Pacific Air Flight 121: The Increasingly Bizarre Problem Of Snakes On Planes

Well, it's finally here. After months of hype, a few creepy phone calls, and hundreds of articles written by befuddled reporters who use words like "blogosphere" and speak of the Internet culture with both the barely repressed fear and arrogant inaccuracy that seems common among the elderly, Snakes on a Plane is hitting theaters this Friday. And I, for one, can't quite believe it's happening. I barely know where to begin: • The film itself is the kind of ludicrously plotted pulp that should only really exist within other films as a mild dig at the industry. Think of the cheesy adventure script Julia Roberts' character had to learn in Notting Hill. Samuel L. Jackson as a cop fighting killer snakes on a jetliner? This can't be real. • But it is real, which is the exact hell of the situation. It's like a metafictional glimpse of lowbrow American culture come to life, which if you think about it is pretty frightening. • It's one thing for a bad film to take itself seriously and, in so doing, become a cult classic. This is the Red Dawn Theorem, in which a film that is in no way good becomes liked and accepted for its inherent crappiness. Although it's not quite accurate to say that people like these films; really, they "like" them. The first would be weird, and display a definite lack of taste, but the second is defined by ironic distance and posturing in regard to the film itself. (See "Saved by the Bell" and its effects on my generation for further proof, namely, that a show can totally suck and still act as a valid cultural reference point, e.g., saying that someone has a "Zack Morris phone"). • But Snakes on a Plane isn't taking itself seriously, and yet also wants badly to be a thrilling action film. How can you like a crappy movie for being crappy if the movie is in on the joke? • You can't. • The film is a result of Internet culture, but it marks one of the few times that the online crowd, usually so wary of ads and fakery, allowed themselves to be played. Studios do not want you to be happy; they want your money. If you get happy along the way, then enjoy it, but the bottom line is cash, not creativity. New Line simply took this to new heights by utilizing input from online fans to craft the movie, even going so far as to insert specific lines of dialogue suggested by fans into the final cut. This might seem to be catering to the masses, but it's really the most shameless attempt in film history to earn a quick buck. Instead of making what they hope is an entertaining movie, the studio let the fans participate in the reasonable hopes that those fans will turn out in droves to see the story they "created." • This is why there's nowhere for the film to go but far, far down. I've already heard Jackson say, "I'm tired of these motherf***ing snakes on this motherf***ing plane!" When that moment arrives in the film, people will probably cheer, but for the wrong reasons. It won't be a moment of sublimely cheesy filmmaking, but a chance to see just how far some studios will go to create a successful film. • The film will either (a) live up to its hype, which will mean that the film itself offers nothing more than the hipsterish humor of simultaneously hating and loving something that we've all pretty much experienced plenty of by this point; or (b) the film will actually suck, in which case it will be remembered as a thriller that wanted to be bad and joked about being bad but actually turned out to be genuinely bad, and not so bad-it's-funny, but so-bad-it's-painful. Either way, no good can come of the film's actual release. Ultimately, you can't plan the kind of fluke that Snakes on a Plane is intent on becoming.