Monday, September 25, 2006

Book: Snakes on a Plane, by Christa Faust (2006)

Because sometimes a film raises questions that only the written word can answer.

OK, I actually read the novelization of the movie because it’s by Christa Faust, whose blog is a regular stop for me. Christa does a bang-up job. She clearly had a blast inventing histories for the unfortunate souls aboard Pacific Air Flight 121. Admit it, you wanted to know more about that couple whose attempt to join the mile high club was so rudely interrupted. And why was that zaftig woman in Hawaii anyway? (Hey, what was Christa gonna do, write about the snakes?)

It has to be strange, determining the correct amount of background to provide about characters who exist only to die horribly. You don’t want them to be red shirts, but you don’t exactly want to know their hopes and dreams, either. SoaP the movie strikes a perfect balance, mixing caricature (Paris Hilton clone, egocentric rapper) with offbeat detail.

Galaxy Quest gets great comic mileage out of the issue with Sam Rockwell’s character, but the most disturbing exploration of it I’ve encountered was never filmed. Tod Lippy’s script for the short film ‘Jim & Wanda’ was published several years ago. Jim’s a struggling businessman seeing two women. One of them, Wanda, has been diagnosed with cancer. Jim decides to take her camping for a few days while she awaits her final test results. A park ranger arrives at their site – and brutally executes them both. Watch the John Woo movie Broken Arrow and you’ll see the throwaway scene in which Jim and Wanda are killed. Lippy arranged to get Broken Arrow cast members to recreate their roles, but copyright issues prevented the movie from being made.

It’s a powerful piece of storytelling, but one that’s taken some of the fun out of action movies for me. I don’t want to think about orphans and unmade mortgage payments during scenes of artfully assembled mayhem. I just want to enjoy the gunplay. Or the snake bites. Whichever.