Monday, June 19, 2006


If you have somehow managed to avoid encountering any reference in the media to a forthcoming film titled, with all the seductive subtlety of a Karl Rove speech, "Snakes On A Plane," you are a better man, whatever your actual gender, than I am. This thing is everywhere, from Newsweek feature articles to the name of the rotisserie baseball team fielded by the eminent blogger and lapsed Pentecostal Michael J. Robertson. (See link to "Darwin's Cat" website.)

The specifics of the plot may or may not have been already irretrievably revealed to the general public. It doesn't matter. Nobody cares. There are snakes and they are on a plane. The sheer flagrancy of the psychological and mass-cultural opportunism and manipulation at work here is breathtaking, even admirable in its raw gall. There won't be an empty seat for the first six showings, wherever you live. People will go in droves to see "Snakes On A Plane" for the same reason they will open e-mail bearing the subject line "Money owed to you." They know they're being hustled. But so what. "Money" and "you" are a linguistic combination beyond our power to resist.

Ditto "snakes" and "plane." Which stars, incidentally, Samuel L. Jackson, a man who seemingly cannot get himself cast in a movie that does not turn into a revenue churn. You could put Samuel L. Jackson in a remake of "Ishtar," or for that matter, "Victory at Sea," and finish in the black. Probably just from the action figure royalties.

Anyway -- aside from the irresistible shamelessness of the concept, the snakes on a plane premise is really just the latest take on the time-honored "trapped with something terrifying" theme. Specifically, "Snakes...Plane" is essentially the original "Alien" plot transplanted from deep space into routine daily life, and made all the more horrific, or at least creepy, because we can easily envision ourselves in the setting.

This basic plot setup has been practically bulletproof over the years, and there's absolutely no reason to think it won't be eternally lucrative. With that in mind, I'll soon be filing with the Writer's Guild to register under my name the following storyline derivatives of the Snakes template.

"Tarantulas On The Richmond BART Line" -- Giant arachnids threaten carnage but ultimately find themselves vastly outgunned by plucky bands of Richmond youth determined to protect their drug turf.

"Giant Squid In A Hot Tub" -- A festive group honeymoon at a luxurious Napa Valley spa goes horribly awry as assorted newlyweds are dragged one by one to a watery doom, despite the lodge's fantastic wine selection.

"Wolves At Brunch" -- Savage lupine marauders choose a particularly untimely Sunday to turn the sumptuously gala atmosphere of the Redwood Room at the Saint Francis Hotel into a veritable Mother's Day from hell.

"Veloceraptors At A Sensitivity Training Seminar" -- Management trainees and their personal assistant interns are torn limb from limb even as they attempt to find and eliminate the source of their savage predators' anger and uncontrollable violence.

"Insurance Salesmen In A Stalled Elevator" -- The horror, the horror. The helpless "prospect" passengers must ultimately draw lots to see who will climb up through the car's ceiling hatch and use the emergency fire ax to sever the cable, thus sending the car and its passengers to their tragic but welcome deaths.

"Dick Cheney In A Duck Blind" -- Away from civilization and ensconced in close quarters with the Veep seemed to be these lobbyists' dream come true, until someone began passing the schnapps around "to cut the chill" and they realized that to the Wyoming were-Republican, everyone was "fair game".


Blogger ....J.Michael Robertson said...

Yet at the end of the day, I will probably change the name of my team back to "The 17 Bunny-Wunnies." Samuel K. Jackson comes and goes. Charles Schulz abides.

July 6, 2006 at 12:29 PM  

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