It’s been 15 years since Samuel L. Jackson said those immortal words: ‘I have had it with these motherf*cking snakes on this motherf*cking plane.’
There was an idea to bring together a group of somewhat-known people, to see if they could become something more, so when passengers needed them, they could fight the battles they never could.
In 2006, cinemagoers rallied into theatres for ‘perhaps the most internet-hyped film of all time’, as one journalist put it. Snakes on a Plane is still ridiculous, gruesome, B-movie gold.
Said to be inspired by an article about snakes climbing onto planes in cargo during World War II, as well as James Cameron’s Aliens, there’s actually more to its plot than the title (albeit, that’s the only reason you watched it in the first place).
When Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) witnesses a gangland execution in Hawaii, Agent Neville Flynn (Jackson) boards him on a flight to testify in Los Angeles. In a bid to prevent this happening, the crime boss (Byron Lawson) loads the plane with pheromone-buzzed serpents ready to wreak havoc at 40,000ft. Hilariously, he even argues it’s his only option.
The aircraft is chock-full of stereotypes, nasty and lovely: there’s the germophobic rapper (Flex Alexander) and his ‘bodyguards’; a socialite (Rachel Blanchard) and her pet chihuahua; Rick (David Koechner), a good-natured, ultimately sexist co-pilot; and Paul (Gerard Plunkett), an obnoxious businessman who has a cathartic encounter with an anaconda, among many others.
Its gory gags are all low-hanging fruit, whether it’s a couple enjoying the mile-high club or the guy taking a p*ss whose penis gets merc’d by a snake – we laugh, but I’ve never used an aeroplane toilet without feeling slightly nervy ever since. The violence is pretty schlocky too; grisly but comical, with woeful CGI at times.
Ahead of its production, Snakes on a Plane garnered a lot of excitement, particularly with the casting of Jackson. Its title was once changed to Pacific Air Flight 121, but was quickly reverted at the star’s request. ‘We’re totally changing that back. That’s the only reason I took the job: I read the title,’ he earlier said.
While it all started as a bit of a joke, the hype grew to enormous levels, particularly given this was in social media’s infancy. The marketing shifted gears to capitalise on the tone fans were expecting, leaning into Jackson’s iconic line, and the MPAA rating was boosted from a PG-13 to R.
Alas, its release didn’t boast the numbers many expected. It only grossed $62 million off a $33 million budget, and while it wasn’t butchered by critics, it wasn’t necessarily praised as a must-see. Much like Twitter feeling like an echo chamber compared to real life, this was an early case of an ‘internet-only phenomenon’, as Entertainment Weekly wrote.
Nevertheless, it’s managed to establish some sort of legacy, if only for its goofy concept and that one quote. Jackson said it best: ‘No movie shall triumph over Snakes on a Plane. Unless I happen to feel like making a movie called More Motherf*cking Snakes on More Motherf*cking Planes.’
Snakes on a Plane is available to stream on Netflix.
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