Synopsis: A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.
Release Date: December 21, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Adventure, Drama
On paper, Passengers looks like it can’t fail. It’s anchored by a couple of A-list actors in Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games, American Hustle) and Chris Pratt (Jurassic World, The Magnificent Seven), it’s got Oscar nominated director Mortem Tyldum (The Imitation Game) and hip sci-fi screenwriter Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Doctor Strange) behind it, and it’s chock full of slick special effects and heavy-handed visual imagery. But, that’s all theoretical. The reality of it is far less rosey.
Passengers takes place on a spaceship called the Avalon that is transporting 5,000 people on a 120 year journey to an intergalactic colony called Homestead II. The passengers are placed in a state of hibernation so that they won’t age during the journey. Unfortunately, the pods of two people, mechanic Jim Preston and journalist Aurora Lane (Pratt and Lawrence), malfunction and wake them up 90 years early. As the pair prepares to spend the rest of their lives together on board the ship, they realize that the pods are not the only part of the Avalon that is malfunctioning.
As exciting as all of that sounds, Passengers is a dud. It starts off promisingly enough, with Jim and Aurora facing the fact that they will be stranded for the rest of their lives aboard the luxury starship while the rest of the passengers and crew snooze away the years. But, as Passengers treks on, the events of the film become more and more far-fetched, until finally, the audience is lost in the film’s lack of believability. And for a science fiction film to make an audience say “that would never happen.” well, let’s just say Passengers crosses a threshold that should not be crossed.
The most glaring problem with the suspension of disbelief in Passengers is also a spoiler of a pretty big plot point. It’s an early one, ushering in the second act of the film, but those who don’t want to know should skip the rest of this paragraph. Okay.so, Jim actually wakes Aurora up out of her perfectly functioning hibernation simply because he is lonely and wants companionship. Sure, after a year of being the only one awake, who could blame him? But, although she is furious when she finds out, Aurora forgives Jim for essentially taking the rest of her life away. And that is the exact moment where Passengers loses credibility.
Basically, Passengers is the product of a bunch of big Hollywood money thrown at a weak storyline. The film looks great, and Pratt and Lawrence supply plenty of star power, but the movie as a whole does not live up to the intriguing premise, and not even the magnetism of Chris and Jen can save it from its own mediocrity.
If there’s one reason to see Passengers on a big screen, it’s the visual effects. They’re stunningly impressive. Lucky for viewers, the movie spends quite a bit of time outside of the Avalon, and outer space has never looked so good. Highlights include Jim and Aurora taking a spacewalk (something that, apparently in the Passengers universe, is a touristy pastime akin to going on a rollercoaster or hitting up a museum), Aurora struggling in a swimming pool when the ship loses gravity (a chillingly horrifying scene), and the couple rushing to a window to gush over a red star that the ship passes by (without burning up – remember that believability problem?). There are smaller, less-awe-inspiring effects as well, mostly things like hologram readers and a robotic bartender (played by Michael Sheen from Nocturnal Animals), that keep things interesting on a smaller scale as well. Overall, the visual effects in Passengers look like the effects team is trying to show off their CGI chops, and the end results wind up being the strongest elements of the film.
The music in Passengers is distinct and cool. The score, composed by Thomas Newman (Bridge of Spies, The Lost Boys), is very low-key and minimal, electric and modern yet still traditional sounding so that it deftly accompanies both the technology of the spacecraft and the humanity of the passengers. It’s a melodic score, lo-fi almost in a way that sounds as if it were performed on a Casio keyboard at times. Still, it growls and groans and screeches and screams during the more dramatic parts of the movie. The score for Passengers is a sweet-spot blend of a video game soundtrack and a nineties industrial music album. It’s a hip little soundtrack for a huge sinkhole of a movie.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Morten Tyldum
- Producer(s): Stephen HamelMichael MaherOri MarmurNeal H. Moritz
- Screenwriter(s): Jon Spaihts
- Cast: Jennifer Lawrence (Aurora Lane)Chris Pratt (Jim Preston)Michael Sheen (Arthur) Laurence Fishburne (Gus Mancuso)Andy Garcia (Captain Norris)
- Editor(s): Maryann Brandon
- Cinematographer: Rodrigo Prieto
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Jany Temime
- Casting Director(s): Francine Maisler
- Music Score: Thomas Newman
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA