Hall of Fame: Snake Plissken
Chris The Brain and I spent a very little amount of time talking about who we would induct into the BPA Hall of Fame this year. Actually, it was a surprisingly easy discussion done via text. Last year we decided that we would only induct five new members each year and that one of them would be the duo award. Han and Chewie coming back to the screen after three decades made perfect sense and as a good friend of mine said to me earlier this week, Lee could have easily been the first inductee to make the Hall based solely on the amount of people and films he has inspired over the years. My homeboy was absolutely correct about Lee and there are quite a few amazing characters who have yet to have their moment in the BPA sun (or explosion?) but you can guarantee that we’ll do our best to bring the most memorable characters back to the forefront and shine a spotlight on some of those you may have forgotten about. That brings me to our newest entry.
Call me Snake
One of the great things about the character of Snake Plissken is the mysteriousness of his past. Many Hollywood films today feel like they have to show an origin story or flash back to every important moment that happened in their lives to date. Viewers don’t need to know why Snake wears an eyepatch, we can tell that it looks cool and that Snake is kind of a badass for having one. An idiot like Michael Bay might have shown a flashback of Snake finding his denim jacket on a clearance rack while drinking a Coke but John Carpenter is neither an idiot or the kind of director who panders to the product-placement companies like some teenager fishing for a kiss from his crush.
Director John Carpenter was originally going to introduce Snake Plissken during one of his many botched heists. This one would have shown a crew member of his or just a partner of his who double-crossed Snake, causing him to be arrested and furthering his poor taste in criminal partners. Not doing this is one of the best decisions that Carpenter could have made. Sometimes subtlety talking about all the times Snake is screwed over by others is more powerful than showing it happen once. Leading Snake out in handcuffs for his first time on screen is a great piece of story telling; showing how dangerous a guy he is by surrounding Snake with guards even though he’s in shackles, it makes it clear that he’s definitely an enemy of the current government, and hearing him talk shit to everyone around him shows that he’s both a badass and a smartass who doesn’t take kindly to authority types.
The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same
Fifteen years after the release of Escape From New York John Carpenter and Kurt Russell decided it was time to bring back their favorite character and brought Snake back from the “shoulda already made a sequel” section of the video store. Not much had changed in this dystopian America that they created; the Government still sucked, there were fewer liberties for the people, and the soldiers still wore those same stupid face masks, but the authoritarian theme still existed and Snake was still an outcast. When we see Plissken again after all these years he’s back in the handcuffs but he’s also wearing the exact same clothes that he wore in the first film. That’s a pretty impressive thing for 15 years passing in between movies and while the acid washed jeans and tank top aren’t quite in style anymore, Snake quickly changes into a black leather getup that was all the rage in the late 90’s/early 2000’s.
A large part of why Escape from L.A. wasn’t successful was because while the costuming was cool the film itself was an almost exact retread of the original film. Now you might be saying, “the first film was kickass so this one should be too”. Unfortunately that isn’t the case. The first film is a cult classic and the sequel is like the red juice that a real cult drinks…killing the series and nearly destroying the careers of all those involved.
The Anti-Hero Complex
The late 1990’s saw the explosion of what is known as “The Attitude Era” in the WWE. Amazing wrestlers like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Brakkus lit up the screen and turned the wrestling world on it’s head. An industry that was once the good guy (babyface) against the bad guy (heel) suddenly had a whole bunch of guys who toed the line between good and bad. While it made Vince McMahon an insane amount of money, he can’t take credit for the awesome idea of the anti-hero. Fans wanted someone to root for who wasn’t some goody-two-shoes who was squeaky clean, they wanted someone who wasn’t afraid to get their hands dirty in order to get the job done. Basically I’m saying they wanted Snake Plissken.
Was Snake the first anti-hero? No way. Escape from New York came out in 1981, two years after Mad Max debuted a similar badass character. But that doesn’t mean that Snake Plissken wasn’t a trailblazer when it came to this type of character becoming an action icon. Action fans have been begging for another character like Snake for years. We went out in droves to see Mad Max: Fury Road and a guy like Han Solo will go down as one of the most beloved of all time. I don’t know if we can point to the sissies they put in these action movies nowadays or if it’s just bad writing, but there’s no doubt that when the next big thing comes we’ll be watching.
A big welcome goes out to Snake Plissken, the newest inductee into the Bulletproof Action Hall of Fame.