Movie Review: “Passengers”
The Avalon is a spaceship carrying over five thousand passengers to a new planet, Homestead II. The trip will take approximately one hundred twenty years, with the passengers hoping to colonizing the new planet. All passengers are in deep hibernation and are scheduled to wake up a few months before landing on the new planet. However only thirty years into the trip, The Avalon encounters an asteroid field which, upon impact, causes a system error in which two passengers are woken up ninety 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 they will have no one to interact with (other than each other) for the rest of their lives. As Aurora and James start to grow fonder of each other, they discover that they (along with the entire ship) are 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 the 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 thirty minutes into the movie, and that element of the storyline got pretty predictable after that.
Con: Predictable (-10pts)
This movie's main problem was it's predictability. The first thirty or forty minutes were interesting because the filmmakers proposed a compelling moral issue. Unfortunately as 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 the premise has a ton of potential, but the filmmakers sacrificed good storytelling in order 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 if the whole movie focused only on challenging the morality of the main character, and showing what a life of isolation can do to a person. Instead they tried to make a summer blockbuster style movie...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 minor roles. This movie was essentially all Lawrence and Pratt, and for a movie with such a small cast, I thought they did a good job of holding onto my interest.
I never felt like I needed more from the actors. I think watching both characters dealing with the concept of living the rest of their lives (another ninety years or so) in isolation 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 giving the story (and its characters) a ton of context.
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, although the movie does not spend much time viewing it from the outside to see how everything looks or how it works. As far as space itself, you would not 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” (remember, no spoilers), 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. Come to think of it, the filmmakers used gravity as a driving force (pun intended) behind some of the movies cooler moments. These were great looking scenes, and made the movie much more entertaining than it would have been without them.
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 planning of this voyage, no one considered this could happen? At the very least, no one thought to keep someone awake in the event that this could happen?
It may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but 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 forty or fifty 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 ship is "sinking".
Grade: C+ (76pts)
Passengers unfortunately has its issues. While it proposed an intriguing moral dilemma, the filmmakers rushed through that moral dilemma. The moral dilemma was: if you are to wake up on a ship by yourself, many decades too soon, how long will it take before you start acting selfishly instead of selflessly? It is a compelling question, but unfortunately the filmmakers did not keep the focus on that question for very long. Instead it shifted into being more of a summer blockbuster-like adventure movie with a severely predictable story.
Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence gave the great performances that you would 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 than it was. Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt were arguably the best things about this movie. It was a fairly predictable plot that is riddled with plot holes, once you start digging into the specifics, but the two lead actors made it somewhat entertaining. It is also a visually stunning movie, which certainly does not hurt. Again, it is not a bad movie, but there all of its problems made it fall very short of expectations.