And other deadly snakes
David R Ellis
“Determined to kill a witness before he flies to the mainland, a vicious gangster fills his flight with venomous snakes drugged with a pheromone that drives them into a deadly fury. Thankfully for the plane’s passengers, FBI Agent Neville Flynn is on-board and he has had enough of those snakes.”
- Samuel L Jackson – Agent Neville Flynn
- Nathan Phillips – Sean Jones
- Julianna Margulies – Claire Miller
- Bobby Cannavale – Agent Hank Harris
- Rachel Blanchard – Mercedes
- Flex Alexander – Three G’s
- Kenan Thompson – Troy
- Lin Shaye – Grace
- Terry Chen – Chen Leong
- David Koechmer – Rick
- Taylor Kitsch – Kyle ‘Crocodile’ Cho
- Deep Blue Sea – Samuel L Jackson
- Jurassic Park – Samuel L Jackson
- Big Ass Spider – Lin Shaye
- Piranha 3DD – David Koechner
- Shark Night 3D – David R Ellis
- The Cabin in the Woods – Terry Chen
Before there was Sharknado. Before there was Sharktopus. There was Snakes on a Plane; theatrically released, internet hyped and with a $33m budget and Samuel L Jackson before he was in everything.
In many ways Snakes on a Plane is the true forefather of the modern day novelty creature feature and certainly is responsible for the trend of coming up with a title first and then making the movie around it (looking at you Sharktopus…).
One of the many ways to judge a film’s quality is to evaluate whether or not the film delivers on its premise and if that was the case here then Snakes on a Plane would be getting a 10/10 review because:
- There are Snakes
- They are on the Plane
And not in the crappy Boa vs Python or Jason in Manhattan kind of way, within 25 minutes of the opening title the plane is airborne and the snakes have been unleashed! The recipe for success with creature features generally contains three elements: a crazy premise, inventive kills and serious performances. And SoaP plays out like the makers were reading straight from the recipe book.
After its fairly dull opening with plenty of scenery chewing from the main villain, the film quickly picks up when we get introduced to our cast of passengers and we get to see them interact on the plane. To its credit, SoaP never lets up once the snakes are released constantly throwing obstacle after obstacle at the passengers as though fate itself wants them to die.
The variety of snakes and snake kills included are terrific with passengers being bitten everywhere (no private part is left untouched) and a body count that hits the double figures within ease. The variety of the snake kills and the zaniness of the action are just what make this film so damn entertaining.
Technically speaking, the script is a tad haphazard bouncing from melodrama to cliché to epic one-liners, the direction is pretty basic and the special effects are at best iffy with the decision to frequently use real snakes making the CGI snakes look even worse. However, by creature feature standards the snakes, on the whole, still look pretty good and the CGI plane doesn’t look too bad. There are no relatable characters in the film and nobody receives enough development to get attached to, instead they rely on cheap heartstrings pulling moments such as sacrificing one’s life for a baby but that’s not to say that a few of the passengers don’t receive character arcs (Three G’s being the most prominent example).
Whilst he’s not putting in his full effort, Samuel L Jackson makes for a great hero as Agent Flynn. His character isn’t particularly deep, complex or even original but Jackson brings across enough of his own attitude to give Flynn some personality. Nathan Phillips gets a slightly worse deal in the character department as the main character, Sean. It’s his job to spend the entire film wincing like a lost puppy as every situation he is in makes him uncomfortable and feel out of his depth. Julianna Margulies is the real star of the show here as she plays head stewardess, Claire, who manages to perfectly balance being some flirty sexual tension for Agent Flynn and then serious and focussed when the shit hits the fan. Bobby Cannavale turns up as the FBI’s man on the ground, hunting down anti-venoms and Kenan Thompson brings all the amicability that I remember from my childhood to his role as Troy, Three G’s bodyguard and man-of-the-hour come the finale.
The supporting cast all do a fair job of playing out their stereotypes. Rachel Blanchard as Mercedes, the bimbo with her handbag Chihuahua, Mary Kate; Flex Alexander as self-obsessed Rapper, Three G’s; Lin Shaye as the stewardess Grace on her last flight before retirement; Terry Chen as Asian martial arts champion, Chen Leong and even Taylor Kitsch (Gambit from X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as mile high club rule-breaker, Kyle.
Of them though, David Koechner is the clear stand-out as the hilarious, one-liner packing, manly-man co-pilot, Rick. Koechner works best in small doses, such as in Final Destination 5 or Piranha 3DD and here, he stands as in an otherwise average cast.
It’s easy to scoff at Snakes on a Plane with its lack of commercial success, the terrible Cobra Starship theme song and the monkey-see monkey-do title but it has proven the test of time. Nearly a decade on, SoaP still raises smiles and its legacy of novelty creature features with outrageous scenarios and I believe that says all that needs to be said. Without SoaP the landscape for creature features would be unrecognisable compared to what it is today, especially in regards to theatrical releases such as Piranha 3D, Bait 3D & Ellis’ own Shark Night 3D.
“Enough is enough! I’ve had it with these motherf**king snakes on this motherf**king plane! Everybody strap in, I’m opening some f**king windows!”