Snakes on a Plane: Pop Culture Synergy

San Diego, Comic-Con–What if New Line is right and “Snakes on a Plane” does belong to the fans And what is the fans are right and “Snakes on a Plane” is the most eagerly-awaited film of the summer (the year). Either way, as the French say, pour le moment, “Snakes on a Plane” is the Internet's Number One Sensation.

The movie is both “hot and cool” but in a different way than the “Star Wars” or “Lord of the Rings” series were, and I hope I'm not offending anyone by mentioning all three films in the same sentence, since they represent different types of movies, based on different ideas and source materials.

It's hard to detect how it all began, but “Snakes on a Plane” has captured the collective consciousness of the Internet community in unparalleled ways, signifying a phenomenon that might be more interesting to analyze from a sociological than from a strictly cinematic perspective.

This became very clear over the weekend at Comic-Con in San Diego, where a 9-minute footage of the movie was showed in a 6,500-seat auditorium, with hundreds of fans standing outside frutrated because they were shut out of the event.

The 2006 San Diego Comic-Con International, the nation's largest comic book convention, again proved to Hollywood that there is no better place to appeal to the smartest set of American pop culture. It's estimated that about 100,000 zealous media consumers–and many Hollywood celebs–attended the evend at San Diego Convention Center, which ran Thursday through Sunday. (I had no idea that the non-profit event started as a Comicbook bazaar as far back as 1970)

Asking the film's star Samuel L. Jackson to attend the event and to be participate on a panel was a very good idea, which drew a lot of attention. With all due respect, I don't think that Jackson, a gifted and versatile actor, has ever been in the spotlight in such way, not even when he co-starred in Tarantino's cult picture, “Pulp Fiction.”

Director David Ellis and Snake Wrangler Jules Sylvester also appeared on the panel, which was hosted by Saturday Night Live comedian and cast member, Kenan Thompson.

The event began by showing a random collection of clips, a truly hilarious montage of all the Internet spoofs based on the film. Then Kenan talked with the cast, and the panel members took questions from the audience. The level of enthusiasm was high, as befits the hype surrounding the picture; occasionally audience members screamed epithets from the movie itself.

Director David Ellis said that “Snakes on a Plane” was made for the fans, not critis, thus rehashing what has become de-facto the studio's policy and rationale for not showing the film in advance to reviewers. The joke was appreciated by the crowds, which cheered when Ellis said, “We intentionally did not put a trailer out there, because we didn't want to give the plot of the movie away.”

Actor Samuel Jackson's introduction was from his now-infamous line in the movie: “I've had it with these motherf******* snakes on this motherf******* plane!”

The panel members discussed the origin of the film and Samuel Jackson's involvement in it, followed by Sylvester's showcase of some of the reptilians from the film, including one that was simply too big to fit the screen's size, a 19 foot, 250 pound anaconda.

Among other things, “Snakes on a Plane” may become a primer for brief history of snakes, sort of “Snakes 101,” since reportedly over 25 snake species are displayed in the movie and 450 snakes were used during the shoot, something that no Hollywood movie about snakes has done.

Finally, the audience was shown the nine-minute sequence from the film itself, a good one, in which the snakes get loose and run rampaging on the plane, attacking victims right and left.

Films' titles are often misleading, often catchy, often inaccurate and distorting of the nature of the movie itself. At the very least, New Line's movie boasts an accurately descriptive title. Yes, it's literal, but it's also catchy and campy, and does justice to the as yet unseen movie.

Few people are talking about “Snakes on a Plane” as a hardcore horror movie. However, based on the footage, I can say that the attacks are sudden, vicious, and bloody. The snakes strike with venom (in both senses of the term), reducing their innocent (and no so innocent) victims to jelly.

As has become a norm, for both intensity and impact, the movie combines CG with live snakes. There were quite a few jumps, screams, and cheers (all warranted by the plot), during the showing of the clip.

And the movie itself Stay tuned for a detailed report, after the first screening of “Snakes on a Plane,” Thursday, August 17, 10pm. I'll violate one of my rules and write about the picture right after the first showing, which means yet another sleepless night.

“Snakes on a Plane” opens wide, Friday, August 17.