Why I'm not going to see Snakes on a Plane

It was long ago when I first heard of Snakes on a Plane, that movie that I’m sure you all know about because of the cult following it has already gained throughout the internet. When I found out about it, I couldn’t wait to see it. It just sounded so… bad! A typical example of the sort of idiocy Hollywood has been shoveling for decades.

But now I have decided that I can’t see this movie. It’s become an intentional mockery of itself, for no purpose other than profit. When I see the trailers now I can’t help but see behind the screen all that is wrong with the studio system of film production, and with the Web 2.0 mobocracy.

Here’s what happened to get this movie where it is today: Some brainless money-machine in a development department somewhere discovers that there’s never been a movie about a terrorist plot involving snakes. So he calls up his buddies and tells them they’re going to make a killing if they can get an A-list celebrity to star. They send a treatment over to a screenwriting factory farm, which churns out a rough draft in five days. The script gets sent out to a few A-list agents. Most of them throw it away, or the actors do. They’re not idiots. But Samuel L. Jackson, tired of taking himself so seriously and wishing to relive his glory days of being eaten by a shark, signs on for a lark. The movie takes two weeks to shoot, and another two to edit. It’s in the can by Easter. In the meantime, someone somewhere has leaked that Sam Jackson is working on a movie called Snakes on a Plane. The blogosphere, full of reclusive Monty Python fans hungry for the absurd and anything to distract them from their intensely unhappy personal lives, goes wild. They start making movie posters and putting fake trailers up on YouTube. The studio gets wind of this while the movie is still in production and tries to change the title to something less idiotic, but that’s stopped when Jackson, who is on this ride to make a REALLY BAD MOVIE, DAMMIT nips that in the bud by threatening to walk off the set. At this point the production’s wall of confidentiality is leaking like a New Orleans levee. Within days everyone knows about Jackson’s power play and the studio is forced to keep the working title.

So far this is all pretty amusing. Here’s where it gets more worrisome:

The studio realizes that there’s no way this movie is going to be taken seriously no matter how they sell it or who they sell it to, so they decide to go in the opposite direction. They cut the effects budget in half so it’s impossible to do anything but cheesy CG, they drop in some intentionally ridiculous dialogue and tell the marketing department to sell it as a bad movie. On the web side of things, Wired has picked up the story and now every single blogger on the internet is just about peeing his pants with excitement for how SUPREMELY BAD this movie is going to be. Not wanting to be left out and trying to appeal to a younger, more-hip demographic, Leno has the production’s snake handler on his show. The technocracy is now in a frenzy and the studio’s marketing department embarks on selling the general public on a bad movie. It’s not really that difficult. They’ve done it before. The blogosphere and the studio marketing department keep fueling each other and the frenzy just keeps getting bigger and bigger. In the business, this is called ‘buzz.’ It’s what sells movie tickets.

Question: What’s so funny about an intentionally bad movie? Discuss.

And it IS intentionally bad. This web buzz has been very successfully controlled by the studio. They quite effectively turned it to their advantage. If they had WANTED to be taken seriously—if they were at ALL genuine in their belief that what they were making was worthy of being made—they would have called up YouTube and made them take down all the phony trailers. They would have marketed the film on a more selective scale. But that way, they wouldn’t have made as much GREEN.

Snakes on a Plane is the product of a sick and decaying system run by cynical investors who don’t give a shit whether or not a movie has any merit or integrity as long as it grosses big on opening weekend. Guess what? They just tricked millions of people into paying millions of dollars to see a bad movie that nobody cares about. NOW who’s the idiot?

We need to seriously re-examine our priorities here. Whatever marketing executive thought this would be a good idea, whatever story developers and executive producers sponsored this project to make a buck, deserve to be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail, deserve to have this film be such a failure that they are ashamed to have it in their filmography. Snakes on a Plane deserves to be a spectacular flop—to bomb on its opening weekend while everyone points and laughs. It should be the next Gigli. Instead, it will turn quite a hefty profit. The development staff behind this Frankenstein monster will proudly flaunt their involvement in the film, and we’ll be seeing dozens more intentionally bad films from Hollywood in the next five years. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to endure that.

In short: Snakes on a Plane has the potential to be the highest-grossing film of the year, if the viral ad campaign doesn’t lose steam soon. What does that say about Hollywood? But more importantly, what does it say about you, the movie-going public? Because to a filmmaker like me, you seem to be saying that you don’t care about quality.

12 thoughts on “Why I'm not going to see Snakes on a Plane

  1. I think you are being too critical. You don’t need to go see it, but you seem too determined to convince others not to. I understand why, and I salute the goal, but calm the fuck down. It is not that big of a deal. A lot of people do a lot of stupid things. If this turns out to be one of them, it is far, far, far less important then many of the stupid things happening right now.

    Why I didn’t see it:
    1. I didn’t have enough money for two movies.
    2. I saw Little Miss Sunshine and laughed every second of it.
    3. There are no mainstream reveiws to be seen. I have heard the hype, but I was not going to give money without knowing more. Despite the hilarious interveiw with Samuel Jackson on the Daily Show. Give me a mainstream reveiws! Least biased as possible! Maybe someone who managed to not hear the hype?

  2. Here’s why I have no intention to calm down about this: I’m going to film school. I’m going WAY into debt to do this and I plan on making films for my livelihood.

    The trend of films such as this (and it IS a trend; if it were just this movie I could forgive it) is a threat to my career. The very existence of independent filmmakers (myself included) relies on a discriminating, intelligent audience–an audience that can tell the difference between a bad movie and a good one.

    If Hollywood continues to put out movies like this one and spends their millions on convincing the movie-going public that it doesn’t MATTER whether or not a movie is good, then film is suddenly no longer an art; it is an assembly-line job. Filmmakers become simple machines. And I might as well be a janitor.

