This blog is about the mistakes and misrepresentations of animals in movies.
Have you seen a suspect appearance of an animal in a (mainstream) movie? Let me know!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snakes on a plane

The title says it all really; obviously my hopes were high for this movie. There would be no need to spot the one tiny misplaced cockroach here. Samuel L. Jackson fights a whole crate of snakes on the loose on a plane from Hawaii to L.A. Although the snakes are all supposed to be highly venomous, any snake enthusiast will have recognized their favorite species of harmless snake among the cast: milk snakes, corn snakes, bull snakes, rat snakes and a big Burmese python. A total of 450 live non-poisonous snakes were used in the film. With such great animal casting, you wonder why they would also have these sad motionless rubber snakes lying around in some scenes. But despite the fact that almost all venomous snake species on this movie were CGI, they did a fairly good job. The CGI snakes are recognizable as real species, although the effectiveness of their venom, their athletic abilities, colors and aggression are very much exaggerated. The story line has the snakes all worked up on “pheromones” (Jackson:”Snakes on crack!?”). Although male snakes do use chemical cues to follow the trail of female snakes, it would not really make them go nuts like in the movie. The male snakes touch the ground, or any object, with the tips of their forked tongue. They then deposit their two tiny ground samples onto the equally split Jacobson’s organ in the roof of its mouth. This advanced smell organ then tells the male snake if a female passed there. Not only does it tell the snake what smell is there, but also which tongue-tip was carrying the strongest smell. Thanks to their split tongue, snakes can smell in stereo. Great for tracking females, or lunch. Coupled with the ability of snakes to sense heat, as nicely imaged in the movie, snakes live in a sensory world very different from our vision and sound dominated one. Snakes would not enjoy this movie at all. Or any movie for that matter, with their limited vision and lack of external ears.
One great scene has the large (CGI) Burmese python eat a small pet dog of one of the main characters. Having kept large specimens of this species myself (3.5m), I found the fast grabbing and strangling movements completely realistic! The CGI recreation of the strangling of a passenger however, was apparently not inspired on a real event, and looked very unnatural. But although the CGI snakes were impressively done, I guess it would not have hurt the movie to have some shots of real venomous snakes. Maybe a nice big rattler draped on empty airplane seats, or the digital Gabon viper that kills the captain in a real-life incarnation on some instrument panel? Only one real-life venomous snake appears in the film. In one of the few scenes not on the plane, agents track down the snake-dealer who supplied the snakes causing so much havoc in the air. In the snake dealer’s menagerie, from one of the terrariums a real rattle snake flicks its forked tongue at us.

No comments:

Post a Comment