Apr 21, 2017

[Movies] Passengers (2016)

Tobie and I love Chris Pratt. His adorkable charm won us over back during his Parks and Recreation Days and him bulking up for Guardians of the Galaxy was really just a bit of a bonus. But beyond his looks, he's quite the crazy character on social media and that just endears him to us further. However we're not big enough fans to blindly watch anything that he stars in no matter how cute he is.

Passengers initially got us excited but in time the early reviews got us worried and so we deferred watching it at a cinema and instead watched it at home. As much as I love a good science fiction movie, this one was pretty vague about its premise in the trailers and didn't given enough material to get me truly excited.

And then we saw the movie and saw some pretty problematic parts of the overall narrative and things just a little weird from that point on. The movie has its good points and its enjoyable moments but it was still hard to shake off the big twist when it came along.

Synopsis: Passengers is a 2016 science fiction movie directed by Morten Tyldum. The screenplay was written by Jon Spaihts and was released December 2016.

The starship Avalon is long-distance colony ship of sorts carrying 5,000 colonists in suspended animation in hibernation pods. The ship is fully automated with even the crew in suspension as they all make their way to the distant world of Homestead II. Part-way into their 120 year journey, the ship encounters meteors which cause a malfunction that is beyond the ship's automated systems to repair. One related error wakes up passenger Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) 90 years too early.

At first Jim does his best to get by with life as the only conscious person on the ship and only the robot bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen) for company. But after a year alone with the loneliness beginning to drive him into depression, he stumbles upon Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), another passenger still in hibernation. He researches her profile and discovers a lot about her and begins to wonder whether or not there's a way to wake her up. At the same time the ship begins to experience more and more minor errors.

What I Liked: There's a lot to like about this movie including a lot of space porn, for lack of a better term. There are some great cinematic moments  of the various parts of the ship in transit to its new colony world including nice wide shots of space and great detail shots of the ship itself both inside and outside. And it's quite the legit science fiction venture in this regard as a lot of aspects of the ship actually make sense including the use of rotation as replacement for gravity and other things of that nature.

And there's some great chemistry between Pratt and Lawrence when things get going. The two are both brilliant actors and the chemistry they convey on-screen is pretty palpable when it needs to be. They're both able to be nicely funny but also pretty intense as one scene moves to the next.

What Could Have Been Better: The main driver of the story is a narrative nightmare that is extremely problematic. There's no way around it - Jim deciding to wake up Aurora and thus making her share his fate of needing to live through the remaining 90 years of the trip to Homestead II is really bad. And his only reason was because he thought that they would get along based on his study of her profile data? Yeah that's like empowering a stalker or something. So maybe that wasn't the best of ideas. Then creating a big mess for them to solve together and fall in love in the end doesn't make us forgive him for all his crappiness either.

And the whole notion of an automated ship that does not have a fail safe to wake up the crew in case of trouble is the main problem. Sure it's a narrative leap that had to be allowed to let the movie move forward, but man it just didn't make sense. Even more so that there is no way to put people back into hibernation for some reason - why not right? The fact that the only reason that was provided was that pod failures were believed to be impossible is pretty flimsy.

TL;DR: Passengers is a movie with a pretty good romance wrapped up in a very problematic narrative. It's hard to ignore that and it sort of colors the entire movie and the rushed third act don't really make up for things. Thus the movie can only get 1.5 plot meteors out of a possible 5.

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