God, I miss going to the movies.
Do you remember Snakes on a Plane? Jesus, what a weird one that one was. And I’m not even talking about the movie itself, just how it came out. The movie was exactly as advertised. There was a plane full of people, but that plane was also full of snakes. Previously you could only imagine the problems this would cause, but now you could watch a couple members of the Mile High Club get attacked by a large, venomous snake in all its Cinemascope glory. Thank all that’s holy this missed the 3D trend by a couple of years, or that viper would have been lunging at your dick. But before it came out, the internet was going crazy in anticipation. The hype train had become a party train, and everybody was hanging out the windows and doing shots.
Samuel L. Jackson is going to be in it! SLAM
He signed on based off the title alone!! SLAM
It’s going to be rated R! SLAM
Then it came out and did poorly and everyone just kind of forgot about it. The hype train didn’t even crash, it just sort of ran out of steam and ground awkwardly to a halt in the middle of the desert, leaving everyone on board to get off and walk to the next station so they could board The Dark Knight train. Because, ultimately, the movie isn’t that good. Or rather, it never reached the depths of ‘so bad it’s good’ it was actually aiming for. It wanted to be a cult classic, but just like you can’t give yourself a nickname, you can’t just give yourself cult status. It wasn’t just bad, it was bland. It was a movie-by-committee, making the decisions they thought would lead to cult status, but not understanding those decisions and half-assing most of them. True cult movies need some off-his-meds auteur just off camera chugging Red Bulls and screaming at PAs to find out how much it would cost to cover the cast in body paint every day because he had a dream last night about ‘sparkly silver people’ and it’s clearly a sign.
So, why am I talking about this? Because I miss going to the movies. And Snakes on a Plane was easily the best experience I’ve ever had at a movie theater. Not because of the movie, obviously, that would be a weird segue. Because of the crowd.
I usually don’t like other people in movie theaters, because in most of my experiences they are people who don’t even seem to want to be there. They arrive late. They talk with their friends. They’re texting, or just scrolling Facebook. I don’t get it. Everybody knows how much movie tickets are, so why did you pay fourteen dollars for the privilege of sitting in a dark room and perusing social media when you could have done that in your basement for free?
(One of the most baffling experiences I’ve had in a movie was in a sold out theater for La La Land. An older couple sat down right next to me just as the lights were going down, and as soon as he was sitting the husband pulled out his phone, looked at the time, leaned over to his wife, and in the huffiest voice imaginable whispered, “We’re already going to be late.” Like, what? What does that even mean? Forget the movie, I want more details on your shithouse relationship.)
And don’t even get me started on people who sit right next to me when the theater is mostly empty. There’s fucking rules, okay? You don’t sit directly next to, in front of, or behind someone unless you absolutely have to. Hell, I don’t even like it when people sit in my row when there are other empty rows. Why do you want to be near other people when you don’t have to? This theater is huge and it’s ten in the morning and we could have thirty yards between us if they wanted, but nooooooo, they’re going to be kicking my seat the whole time now because humans are social beings and life is pain.
This night was different. This was at the AMC at what was then Disney’s Pleasure Island at Downtown Disney, a full decade and a half before Disney would figure out that exhausted parents who spent the day carting their five kids (Kayleigh, Alix, Brayden, Jayden, and Okayden) around in the hell that is Orlando from April to October don’t want to party in loud nightclubs with strobing lights but would rather just sit at a bar with a cocktail while listening to live music and fending off souvenir requests from their kids like an Olympic soccer goalie. It was the Saturday of opening weekend, seven o’clock, and the theater was sold out. We had to sit all the way in the back to find five seats together, and I was probably dreading how this was going to go because I usually hate sold out shows. Again, most of my experiences are with people bored of the movie.
Nobody was bored. Nobody was even just, like, mildly interested. Remember, this was 2006, so there wasn’t really social media to be distracted by, let alone smart phones to let you do it in the middle of a public place. All you had to worry about was people texting or answering calls, and let me tell you, if someone had tried to answer a phone call during this movie whoever was on the other end wouldn’t have heard a god damned thing. Because as the movie started, everyone in the theater collectively decided this was already the best movie ever made, and they were going to be loud about it.
And I mean loud in the best way possible. Cheering at the good bits. Booing at the villains. Screaming at the jump scares. Everybody was feeding into everybody else’s energy until it became a frenzy. This wasn’t a movie anymore, this was a theme park ride, and we were loving it.
If you saw The Avengers in theaters you probably experienced a moment of this, during the part at the end where the Hulk whips the crap out of Loki like some dandy ragdoll. I saw that movie in theaters twice, and I had no idea Hulk said ‘puny god’ afterward until I watched it at home by myself because there was so much cheering. Now, take that energy, and just stretch it for the length of the movie. That’s what this showing was.
And then? When Sam Jackson’s character finally utters the line that I swear was famous before the movie even came out? Holy shit. It brought the house down. It brought it down harder than anything I’ve ever seen live. Forget not hearing the next line, nobody heard anything for the next two minutes because we were too busy cheering and holding each other and painting our faces with the blood of our enemies and ripping the seats out of the floor. This wasn’t about snakes, nor planes anymore. This was about five hundred people from all over the country coming together to absolutely lose their shit.
Don’t get me wrong, the movie is still not good. I’ve never felt the urge to rewatch the movie since, and I rewatch movies a lot. But I’ve never experienced anything even close to that night, and even though I have way more bad memories about other people in theaters, that night is the one I keep thinking about.
Oh, and the Cobra Starship song still slaps.