"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Monday, August 21, 2006

"Snakes on a Plane" Falters; Genre Confusion to Blame?

Screen still from "Snakes on a Plane"

The greatly anticipated comedy-thriller Snakes on a Plane drew in the most money in movie ticket sales nationally over the weekend, though actually not. Snakes would have come in second (to the Will Farrell comedy Talladega Nightsi) if not for the distributor's decision to include Thursday night figures in the total. New Line's head of distribution said it is common policy for studios to do that, and the head of distribution at Sony, which released Talladega Nights, declined to comment to AP. (See AP story here.)

Analysis: The $15.25 million that Snakes on a Plane brought in over its first weekend is a decent amount of money but must be considered a failure given the amount of advance interest that had allegedly been sparked in the film. The film's strong concept, which so greatly piqued many people's interest, may have worked against it as far as actually luring people into theaters: One could very well feel that one already had experienced all that was of value in the film just by hearing about the concept and seeing the trailers, commercials, and TV promo teasers.

I think that another problem with the film was even more serious: a conflict of genre expectations. Snakes has the concept of a Bruce Willis-style suspense thriller, which is a sure formula for success: Die Hard on a plane full of dangerous snakes. The promotion that grew up on the internet, however, saw the film's central idea as throughly comical (which it most certainly is)—and too much comedy undermines the ability to create suspense. Comedy is important to have in a thriler, but too much will make it impossible for audiences to take the concept with even the minimal seriousness required to enjoy modern-day thrillers with their outlandish premises.

I believe that this genre confusion is the main reason for Snakes' lackluster victory at the box office.

The film will certainly do all right overall and will turn a profit, but it most likely will not turn out to be the kind of phenomenon people expected.

I'll write about the film itself in a day or two.

From Karnick on Culture.

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