Sunday, August 20, 2006

Why'd It Have to Be Snakes?

Jones (Harrison Ford):
“There's a big snake in the plane, Jock!”
“Aw, that's just my pet snake Reggie.”
“I hate snakes, Jock! I hate 'em!”
“Come on, show a little backbone, will ya?”

from Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981

Alright, so, before my last flight out to the States, I kind of developed a slight fear of flying. It wasn’t because it had been so long since I’d flown – a little over six months before, I’d flown from Tel Aviv to Cairo and back to Tel Aviv with family…no problems. A little over a year before that, I’d flown from Tel Aviv to Paris and back to Tel Aviv…no problems.

Naturally, once actually on the plane and up in the air I was fine – I will admit, a little nervous – but fine. By the time I’d made my connection in Vienna and was on my way to JFK, it was all good. Obviously, compared to the dread I’d felt before, this was an improvement. Maybe it was actually the fearing of the unknown after the flight that got me – I don’t know. I do know that on the flight from New York to Vienna on my return leg to Israel, I was more worried about having free time in Vienna than anything else. Really.

An hour or so ago, I walked out of a movie theater in Jerusalem having seen a movie that just a few days before, I’d initially had no intention of seeing…at least not in a movie theater. And not because I was afraid of a plane flight.

The movie was Snakes on a Plane.

Now, I have to admit, not only was I impressed with the movie, but with the audience too. The atmosphere made it better – there wasn’t a huge crowd, but it was lively. The theater had people cheering, screeching, and laughing at all the right times….and at all the times that were so wrong, they were right. And Samuel L. Jackson was, well…he was the badass you’d expect him to be in a movie like this. Well, a movie with the title Snakes on a Plane, anyway.

What had turned me off at first to the movie? I think it was the hype surrounding it...and the name. It just seemed so overblown, so…I dunno, dumb. But Samuel L. Jackson was to be the saving grace. When I heard a quote from Samuel L., stating there was no way in hell he’d make a movie like this if it was going to turn out to be crappy or stupid, well…I trusted him. Despite playing a lackluster Mace Windu in the lackluster – though still somewhat entertaining – Star Wars prequel series, I trusted Mr. Jackson.

“Well that's good news: Snakes on crack.”

Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson), Snakes on a Plane

It was a snap decision that led me to go see Snakes on a Plane. I shelled out 35 shekels to see a movie on a Sunday night that, on the Thursday before, I’d been totally against seeing. Well, okay – not totally against. Maybe it was just a façade. Maybe I always wanted to see Snakes on a Plane. In any case, I’d looked up movie times before I left work today and decided on the train ride back to Jerusalem that…I was going to go see it.

What I got was not simply Snakes on a Plane, but “Die Hard: Snakes on a Plane”…with one of the co-stars of Die Hard with a Vengeance taking the cynical, snappy, “typical” hard-nosed hero Bruce Willis role. Or, to pay respects to another Samuel L. Jackson movie, it was a scaled-down Jurassic Park, with the creatures attacking innocents not on an island off the coast of Costa Rica, but on an airplane flying from Hawaii to Los Angeles. It’s Alien brought down to Earth.

What I got was – a snake in a lavatory attacking a female breast…fully bared (Yessssssssssss!). A snake attacking a…place that should make any guy cringe and grab it out of an instinct of protection when he thinks of it. The movie’s got snakes in the cockpit. Snakes in the cargo hold. Snakes slithering around the cabin, slithering up dresses, and down and around those yellow emergency oxygen masks that pop out from the compartment above you if necessary.

And, sitting in that dark theater, I got the laugh I expected when Samuel L. Jackson, expressing his righteous frustration, delivers a line to remember (which got a strong round of applause in the audience right afterward – we’d all heard about, and waited, for it):

“That's it! I have HAD it with these MOTHERFUCKING snakes on this MOTHERFUCKING plane! God Damn It! Everyone strap in! I'm going to open some fuckin' windows!”

Now, there is another reason to see this movie if you can handle the blood, the gore, and lest I forget, the sheer fun – you’ll get a look at one special kind of “post-9/11 disaster-horror situation involving a plane” movie.

A few months ago, back in Tucson, I saw United 93 with my best friends Jon and Chris. We knew how that movie was going to end before we went to go see it – the people on board learn about what’s going on elsewhere in the world, and decide to take on the hijackers. The end result was tragic, but heroic. Of course, you can probably guess how Snakes on a Plane ends. Even so, getting there is fun. And while Snakes on a Plane is a less noble, or less inspiring, example of heroism than taking on Islamic terrorists, it still has a message.

Think about it: Hostile forces – poisonous snakes hopped up on pheromones – take over an aircraft, and it is up to those innocent passengers who survive the first attacks to continue to survive throughout the rest of the flight, to overcome a sense of helplessness in order to take back control of the plane from those murderous hostile forces, and then, after all that, to land the plane safely (the pilots, of course, having unfortunately met the fate that movies of this kind demand for them). Doing all this successfully involves teamwork and trust between people of many different backgrounds, and not a small amount of good, old-fashioned bravery too.

Even after seeing this, I’m still looking forward to my next plane flight. Sans snakes, of course.

To be honest, I liked Snakes on a Plane more than any other movie I’ve seen this year.

It’s no United 93. It’s no World Trade Center. But neither is it Airplane.

It works, especially the part with the snake on a boob.

“It's my job to handle life and death situations on a daily basis. It's what I do, and I'm very good at it. Now you can stand there and be the panicked, angry mob and blame him, me, and the government for getting you into this, but if you want to survive tonight, you need to save your energy and start working together.”

Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson), Snakes on a Plane


Cobra Starship - "Snakes on A Plane (Bring It)" music video

(click once or twice to play, depending on your browser)

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