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Face-Off: Snakes on a Plane vs. The Final Destination

01.10.2013by: Paul Huffman
We took a bit of a different approach in last weeks Face-Off, in which we determined what was the worse outing in two of Roland Emmerich's disaster films in 2012 and Day After Tomorrow. The verdict was of the opinion that 2012 was the weaker effort, and our readers seemed to agree.

This week was a sad one for this site, as a director who was majorly respected around these parts, and a man who churned out great entertainment in David R. Ellis passed away at 60. His filmography consists of a list of films that served as exactly what they promised to be, and that was a fun time at the movies. We've decided to honor him in a match between two of his films Snakes on a Plane and The Final Destination. The latter was arguably his weakest film but is more in the ballpark of Snakes as pure popcorn entertainment. Let's get rolling.
The Fun
When you go into a film called Snakes on a Plane, you don't expect a piece of dramatic art. Given this type of films history, you don't even go in expecting the film to be packed with characters you care about and are rooting for. What you do expect, is snakes on a plane raising all kinds of f*cked up hell. That is what we got! Sprinkle in Samuel L. Jackson being his bad ass self and scenes like an entry into the mile high club gone wrong, and we have a film that delivered on all that it promised. Genre lovers know when to turn their brains off, and enjoy the cheesiness. That's why I think this gem was so accepted.
What we got in the first two Final Destination films (the second of which was tackled by Ellis) was story to go with the inventive kills that defined the trilogy. We were treated with characters that carried a bit of substance, we cared what happened to them. Starting with the 3rd, and more so in the case of this film, story took a back seat. But guess what was still delivered in spades? New inventive ways that somebody could meet and over the top f*cked up demise. The race track opening sequence was no highway scene, but it got the job done. You know you have dumb fun when a "suspenseful" scene ends with a small stone.
The Not-So-Fun
Maybe I'm gonna end up being biased here, but there wasn't much of this film that took away from my enjoyment of it. In The Arrow's review of the film he made some interesting points that pertained to the absence of an overabundance of Sam Jackson action, and a poorly executed subplot that took away from the main action. I agree with these points, cut out the grounded moments and add in more Sam Jackson one-liners and you have an improved film. Also, this may be nitpicking...but the plane being landed by Keenan Thompson may have been too much for me to rap my head around...it's weird that I was ready to accept everything else.
The advantage that Snakes on a Plane had over this film was that it didn't have a history of a potential for more of a deeply developed storyline. As much as I praise this movies kills, it didn't deliver on the potential for something deeper that had been executed before. Not just a story, but characters that weren't just living to die. So why do I fault this film, and give Snakes on a Plane a pass? Simple, because The Final Destination had the potential to be more, especially in the hands of Ellis, and we all know it. The movie delivered on one end, and totally f*cked up on the other.
Response/Box Office
On Rotten Tomatoes this film holds an overall rating of 68% and ultimately ranked in $62 million at the Box Office. The critical response seemed to be that the movie delivered on exactly what it promised and needed to be, a bunch of motherf*cking snakes on a motherf*cking plane. An interesting opinion I came across is that the film would have fared better at the box office had it been rated PG-13. Maybe, but...naw f*ck that...the movie owned it's R rating and the fans were pleased with it.
On Rotten Tomatoes, critics gave the film an overall 30% positive rating, with the audience meter at 52% (which in all fairness is higher than I thought it would be). Here is the kicker, to me and the head honcho JoBlo's surprise, the film pulled in $186 million worldwide, which given the previous love of the franchise should not have surprised me...but, it wasn't the publics fault that most of them were let down. Still, that turn out for the film earns this particular category a stalemate.
Overall
Snakes on a Plane was pure fun, no matter how you slice it. Whether you're taking into account the snake mayhem, the sex, or the Sam Jackson one-liners the film was a win. Extra props for the teams best effort in building a plausible set up story for the proceeding mayhem. Would this film have worked without the star power of Sam Jackson? Who seemed to have blast with role? I say to you...HELL...NO. His presence made the film what it was. The credibility to the camp. Bottom line, next to maybe Final Destination 2...this was David R. Ellis' masterpiece.
The Final Destination was fun when it came to certain elements, but overall disappointing. With his previous FD outing, Ellis nailed the brutal kills with somewhat appealing characters and decent enough story that made it arguably the best of the franchise. The Final Destination delivered the gory goods, but will always go down in the weakest in this series of movies. That said, as always...Ellis does the best with the material that he is given to work with, and I personally can't say that there was a total absence of enjoyment when I saw this bad boy. Just could have been better.
Snakes on a Plane
So there it is, folks! We have to films that were meant to be pure entertainment in its purest form, simply put one succeeded way more than the other. Fans and critics alike knew what they were getting when they walked in to that screening of Snakes on a Plane and most walked away pleased, the same can't be said for The Final Destination. The latter simply missed the boat, didn't have all the right elements to make it a winner. Snakes on a Plane congratulations, you just had more odds working in your favor.

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at paulhuffman@joblo.com with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which David R. Ellis film was your favorite?
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