Huge online hype, great trailer, rabid fanbase... What went wrong?
On August 18th 2006, Snakes On A Plane was released in cinemas around the world, and despite it being the focus of one of the most rapid and anticipatory online fan-bases in cinema history, it went on to become something of a dud, and Hollywood had just received it's first glimpse at the Emperor's New Clothes that is internet attention.
It all started in 1992, when writer David Dalessandro began work on his then-titled screenplay Venom, which was inspired about a true story of World War II pilots getting into trouble in the Pacific when snakes would climb on board their vessels.
Dalessandro - who has zero feature writing credits before or after Snakes On A Plane - was turned down by over 30 Hollywood studios in the mid-90's before MTV and Paramount showed interest in 1999, which was quickly followed by New Line Cinema picking up production on the project.
Upon hearing about the project, Samuel L Jackson signed on based solely on the title and the director, who at the time was Ronny Yu (Bride Of Chucky, Freddy VS Jason), who Jackson had previously worked with on The 51st State. Producers attempted to change the title of the movie to Pacific Air Flight 121, only for it be changed back at Jackson's request, who said "We're totally changing that back. That's the only reason I took the job: I read the title."
The film picked up it's online publicity and popularity off the back of a blog entry by Josh Friedman, titled "Snakes On A Motherf**king Plane" (believed to be the source of the movie's now infamous one-liner). Friedman had previously written Keanu Reeves' action flick Chain Reaction and Spielberg's remake of War Of The Worlds and has just been announced to be co-writing Avatar 2, and while Friedman eventually ends up not working on the project, New Line Cinema do bring in an additional two screenwriters to improve the script.
Off the back of the positive online feedback, New Line Cinema ordered five additional days of shooting, in order to skew in some more adult-friendly humour and action, boosting the certificate rating from PG-13 to an R, and once again, the internet reaction was massively positive. The first official trailer showed up in June 2006 to Sam Jackson and some co-stars and the director attended Comic-Con to show some early footage to the crowds, they did everything right in the publicity campaign... and then the film came out.
Critics were generally quite well-behaved towards the obvious B-movie nature (it scored 68% on Rotten Tomatoes and 58% on Metacritic), but the public just didn't bother to show up. The $33 million production was projecting a $20-30 million opening weekend, but managed to scrape in just $13.8 million. By the end of it's cinematic run, it had made just $34 million in the States, and another $28 million around the world. The internet fanbase was all hiss and no bite, and it wouldn't be the last time the perceived online interest turned out to be nothing more than that - interest.
In 2012, the online fanboys and fangirls were absolutely chomping at the bit for a proper violent version of their favourite 2000 A.D. character, but when Dredd was released in cinemas, the $50 million production only made $35 million at the box office. 2015 saw the director of The Incredibles release a live-action movie with George Clooney with, again, a hungry internet following, but Tomorrowland barely made back it's $190 million production budget. This summer alone has had a slew of movies that were much-discussed in online forums - Ghostbusters, Warcraft, Independence Day: Resurgence, Jason Bourne, Star Trek Beyond, 10 Cloverfield Lane - that all only returned with 'okay' box office receipts.
Not that the internet is all bad: The Blair Witch Project only really became the phenomenon it was because people believed it's accompanying website was factual and not just promotional material, while the fanbases probably were involved in the likes of Deadpool being so popular.
But the internet is also too fluid, too current and too reactionary for Hollywood to learn how to use it properly. Off the back of the reaction to Batman V Superman in March of this year, that changes were made to Suicide Squad, a film out less than five months later, which resulted in a total mess. There's too many cooks in the kitchen, and then there's the internet equivalent of that, which is just millions of people screaming for a million different ingredients, resulting in something that will please just about nobody.
Now, ten years later, we can't even effectively call Snakes On A Plan a cult-classic. It was a movie that tried too hard to be cool, tried too hard to be a cult-classic, and missed the mark by aiming for it. Instead, SoaP is testament to what happens when Hollywood tries to cater to the internet - we get something interesting, yes, but not necessarily good.
The internet can't be trusted when it comes to any kind of pay-off for movies, and can sometimes feel like a large conglomerate of keyboard warriors fighting for a cause they have no real interest or investment in. To paraphrase the great Sam Jackson, we've had it with these motherf**king commentators on these motherf**king message boards!