The buzz — or hiss — began with the movie’s title, a plot-spoiling punch line that rapidly evolved into an Internet phenomenon: Production stills were posted on the Web, followed by mock movie trailers and posters, R-rated audio clips, silly songs, poems, even a line of T-shirts.
“Snakes on a Plane” arrives in theaters Aug. 18, but is already a cult blockbuster for fans who snicker at its B-movie premise.
The thriller stars Samuel L. Jackson as an FBI agent protecting a witness on a jet full of lethal serpents unleashed by the mob.
Brian Finkelstein, the 26-year-old creator of the fan Web site Snakesonablog.com, said the daffy title is what galvanized people to spoof the movie even before the New Line Cinema production finished filming.
“It all came exclusively out of the title, and how honest and straightforward and clear the title was. There was no metaphor, no symbolism. Everything you needed to know about the movie was right there in the title,” said Finkelstein, whose site has received an estimated 300,000 hits since its January debut.
The title made for an easy crossover into the pop-culture vernacular.
The slang Web site UrbanDictionary.com has eight ways to define the phrase, including: “A simple existential observation that has the same meaning as ‘Whaddya gonna do?’ or ‘(Stuff) Happens.”’
But leave it to merry Internet pranksters to drop an unprintable profanity — twice. In a popular audio trailer crafted by 19-year-old Chris Rohan of Bethesda, Md., a smack-talking Jackson imitator yells: “I want these [expletive] snakes off the [expletive] plane!”
Rohan said the title “sounds stupid, but that’s what makes it brilliant” — thus inspiring him to write and record the trailer while enlisting a friend to voice rough-and-tumble Jackson.
In another send-up, a video clip presents impersonations of Christopher Walken and Jack Nicholson.
“There are snakes,” complains a faux Nicholson, with Joker-like exaggeration. “On the plane. And they’re biting. And they’re scaring people.”
Yet another video follows a 4-year-old as he flies a paper airplane smothered with rubber snakes. Guided by the boy’s hand, a plastic figurine kicks them off. In a making-of featurette, the boy says sound effects — “making loud noises” — were most challenging.
Posted on Finkelstein’s site, a fan-made love duet titled “Two Snakes on a Plane” includes the lyrics: “We could spend our lives together like two snakes on a plane/Shed our skins and wrap each other in all that still remains.”
The snake hoopla comes at a time where there’s a vast audience downloading and sharing satirical spoofs of all genres, such as widely circulated mock trailers of “The Shining” and a “Titanic” sequel, titled “Titanic: Two the Surface.”
New Line recently requested that the movie’s PG-13 rating be switched to R and ordered the shooting of additional scenes, including one with Jackson spouting an expletive like in Rohan’s trailer.
“More power to that,” Rohan said. “I love just hearing Samuel L. Jackson blurt out the F-word every five seconds.”