Tuesday, August 22, 2006
It's late Thursday night at the UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas.
USHER: This line is for Snakes on a Plane '
Seeing a crowd forming, I decide to ask Sandy Laidlow why she's lining up for a film with the ridiculous title of Snakes on a Plane ?
SANDY LAIDLOW: Well my friend Samuel called me this afternoon.
PHONE CALL: This is Samuel L. Jackson, I'm here today to make sure you see a movie that holds a special place in my heart that's right I'm talking about Snakes on a Plane .
SANDY LAIDLOW: It's a promo call from Samuel Jackson for Snakes on a Plane , I sent the promo to my mother and she said oh my god I thought you were being kidnapped that man sounded a little irate.
PHONE CALL: Go see Snakes on a Plane . It's simple, do as I say and you live. You don't wanna mess with me on this one because I will come after you.
DORA NIGHTHART: We sent it around to like ten different people.
Sandy and her friend Dora tell ten of their friends, and then they tell ten of their friends, and that's how you generate Internet buzz for a film with a silly, parody-provoking premise.
CLIP Ladies and gentlemen welcome to South Pacific Air flight 121. Please pay close attention to the screen for these brief safety instructions, which may be useful in the very unlikely event of snakes on a plane'
Snakes on a Plane . The simple absurdity of the title was enough to get actor Samuel L. Jackson to sign on without even seeing a script. When New Line Cinema tried to change the name to the conventional sounding Pacific Air 121 , Jackson objected and Internet support for the original title suddenly began to swell. That was about a year ago says David Waldon author of the book Snakes on a Plane: The Guide to the Internet Sssssssensation .
DAVID WALDON: (2113) This was a book about the reaction to a movie that no one had seen yet.
The film title that had hooked Jackson also won over fans that launched sites like snakesonablog.com. Waldon chronicles the slithering online activity in his book. He says it was simply a 'perfect storm of a movie situation.'
DAVID WALDON: (1304) There are over five million hits on Google for the phrase 'snakes on a plane,' and it will grow. It's the ultimate viral marketing.
At a press conference, Jackson took delight in the online creativity.
SAMUEL L. JACKSON: They are making their own posters and look they're making their own video, oh wow they are making their own trailer, oh my god they're making up songs it keeps growing' people are very savvy about making movies and movie marketing and what they want to see'
And David Waldron says New Line executives have actually been listening.
DAVID WALDON: (0541) They went back in March and did the five days of re-shoots based in large part on what the fans had told them they wanted to see in the movie. That's when we entered into entirely new territory.
The basic premise for the film never changed: mobsters try to off a witness flying from Hawaii to the mainland, and Samuel L. Jackson plays the FBI agent sent to protect him.
CLIP: Jackson: You know all those damn security scenarios we ran? Well I'm smack in the middle of one we didn't think of...
That's right, no one anticipated' snakes on a plane. What did change, though, was specific content. The film went from PG-13 to R, as the studio added the fan requested sex, gore and raunchy language. 91X's Chris Cantori was at the UltraStar Mission Valley to host the first San Diego screening of the film.
CHRIS CANTORI: The appeal? The curse words.
WILLIAM BRIAN SPRAYBERRY: Can I say the f word?
That's William Brian Sprayberry asking to cite the line that fans demanded'and ultimately got'Jackson to utter in the film.
WILLIAM BRIAN SPRAYBERRY: I'm tired of these mother----ing snakes on this mother----ing plane.
EMILY RAUBER: We wanted a certain line, so they went back and edited it in.
Emily Rauber was one of the first to buy a ticket for the film.
EMILY RAUBER: So I think this is a movie for fans.
Jackson acknowledged that fan contribution at last month's Comic-Con in San Diego.
SAMUEL L. JACKSON: Thank you all for making this possible because without you we would not be here.
DAVID WALDON: (0906) I think they do feel a little bit of ownership to this.
Author David Waldon.
DAVID WALDON: And pride that they have been listened to and that they have had a part in cinematic history.
That's why New Line decided not to screen the film for critics. Fans made the film into a phenomenon so it was only right to let the fans be the first to see it. Critics, in this case, are entirely irrelevant. For Emily Rauber, it's also irrelevant if the film's good or bad.
EMILY RAUBER: We're here for the event not the cinematic experience.
Although one filmgoer left proclaiming the film the worst he'd ever seen, Rauber was more forgiving.
EMILY RAUBER: I was never bored and they had the most inventive snakebites in certain places that I've never seen before. [laughter]
MAN: The best bite is when the f---ing python ate the puppy.
Okay. This isn't high art. But when the film embraces its cheesiness as in its inventive snake attacks, it achieves campy fun. It just fails at more mundane things like plot, character and dialogue. Maybe Samuel L. Jackson puts it best:
SAMUEL L. JACKSON: Everything's not made to win an academy award.
For KPBS, I'm Beth Accomando.
MUSIC Snakes on a Plane end song
Snakes on a Plane is rated R for nudity, language and violence.
Companion viewing: Sssssss, Anaconda, Venom, Venomous, Stanley, Cult of the Cobra -----