High-flying Wit in the Venomous Snake Pit

Originally posted on April 11, 2006. Edited by Nelville Flynn.

So I have been hearing about this movie. It hasn't really excited me at all, but there seems to be considerable hype around it. It has people anxiously looking forward to its release date, particularly in the internet community. It also has completely subverted many of the conventional ideas of the Hollywood movie and has been guided by the audience.

I've whet your appetite, haven't I. You want to know what movie I am talking about? The movie is called Snakes on a Plane. (That is the IMDb page, but you can follow links on the left toolbar to catch a trailer).

Now you are all thinking that this is my attempt to be humourous, as I am attributing such incredible feats to a movie that is clearly stupid and ridiculous. I am not. This movie has indeed changed and challenged the traditional movie-making process.

I began hearing about this movie either in the summer or early fall, hearing that a movie existed called Snakes on a Plane which is exactly as it sounds, about an assassin who releases a bunch of snakes onto a plane to kill one of the passengers. And it stars one of my favourite actors. None other than Samuel L. Jackson. I thought this was ridiculous, chalking it up to a Deep Blue Sea type movie which, while terrible, is interesting to a degree. I am a rather large fan of Deep Blue Sea (I even have it on DVD), even though I know that the plot and acting are generally pretty terrible. I call this a train wreck movie, which is so bad, but you just can't turn away.

Anyways, as time went on, the hype didn't die. It wasn't just something that people were making fun of that week. It had become something more. So, now, many months later, having seen references of it in multiple forums and websites, without doing much research into the topic, I remained confusied. I did not know whether this was a joke movie, a real suspense thriller, or what. So, I decided to ask.

The responses I got told the story of Snakes on a Plane. And I will recant this little story to you.

The Making of... Snakes On A Plane

The buzz around this movie began because people found it rather humourous because the movie pretty much gave the premise in the title of the movie. A ridiculously simple title at that. Apparently it wasn't just movie fans either. Samuel L. Jackson was given the script. He didn't read anything past the title page and said he wanted in. It appears that the title got Jackson excited enough to commit to it, and this subsequently got fans very interested who thought there must really be something to this, beyond the punchline of a joke at some gathering at the local cinema.

Apparently, Snakes on a Plane was just a working title which the studio came up with so that those who were being asked to be a part of it would know the premise of the film. Something like how IMDb will often have movies listed which are called "Untitled ___________ Project." This blank can be filled by the characters name (Superman) or the director's name (David Fincher). Talk eventually came about as to what title the film should actually be released as. The suggestion was "Pacific Flight 117." This never came to be because Jackson was absolutely adamant about leaving the title as it was. It was, after all, the reason he signed on in the first place.

Buzz began to grow regarding Jackson's excitement towards the project as well as the complete stupidity and absurdity of the movie. As buzz continued to grow excitement grew real and people actually began anticipating the movie for not only the ridiculousness, but that it might actually be a fun movie. People began to affectionately refer to the movie by the acronym SoaP.
The studio found out about this buzz and used it to their advantage, essentially catering to this internet crowd. They took ideas from fans to use for the posters. They introduced a contest giving the fans a chance to create the craziest music for the film, which would have the winner used in the soundtrack. The studio even went back to the movie for reshoots to up the rating of the movie from PG13 to R.

Essentially what happened was the that studio, who originally took this movie as a serious venture, saw the reaction towards it was not serious at all, and that it would never be taken seriously. They decided to, instead, take the attitude of the internet buzz which has ultimately made it much bigger and better than it would have ever been otherwise, if promotion would have solely been in the hands of the studio.

I just love what this movie is doing. Democracy in Hollywood film-making? Unheard of. Fans ultimately creating buzz and promotional material rather than fans being made because of these things? Simply strange. This movie has just completely upended the traditional studio film structure. Perhaps Jackson signed on because it would ultimately be a slap in the face of the viewer (as Moulin Rouge was in many ways). But either way, real interest has begun in this strange little movie. And I'm loving it.

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