When a pocket of the Internet learned that Samuel L. Jackson was starring in a movie called Snakes on a Plane it demanded that the fiery actor would declare—with furious anger—that it wanted “these motherfucking snakes off this motherfucking plane.” That line, of course, came from a “fan-made” trailer for the film after it had already been shot, but had not been released. Hollywood was enamored with this loud “fan base” that grew out of both mocking and embracing such a straightforward title that left little to the imagination. New Line that it could make a hit by giving the vocal section of the Internet what it wanted: profanity and bombast. But to do that it needed to add scenes—but it also previously ignored that what the Internet wanted is the same thing its star pleaded for and couldn’t get them to do.
As the film hits the elevation of a 10-year anniversary today—and as Jackson now says “fuck you” to anyone who criticizes it—we look back at what Planes legacy should become: Hollywood, please don’t listen to the Internet.
Now, to Jackson that might sound like a criticism but let’s chill for a second. I’m not dismissing the movie for yes, it is as advertised—there are indeed snakes on a plane—but I do want to point my finger at movie execs. Especially since ten years later studios seem to be looking too much at what fans on the internet think and are lessening their products for it. And they don’t need to. Hell, they didn’t even need to with Planes, as Jackson knew what he thought the movie needed the moment he signed on. And that Bad Motherfucker that signed on to a movie called Snakes on a Plane because “it’s one of the movies I would have gone to as a kid” and the fire and brimstone thespian vocally wanted an R-rated take from day one.
It wasn’t until the movie received fake “fan” websites, videos and t-shirts that New Line decided to spend a rushed five extra days to shoot some R-rated scenes for the finished film. Those extra days brought a few more swear words, including the video suggested catch phrase (the fan-written line even received enough press that Vegas bookies began taking bets on how often it’d be used; sure, always bet on black, but in this case you should’ve only bet on Jackson saying that MF line once). But the lengthiest scene to come from the reshoots was adding nudity, drug use, and a snakebite to a woman’s exposed breast during a bathroom sex scene.
Five days is not a lot of time to change the tone of a movie and yes, aiming for a specific rating does create a very specific tone. The scenes that were added in these, let’s call them the “motherfucking reshoots”, stick out like a sore thumb in the movie. When Taylor Kitsch and Samantha McLeod go into the bathroom together their goal isn’t to join the mile high club; it’s to fit as many of the MPAA’s R-rating checklist into one confined space. The clothes come off and a joint is lit for thrusting. After one of those snakes on the plane bites McLeod right on the nipple nothing that would warrant an R-rating happens again until much later in the movie. And this R-rated “bad boy” scene throws the movie’s tone askew. It’s a grindhouse moment in a movie that wasn’t made to be a grindhouse movie.
Snakes on a Plane wasn’t originally shot as high drama, either, but director David R. Ellis did have a consistent tone of tongue-in-cheek cheerfulness that he leverages against the title, but it’s never able to become a true horror-comedy because the horror scenes are relatively tame, and why wouldn’t they be? They were shot for a PG-13 movie. In five days you can add an occasional gruesome kill, pop out breasts and pepper in some F-words but those scenes all feel like they belong in a different movie than the thriller-comedy of manners that Ellis originally shot.