August 18th, 2006

Whale fluke

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the snakes...

WARNING FOR FAMILY AND FOR SENSITIVE-EARED PEOPLE: There will be profanity. (To quote Don Geronimo after he once dropped the F-bomb on-air, “Oh, poor Frank. Frank probably didn’t even know I knew that word. I know that word, Frank! I’ve used it on occasion!”)

Oh, man, last night was intense. It was a workout. So that’s what I’d be like at a wrestling match. My throat’s still raspy. Amber at work today was worried I was getting a cold. No; I just had a reaction to WATCHING SAMUEL L. JACKSON PUT THE EVER-LOVIN’ BEATDOWN ON HUNDREDS OF SNAKES.

Snakes on a Plane. Its name has become legend. Its dialogue has been inspired by my beautiful fellow Internet psychos. And a screening room at the Century Eastport became close-to-full last night with film geeks like me. Local radio guys Rick Emerson (AM 970) and Cort and Fatboy (KUFO 101.1) were among our hosts, handing out Snakes on a Plane swag: posters with safety instructions “in the event of snakes on a plane,” T-shirts, ballcaps, quote books; and iron-on decals (“because,” Emerson said, “there’s nothing women want to see more than an ironed-on T-shirt”). I received the safety-instructions poster from one radio guy in a “Porkins is my Co-Pilot” shirt (and that’s beautifully geeky, man), and I had to resist bringing it to my office. (Though I did bring the Entertainment Weekly with Jackson, a snake and a plane on its cover. The power of Sam The Man helped me through a day of recovering from sleep deprivation.)

And then the film started. And was insane. After an opening that makes you think you’re watching something low-rent, like a direct-to-video action flick where the bulk of the budget came from the product placements and where every line is either an attempted quip or Expository Dialogue With A Capitol “Duh,” we see Samuel L. Jackson come to the rescue. And we cheered. Again. (We’d already cheered the title.)

Snakes on a Plane is a disaster film, but doesn’t really look or feel like one until four scenes in, when we arrive at Honolulu Airport and quickly meet the passengers of South Pacific Air Flight 121, a 747 which (unbeknownst to all but the bad guys) also holds boxes of poisonous snakes in the cargo hold. Accept it and go on. OK, you’ll also be expected to accept that someone could smuggle a 16-foot Burmese python into that same hold, but by the time that one makes its big entrance two-thirds of the way through the film, any doubters would’ve stormed out of the theater in disgust while those who’d stayed would watch the python eat. Oh yes, it eats. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So. Anyway. Bunches of potential victims characters, most broadly sketched in typical disaster-film fashion, prepare for the flight. A giant red-displayed countdown (like a radio clock! Or like most every espionage film since the ’60s!) counts down towards the moment the snakes, crazed by a pheromone which makes them think mating-ready females are onboard, begin slithering into our hearts. Teasing close calls abound. People in the bathrooms, um, bite it (sorry, that was bad) in painful ways, in the first parts of the film that got re-shot to change it from PG-13 to a geek-satisfying R (nudity=vulnerable body parts! Woo hoo!). Then the snakes get EVERYWHERE and are on EVERYTHING and are mad at THE WORLD for failing to provide the willing females. And then it’s gruesome snakebite after gruesome snakebite, and thank everything that I don’t have a snake phobia, so that I could laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh…

…oh, and that I could fist-pump. Many times. While shouting “Yeah!” As were many of my fellow geeks. It was an oh-my-God level of energy I last felt when I went to the theater a year ago to see The Aristocrats, when laughs got shocked and pounded out of me, because that film was so extreme and single-minded in its intent. Like Snakes on a Plane.

I had a ludicrously good time at this film. And meanwhile, I surprised myself by often guessing wrong about what the characters would do in this holy-crap-we’re-gonna-die-THAT-way?! situation – I actually thought Mr. Kickboxer Dude would turn out to be a villain, which would make no sense (why would a villain risk life and limb like that? Villains scurry away from dangers like the weasels they are) – as well as how much I got wrapped up in cheering for the flight attendant played by Julianna Margulies.

Julianna Margulies. I like Julianna Margulies. I missed Julianna Margulies. I’d weaned myself off ER before she left it, so I’ve gone several years without seeing her. She’s good. I always knew that, but it’s great to be reminded of what she’s capable of, even when attacking CGI snakes with an axe.

That was the perfect way to see SoaP, with a hyped-up crowd. God knows how it’ll play for civilians who haven’t been wrapped up in the Internet fanbase that sprang up mushroom style (make ’em magic mushrooms!) around the whole concept of – say it with me – “these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!” Will a cry of “Huh?” echo across the land? Or will they be touched by our insanity and feel it, too?

Maybe I’ll care more later. For now, I’ll think back on who (and what) the python ate. And the near-plane crash in the ocean. And the co-pilot’s quips (he even flirts with Julianna Margulies!) while flying one-handed and dying from snakebite. And the explanation of why the snakes are so pissed. And the knowing use of clichés, not out of laziness, but to take some of those clichés to the nth and make them even more beautifully ridiculous.

“Beautifully ridiculous.” Could that be a pull-quote for the ads?