August 16, 2006

Fans sink their fangs into “Snakes on a Plane”

By Lisa Lambert

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - To hear some punsters tell it, it's
time for Hollywood to "kick asp."

After endless parodies, Weblogs, videos, books, news
reports and T-shirts, "Snakes on a Plane" finally opens in the
United States on Friday with no one knowing quite what to
expect from the super-hyped film other than a story about
reptiles patrolling a panicky passenger jet.

There have been no advance showings of the $30 million
dollar movie after an amazing run of publicity that seems to
have the whole wired world contributing ideas to flesh out a
story from an intriguing title -- a title producers once
seriously thought of changing because it gave the plot away.

Smart moviegoers usually avoid a film released without
advance screenings because it can indicate a studio knows the
movie is bad. But "Snakes" is unusual. People who have never
seen it already call themselves "fans" and many hope it will be

For about a year, bloggers and Web-surfing moviegoers have
built a groundswell of excitement for the action flick about an
FBI agent protecting a witness whom the Mafia tries to kill via
snake bite on a long flight, turning the movie into a
pop-culture phenomenon.

"I really think we're on unprecedented territory," said
David Waldon, author of "Snakes on a Plane: The Guide to the
Internet Sensation," which was published in July.

"You see movies that are hyped like this or even bigger,
but almost all of them are based on things that already have a
bond with the public, like the 'Star Wars' trilogy."


The Internet hoopla started with a single entry on
screenwriter Josh Friedman's blog last summer.

The film's star, Samuel L. Jackson, threatened to quit when
the studio considered changing the title, saying he'd taken the
job based on the name. Friedman lauded Jackson, arguing those
four words succinctly provided both a name and plot summary,
and gave a good indication of its genre.

More than that, he wrote, the title captured the idea of
being forced to face situations we dread. No one trapped
mid-flight with a bunch of slithering killers can walk away.

The blog's readers and readers of those readers' blogs
agreed. In 1999 the Internet buzzed with anticipation of the
opening of "The Blair Witch Project." But Friedman's wildfire
spread even farther, thanks to fan-created videos posted on, where anyone can post videos shorter than 10
minutes, and the social connection site, where the
mostly young users create individualized pages.

"I'm not sure there would have been a phenomenon without
these sites," said Waldon. "It's kind of a new wave of
do-it-yourself 'Internetting."'

One video mocked typically flashy trailers for action
movies with the words "One man will rise to thwart the evil
which can only be described as evil," streaking across a
screen, followed by drawings of a man shooting a snake atop a
plane. Another was a music video called "Baby, baby, baby (Shed
yo' skin)," while others had titles such as "Cats on a Plane,"
and "Snakes on an Elevator."


On blogs and videos, fans invented lines for Jackson,
including "I've had it with these snakes on this plane," which
they peppered with an obscenity that Jackson used heavily in
his break-out role in "Pulp Fiction."

In the past, media companies have squashed such practices
on copyright grounds, but New Line Cinema, the Time Warner Inc.
subsidiary that is distributing "Snakes," has embraced the hype
and the producers even included the line in the movies and used
it in previews.

Georgetown University law student Brian Finkelstein,
founder of the popular "Snakes on a Blog" Web site was sure
he'd be sued. Instead, New Line's Executive Vice President of
New Media Marketing, Gordon Paddison, called to thank him.

One fan, though, seems finished with all the hype. The
original blogger, Friedman, declined to be interviewed for this
article and gave up blogging about "Snakes" for a while,
instead writing about his struggles with cancer.

"Look, people. I get it. I'm a great disappointment to you
all. We had a few giggles, shared some digital sushi and Diet
Coke, we made New Line an extra fifty million dollars and had a
good time doing it," he recently wrote. "Cancer can only kill
you but a funny blog entry can make Dr. Pepper shoot from your