Snakes fails for the simple reason that it is a terrible, terrible movie.
Simply stated, it’s a movie about snakes on a plane. Originally titled with the generic Pacific Air Flight 121, internet buzz began to build when the movie’s title was changed to the straight-forward, tongue-in-cheek Snakes on a Plane. For more than six months before the August 2006 release, the similarly ridiculous net buzz campaign hit a feverish pace, and New Line couldn’t wait to fan the flame. The thing was, the silly name suggested a similarly silly movie, poking fun at the silly concept of an entire movie about snakes on a plane. But shhh, New Line didn’t want anyone to know the truth. That wasn’t the film they made. No, this is actually supposed to be a legitimate thriller. Pay no attention to the horrible CG snakes. This is scary stuff here.
The plot, if you could call it that, involves something to do with some baddy mafia types attempting to kill off a witness named Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips, whose performance could place in the Razzies “Worst Performance of All Time” category). He’s extreme, man! Jones is being transported to the trial on a flight by a Marshall named Neville Flynn (Sam Jackson). For some completely inane reason, their plan is to release a ton of deadly snakes on the flight that will kill all the passengers. Why do they have to kill so many people when they are after just one, you might ask? Well, these are really, really, really bad guys. That’s why.
Suspecting that they had a huge hit on their hands, New Line went back to re-shoot additional and extended scenes to bump the PG-13 to an R and add more cursing, nudity and violence as well as a few lamely inserted tongue-in-cheek elements. But it’s not enough. Although I can imagine that this might have been a somewhat amusing B-movie experience when viewed in a theater with a crowd and perhaps a certain level of intoxication, watching Snakes on a Plane at home on DVD is an excruciating experience. Even adding a few drinks to the mix didn’t help. I simply couldn’t wait for it to end.
And apparently, America agreed. Although industry predictions had Snakes scoring an opening box office take as high as $40 million, Snakes sputtered into the August 18th, 2006 weekend with a meager $13.8 million, just slightly ahead of another stupid snake movie from 2004, Anacondas: The Hunt For the Blood Orchid. Of course, that movie had a relatively tame marketing campaign and actually wound up taking in over $10 million more than Snakes overall worldwide.
There has been much industry speculation since as to why Snakes failed, but I don’t think it’s any big secret. When Borat succeeded later in the year with a similar net-driven buzz, the question of why Snakes failed and Borat succeeded became a discussion topic. Well, I’ll take a stab here at the answer and suggest that it might be because Borat was a really funny movie that everyone loved and Snakes was a really lousy movie that people didn’t care about. Just a thought.
What’s On the Disc
For the true masochists out there, there’s a nice selection of extras.
It’s worth mentioning that the DVD itself comes packaged in a scaly sleeve. Kinda cool.
Gag Reel - This is a short blooper reel with a few laughs at on set mistakes where people laugh. Standard stuff.
Deleted Scenes – roughly 12 minutes of extra scenes deleted from the theatrical cut. I gotta be honest, I couldn’t bear to sit through these.
Documentaries – Four documentaries highlight various elements of the making of Snakes. They are “Pure Venom: The Making of Snakes on a Plane,” “Meet the Reptiles,” “VFX Featurette” (don’t know that I’d expect to learn too much from these guys, considering how terrible the effects looked) and “Snakes on a Blog.”
Feature Commentary with director David Ellis, Samuel L. Jackson and producers, VFX supervisor and 2nd unit director – This is an amusing enough track with lots of tidbits on the making of the movie. I’ve actually liked David Ellis’ prior two films (Final Destination 2 and Cellular) as fun popcorn entertainment, so it’s hard to say what went sooo wrong here. What’s also amusing about this track is that it was clearly recorded before Snakes was released, because everyone is still talking as if they have a future hit on their hands.
Music Video – Proving that the movie isn’t the worst thing you could see, there’s this awful song by Swedish band The Sounds.
Surprisingly, there’s never a mention that I could find on the DVD of the fact that Snakes was a failure of fairly epic proportions. Sure, it probably didn’t cost a lot and it will make its money back with DVD sales and rentals, but compared to the high expectations, the release of Snakes on a Plane is memorable not for its clever net-driven buzz campaign, but as a cautionary tale. A bad movie in nice packaging is still a bad movie.