Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on January 13th, 2007
Let me tell you something about myself. I am surrounded by hundreds, sometimes thousands, of snakes every day. As I write this review, there are about 500 snakes just a couple hundred feet away. I’m not on a plane, of course, but snakes are a big part of my life. I’m a snake breeder. I’m also a musician who has just released an entire CD of reptile tracks (see footnote). So it was with more than the little bit of curiosity that I just had to see this film. I knew everybody would be asking me what I thought. So what did I think? This film is a hell of a lot of fun. I’ve long since learned to forgive the use of common non-venomous species to play these nasties on screen. These are actors, for crying out loud. And at least Samuel L. Jackson’s worth a ton of jack, so it really wouldn’t be a great idea to place him in a confined space with a pack of cobras or mambas. At least they made some effort to mimic the deadly kinds. I had a little bit of fun trying to see how many species I could identify. Then the game becomes how many of them do I own. Quite a few, as it turns out.
Snakes On A Plane rocks. If you didn’t catch this when it was out, you must at least rent it now. What I love most about this film has almost nothing to do with the snakes. This film pretty much puts it out there. As Jackson is fond of saying, you just know exactly what you’re going to get with the title. There were efforts to tone down the gore and silliness, but Jackson wanted nothing to do with any of that. And so the film is a romp, but it never told you it would be anything more. The same can be said of Jackson himself. When you go to one of his movies, unless George Lucas has anything to do with it, you pretty much know what a screen full of Sam Jackson’s gonna be. The supporting cast is your obvious planeload of stereotypes, but again, this is all what you paid your admission to see. There will be F Bombs littered across the dialogue. His in your face persona will make or break the film, not anything in the script. Lots of guys curse, but Jackson makes the language his own. I often complain in these pages about the use of vulgarity for vulgarity’s sake ruining an otherwise nice film. Here I don’t think there was enough. I first saw the film in a theater and when Jackson delivered his battle cry, the room exploded. Honestly, isn’t that what we all came to see? Snakes? What snakes? Oh, those MF snakes. Got it.
The film does hold a special place in movie history. This is likely the first film almost created on the net. The filmmakers admit that when word of the title leaked onto the internet, it had an impact on the actual creation of the film. Word spread like wildfire based just on the leaked title. I know in my industry everyone was asking, “What have you heard about this Snakes On A Plane movie”. I’m not sure if it’s my film connections or that combined with my reptile industry connections. Whatever the case, an internet industry has sprung up because of this movie. Snakesonablog.com was the first to get national attention, but it has certainly spread. There’s already talk of a sequel. While I’m not sure Jackson and the boys are up to it, I have little doubt there’s going to be millions of lil’ helpers out there to lend a hand – or a pen.
Snakes On A Plane is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This is a pretty sweet transfer. Colors are bright, particularly on the CG snakes. We’re talking a living rainbow of colors and shades. There’s also a tremendous job on contrast and detail. The CG snakes are rich in subtle markings and scale definition. Sure, this is because of good high-end f/x guys and equipment, but credit the transfer for reproducing it all here. Black levels are superb, again bringing out all this rich detail even under low lighting. There is a small amount of digital artifacting and shimmer, but it is minimal enough that with all of this going on you’re not likely to really notice.
There’s a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and a DTS 6.1 track available here. I am reviewing the 5.1 because I believe it is the one most of you are likely to be capable of playing. We’re talking snakes here, after all, so the surrounds by necessity need to be as aggressive as a water moccasin caught under a spiked high heel. Mission accomplished. Slithers and rattles assault you from everywhere at once. If you are creeped out by snakes, you might settle for the 2.0 version, because you will be surrounded by snakes on a plane. Even the subs get a good workout here occasionally. The score can boom, and so can the jet engines. The music video over the credits is especially clean and dynamic.
Samuel L. Jackson and director David Ellis are joined by several members of the production crew for a romping good time audio commentary. This is the closest thing to having this bunch of guys watching the film with you as any commentary I’ve heard so far. They’re not afraid to rip on themselves or the movie itself for that matter. Even if you normally don’t listen to these things, try it for 15 minutes, and I bet you can’t turn it off..
- “Gag Reel” As if the film itself wasn’t one big gag reel, here’s a few gems to extend the good times a little longer.
- “Music Video” You can watch the entire end credits video with or without a 5 minute look at the filming of the piece. It was interesting to me to learn this was really 3 acts coming together to write and perform this song. I like it. It sticks in your head.
- “Deleted Scenes” There are 10 deleted or extended scenes. You have the option of a commentary or not. Most of them really add little, and I can see why they were cut. A couple change the ending somewhat, but I think they provided us with a solid edit job here as is.
- “Pure Venom: The Making Of Snakes On A Plane” This is your typical 18 minute love fest. Jackson loved the rest of the cast and they simply adored him. Beyond that, there are some cool looks behind the camera and plenty of insight into the ideas behind the script.
- “Meet The Reptiles” This piece opens with the obviously false premise that “everybody has some fear of snakes”. Of course, that’s not true. Here you meet Jules Sylvester, who provided the live snakes for the film. He’ll give you a little information about snakes in general and let you meet some of the mimics that portrayed venomous animals on film. A real treat if you have an interest in the real thing.
- “VFX Reptiles” A little of this was in the larger feature, but it’s a great look at how the various venomous snakes were created.
- “Snakes On A Blog” I already mentioned the internet influence on the production of the film. Here you get a look at some of the sites and how they interacted with the film and its production.
Trailers and TV spots finish off a relatively impressive collection of extras. The menus are nicely animated and easy to navigate.
No question this was a movie I was anticipating for a long time. For me Samuel L. Jackson and a plane full of snakes is a good time. The truth is, I ended up liking the film more than I thought I would. There’s nothing groundbreaking here. Hell, most of the film doesn’t even happen on the ground. You just have to see it for yourself. You’ll have a great time. Trust me, I’m an expert. What makes me such an expert? “What’s the first thing I told you?”
Footnote – Check out Gino’s new reptile inspired CD at gesassani.com