    And if that happens, how the hell do I pay off my student loans without gradually growing to loathe myself?

  3. Hollywood long ago lost its sense of art. There are the occasional films that remind us that this is an art form, but there are many contradicting it. This is a trend with all things. When a thing is made to make money, little regard is given to its quality. However, when someone invests their heart and soul in to a work that they dreamed of, that is when we get our magnificent art.
    As for lack of an intelligent audience, that is life. As long as you think yourself intelligent and have even a shred of proof to defend it, you will likely be disappointed with the majority of people. If you want to change that, movies is not a key aspect. The whole thing has problems to the roots.

  4. I kindof have to agree with Paul. Hollywood is everything wrong with cinema, and this has been a truth as permanent as the cement with the star’s hand prints in it. As for a trend of stupendously bad movies: SOAP is, as far as I’m concerned, a total fluke. If studios come out with another movie in the SOAP spirit, there won’t be a viral campaign because every one will claim its a shitty rip off of SOAP. THAT movie will be the next Gigli, and no one will make another “bad for the sake of bad” movie ever again. As for SOAP’s quality, I can’t say. If it was written by people who were dedicated into making it a parody of modern Hollywood and everything wrong with it, it would be wonderful. What it is now is an accident, driven by fans and Samuel L Jackson.

  5. The problem is that Hollywood has always had some validity and believe it or not, holds in its hands the direction and fate of independent film. Movies without audiences might as well have never been made in the first place, so when Hollywood changes the direction or makeup of an audience, that’s where Indie filmmakers have to go. We don’t have the big marketing bucks to do that ourselves. Indie filmmakers use Hollywood movies as general style guides to keep from going so far “out there” that nobody wants to see the movie.

    Paul, the way capitalism is supposed to work is that when a money transaction takes place, product quality is of the utmost importance. You pay more for better quality. It may sound arrogant of me, but I have to blame the audience for this one.

    Mikhail, I really, REALLY hope that you’re right. But Hollywood has never been one to let a money-making formula slide, and their audience just showed them how much money can be made from a film with no effort put into it. Are the studios really going to let this go? More importantly, will audiences really be smart enough to see through the marketing the second time around if they weren’t the first?

    Here, let me pitch you three intentionally bad movies:

    Christopher Walken in Space: Christopher Walken is a burned-out New York City police detective, recruited by the CIA to infiltrate and destroy a hostile alien spacecraft.

    Hail Mary: William Shatner is a crime-fighting Catholic priest and martial arts master.

    Stupid Movie 1: Taking it a step further, a parody of intentionally bad movies. The plot and characters in this one don’t even matter.

    Are you smart enough not to see these? What about Christopher Walken’s cult following? Or Shatner’s? That’s where you start the marketing virus, and you let it spread through Flickr and YouTube, the same as before.


  6. I never meant to say that the audience if free of blame. They have at least as much as the production people. It is a vicious cylce. When people support stupid things, more stupid things are created. I think there are worse movies out there then Snakes on a Plane. Look at Covenant, that is a shit fest. Constantine? The two Matrices? A lot of stuff by Steven Spielberg, who then balances it out with some down-right good films?
    The problem with Walken, though I love him so, is that he will be in anything. He is in Gigli, after all! He holds some blame for enabling such things, but he is only a part of a huge mess of things. Snakes on a Plane won’t destroy your career. You should be concerned about how stupid people are, and its effects in all aspects of life, not this one movie.

  7. I agree. I’m just saying that Snakes on a Plane is so overtly cynical, money-grubbing and ill-crafted as to turn my stomach.

    I’m not blaming actors. They need to make a living. All actors are essentially talent whores, as are all directors. If I were offered a chance to direct Snakes on a Plane 2: Round-Trip Flight I’d have to take it no matter how reprehensible I found it because… well… it’s a living.

    No; I place the blame for this film squarely on the shoulders of two groups: the bloggers who went gaga over it and all you out there who dropped eight dollars to see it. (I’m talking to YOU, Vygnniyie!)

  8. I’ve just read Brian Carol’s (the Instant Classic guy), who’s opinion on movies I tend to trust completly, and he said it was atrocious.
    There is a gratuitous sex scene. Enough said.

  9. My point exactly. See how I did that? Here’s two new ideas for Hollywood that will make them millions without needing to worry about whether or not they’re actually any good.

    Seriously, is name recognition all it takes? Because if it is, I’m royally screwed.

  10. Hm… All I’ve heard here is “Whine whine whine, bitch moan bitch.” (from Andrew anyway)

    No one is “to blame” because nothing bad happened. They’ve been making horrible movies for years, and the ONLY difference here is that this one accepted that they were already deep into production and might as well go for bank instead of trying to combat the already active hype. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, if YOU were in that position, you’d say, “Hmm, that sucks that our movie is getting blasted, so lets make it to our advantage.”

    And I’m sorry, but for all your need to bitch some more, it doesn’t affect your career because A: You aren’t in that industry yet, and B: There will always be a cult following for independent films. Not to mention the fact that this kind of thing won’t turn into a trend, and even if it did it wouldn’t destroy the foundations of movie making forever.

    And, no, Andrew, people are NOT idiots for seeing a film they are interested in. That kind of statement is what drives people away from independent film because the people that make it are stuck up.

    By the way, I’m gonna see it on DVD, baby. Straight off of bittorrent. I wouldn’t pay to see it, but I won’t pass judgement on anyone who does or the people who made it.

    On a related note (Because I just HAVE to be a dick), when is that uh… ya know…. DVD comming out? Ya know…. the one… about the guy named James and his kookie friends…. ya.

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