other audio options this time around, but optional English subtitles (SDH) have been piled on here for anyone who needs 'em.

Neat: a handful of high-def extras on a catalog title. You don't see that all that much these days.
  • Audio Commentary: Snakes on a
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    's commentary crams Samuel L. Jackson, director David R. Ellis, producer Craig Berenson, associate producer Tawny Ellis, visual effects supervisor Erik Henry, and 2nd unit director Freddie Hice into the recording booth, and it's as quippy and energetic as you'd expect out of a track with six people gabbing about an unapologetically B-flick. I especially dug the introductory stuff -- how MTV had originally gobbled up the rights, swapping titles and directors, and lining up the cast -- and they're not shy about diving into some of these stories at length either, such as picking up a prosthetic limp dick at a porn shop in Tinseltown. Other highlights...? You can apparently torture Canadian stuntmen a lot more than their counterparts stateside, they marvel at Samuel L. Jackson's racket on the golf course, they delve into the reshoots that cranked Snakes... up from a PG-13 to an R, and they even point out a few hiccups in the effects and editing. The energy eases down as the movie breezes further and further along, but I had a lot of fun with this track anyway and would definitely say it's worth a listen.

  • Deleted and Extended Scenes (12 min.; SD): There are ten scenes in this reel, but the extensions are all pretty light: a little more T&A along with a few seconds more of writhing and brawling, but it's mostly extra snippets of dialogue and characterization. Both of the Ellises and producer Craig Berenson tack on optional commentary, and that's more interesting than the footage itself, really, from the ins and outs of an orgasm-snake to a pretty amazing story about a homeless lapdog.

  • Pure Venom: The Making of Snakes on a Plane (18 min.; HD): This behind-the-scenes featurette tears through pretty much everything: the way the title of the flick combines a couple of all-too-common fears, trying to keep the movie visually compelling even inside the cramped confines of a plane, the design of of the aircraft set and the hydraulic rig that rocks and rolls it around, dropping 450 slithering snakes onto the set, and why so many of the critters were created digitally, exactly. If you've dug into the commentary track, you'll already have heard most of these talking points, but otherwise, it's a solid, high-level look at what went into putting Snakes on a Plane together.

  • Meet the Reptiles (13 min.; SD): Jules Sylvester, the movie's resident snake wrangler, shows off a gaggle of the writhing little critters featured throughout the flick, and he also touches on how he tried to guide such untrainable creatures to hit their marks, passing off non-venomous snakes for the more lethal variety, and even the proper way to handle a snake.

  • VFX (5 min.; SD): Hey, where's the witty featurette title this time around? Anyway, "VFX" pals around with the guys at CafeFX that fielded a
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    bunch of the compositing along with the creation of the digital snakes, and they guide viewers through an overview of every step of the process.

  • Snakes on a Blog (10 min.; HD): This Blu-ray disc's other high-def featurette takes a peek at the frenzied hype that swirled around the movie online, from fansites to homebrew trailers to music videos to knockoff t-shirts (and I bought one of 'em a few years back, as if anyone cares). The webmasters of a few of these sites score some facetime, and the featurette follows 'em at the movie's premiere and even an all-blogger afterparty. The business end of all this is tackled as well, including New Line's stabs at capitalizing on all that momentum online and how bloggers influenced the reshoots that knocked Snakes... up to an R rating.

  • Snakes on a Video (3 min.; HD): The music video for Cobra Starship's "Snakes on a Plane" is served up here in high-def.

  • Making of the Music Video (9 min.; SD): Along with oodles of behind the scenes shots, this making-of featurette touches on how the "Snakes on a Plane" video was pitched, piling together a supergroup of Fueled by Ramen all-stars, the unconventionally international recording process, and snagging Sam Jackson for a quick cameo. It ends by, um, playing the music video again, this time in 480i only.

  • Gag Reel (5 min.; SD): Along with the usual clowning around and fumbling with props, Snakes on a Plane's gag reel also serves up an A.C. dance party. Whee!

  • Trailers and TV Spots (6 min.; SD): Last up are a couple stacks of teasers, trailers, and TV spots, all of which are belted out in standard-def.

The Final Word
Yeah, Snakes on a Plane is exactly the sort of hypercampy B-flick you think it is. If you spotted the title in big, bold letters and made it all the way down to this point in the review...? Recommended.
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