Movie Review: “Passengers”
The Avalon is a spaceship carrying over 5000 passengers to the planet, Homestead II. The trip will take approximately 120 years, with the hopes of colonizing a new planet. All passengers are in deep hibernation and are scheduled to wake up 4 months before landing on the new planet. However only 30 years into the trip, The Avalon encounters an asteroid field which (upon impact) causes a system error in which two passengers are awakened from hibernation 90 years too soon. James Preston (Chris Pratt) and Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) must deal with the realization that they will likely grow old and die on The Avalon before it ever reaches the new planet and with no one to interact with except each other. As Aurora and James start to grow fonder of each other, they discover that the entire ship is in great danger.
The Pros & Cons
The Decision (+5pts)
Lawrence & Pratt (+8pts)
Visually Stunning (+3pts)
Sinking Ship? (-4pts)
Pro: The Decision (+5pts)
This was one of the more intriguing elements of this movie. What would it be like to be all alone for the rest of your life? How would you cope with such a fate? These are questions that are explored in Passengers. This causes one of the characters to be faced with an impossible decision. I will not get into what that decision is, due to spoilers but I thought this moral issue was fascinating. Should one act selflessly or selfishly? This is an easy question to answer out of context but given the situation our protagonists are in, it is easy to understand that after an entire year in such a tragic situation, a person’s morality would be tested. Although it was an intriguing concept, “the decision” was made about 30 minutes into the movie and that element of the storyline got fairly predictable after that.
Con: Predictable (-10pts)
I think this movie's main problem was it's predictability. The first 30 or 40 minutes were interesting because it proposed a compelling moral issue. Unfortunately ad soon as "the decision" was made, I was able to map out how the entire rest of the movie would go. I wish the writer(s) had taken more chances on Passengers. It is a movie in which it's premise has a ton of potential, but sacrificed good storytelling to play it safe. Any of the expected plot points could have been switched up very easily and would have kept the audience guessing and interested. For me personally I would have loved the whole movie challenging morality and showing what a life alone can do to people. Instead they tried to make a summer blockbuster....in December....against Star Wars.
Pro: Lawrence & Pratt (+8pts)
I thought Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt were great choices for these roles. Each of them have great dramatic scenes and they had good chemistry together. While I thought Michael Sheen and Laurence Fishburne were great as always, they had minimal roles. This movie was essentially all Lawrence and Pratt and for a movie with such a small cast, I thought they kept my interest very well. I never felt like I needed more. I think watching both actors dealing with the concept of living the rest of their lives (90 years) was very compelling. They both deal with it in their own way and I felt the weight of the situation in both of their performances which is very important for a movie such as this. While I don’t think either will (or should) get Oscar recognition for this movie, I think both actors did a great job.
Con: Timeline (-1pt)
While this is a pretty minor issue, I would have liked to have gotten an approximate timeline for when this movie takes place. The technology used throughout the film is way beyond what we have available now. Everyone on board The Avalon is headed to a planet named Homestead II. This implies that there is an original Homestead. Has humanity tried and failed to colonize the original? Has humanity colonized and used up the original Homestead’s resources already? I would have liked to have known what year all of this takes place and what previous colonizations were like. This is a very minor issue as the movie is not about the colonization of Homestead II, it is about the journey to a new and distant planet, but a year would have helped in introducing the setting of this film.
Pro: Visually Stunning (+3pts)
This movie was visually stunning. The inside of The Avalon was slick, neat and colorful. The exterior of the ship was complex and fascinating, though the movie does not spend much time viewing it from the outside to see how everything looks and works. As far as space itself, you wouldn’t think there would be much to see but the movie does a good job of giving a vast feel to the great depths of space. There is also a scene where we get an up close look at “something” (no spoilers remember), and the effects during this sequence were absolutely stunning. There are a lot of cool effects shown in the trailer such as the loss of gravity while J-Law and C-Pratt are running as well as gravity loss when J-Law is swimming. These were great looking scenes, which made the movie more entertaining.
Con: Sinking Ship? (-4pts)
We know from the trailers that The Avalon is “sinking”. In other words, we know that there is something very wrong with the ship. The thing that causes the colossal system failure is kind of ridiculous. The movie implies that there have been many similar voyages in the past yet during the design of the ship and the plan of this voyage, no one considered this could happen? At the very least, keep SOMEONE awake in the event that this could happen. It may not seem like a big deal on the surface, the whole plot of the movie relies on the system failure so there needs to be a good reason for why it happens. Instead the audience is given the reason of there being a huge design flaw on the ship. Who knows, maybe in 40-50 years we will get a prequel to Passengers in which we discover the ships lead designer was actually a double agent and added the flaw intentionally. That would be really cool, but until then I call B.S. on the reason for this "sinking" ship.
Grade: C+ (76pts)
Passengers unfortunately has its issues. While it proposed an intriguing moral dilemma, the focus did not stay there for long. Instead it shifted to being a summer blockbuster-like adventure movie with a severly predictable story. Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence give the great performances that you'd expect from them. This is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination but it had the potential to be so much better. I do not recommend going out to see this movie in theaters, but it wouldn't be a bad one to catch on Video OnDemand or streaming services in a few months.