The Samuel Jackson flick Snakes on a Plane will hit theaters everywhere tomorrow with perhaps more internet hype and a longer Wikipedia article than any new release in history. It’s also most likely the only film to inspire spinoffs before even reaching the viewing public, including–but not limited to–SoaP Sudoku, the prequel Snakes on a Biplane, two TV sitcoms, and the straight-to-video Snakes on a Train. Unable to contain his curiosity, Bwog correspondent John Shekitka picked up the book version, and has this review. Warning: spoilers abound!
Are you afraid of snakes? Afraid of planes? How about Snakes On a Plane? Want to hear the only thing more terrifying than this deadly combination? Its novelization!
Christina Faust, who also committed to paper Final Destination 3, has managed to craft this 400-page one-trick pony into an engaging read. Fortunately, Ms. Faust seems to understand that the plot just serves as one long prologue for the main event: snakes killing people on a plane. Character sketches will serve as the appetizer. Fanged carnage will be the entrée.
The plot is classically B-movie: a surfer dude in Hawaii finds himself sole witness to a cadre of Korean Mafioso types beating the crap out of a District Attorney with a bat. Enter FBI Agent Neville Flynn, Samuel L. Jackson’s character in the film version. In a pitfall of the medium, the paperback fails to fully convey Flynn’s ass-kicking aspect, leaving me to envision a huge bald-headed black guy with a Jedi cloak and purple lightsaber.
Since the Koreans are on to the surfer dude, Flynn must protect the witness by sending a decoy flight back to a trial on the mainland while he takes the surfer dude on Pacific Air Flight 121. A flight which—are you beginning to see where this is going?—proves to be infested with a menagerie of rare and deadly snakes.
That’s really the lynchpin of the story. But one improbable plot twist does not a novel make, and here Faust launches into filler: 150 pages of interesting yet generally irrelevant character sketches. The Prada-wearing Paris Hilton type, the pregnant girl, the two little boys flying alone for the first time, the rapper and closeted obsessive compulsive, all receive similar treatment. Perhaps the best of the lot is a psychic who has visions of snakes on the plane, and—like Laocoon and the Trojan Horse—warns of the vessel’s deadly cargo.
After the snakes are released, bloodshed and stragulation ensue. I imagine that scenes of panic will compose most of the film, for those of us who enjoy the incongruity of dying at the hands—coils?—of wild animals on something so inorganic as an aircraft. For comedic effect, the germophobic rapper, unable to locate his hand sanitizer, flips out and threatens to shoot everyone.
Here, we run across the book’s fundamental tension: Snakes’ plot is meant to be taken seriously, but because of its sheer outlandishness, the narrative comes closer to veering off towards absurdity. Ms. Faust constantly asks us to accept that there will be snakes on this plane, but even the passengers seem to understand the unbelievable irony of the situation, constantly trying to get over the reality that confronts them. Perhaps that’s why Jackson, the film’s consistent champion, fiercely fought an attempt to rename the movie “Pacific Air Flight 121”—it’s just really all about putting snakes on a plane and imagining what might happen.
Nevertheless, for a concept that so far has only delivered us a catchy title and a sweet movie logo reminiscent of Double Dragon, Snakes on a Plane does not disappoint. The plot is completely tolerable, the character development adequate, and the whole dish is really just a more absurd version of Air Force One. Still, after two hours of watching snakes on a plane, I cannot help but wondering if I too will have—in the phrase uttered across the blogosphere–“had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane.”