Thursday, March 23, 2017

Passengers (2016) Review (Minor Spoilers)

     Passengers is a space drama directed by Morten Tyldum and stars Jennifer Lawrence & Chris Pratt as two people (out of 5000) aboard a spacecraft in the future that is en route to a new colony on another planet.  Easy enough but the trouble is the voyage is supposed to take 120 years; Jim Preston (Pratt) and Aurora Jane (Lawrence) have been awakened from their stasis pods 90 years early.

     I remember watching the trailer for this one when it hit the web in September and to be honest, I wasn't sure what to think of it.  It didn't look bad but I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to see it, even if it did have star power like Katniss Darkholme and Peter Grady.  I kept it in the back of my mind as one to look at once it hit rental (this opened the same weekend as Rogue One so our priorities were elsewhere) and now that it has done so, I plunked down and gave it a watch.  I'm not going to try and get too specific but I do need to address a couple of events that might be considered minor spoilers.

     Jim checking his map, making sure he isn't on the Sulaco.

     The first (and best) thing I noticed with Passengers is the score, which I absolutely loved.  Composer Thomas Newman loves his piano apparently as he fills the softer and more awe-inspiring scenes with a piano-focused but a touch of electronica score that I could not help but compare to the score from Bioware's Mass Effect series while also keeping that more traditional action scene music handy for when things really go wrong but even then, he can't keep the piano and electronica out of those.  The soundtrack here can be beautiful and ominous all at once and it is absolutely great, well worth a listen.
     Unfortunately, that's all I can say that I undeniably loved about this movie as the rest of it is something of a mixed bag.  I like the leads of Lawrence and Pratt and they do have some pretty good chemistry and charisma onscreen together.  Even though Lawrence is top billed, this is very much Pratt's movie as his character awakens first and it was interesting to see him go through something along the lines of the Kubler-Ross Five Stages Of Grief Model.  In fact, I wish that this could've gone on longer (or have just been the whole movie) because I thought that when Jim considers suicide via air-lock 24 minutes into the film, it felt too premature.  At this point in the story, he's been on his own (unless you count Michael Sheen's android bartender Arthur) for just over a year and I get why Jim would want to try this but it didn't feel like it had been a year.  Since the movie isn't interested in being Cast Away IINNN SPAAAAACCEEE, Aurora is introduced shortly after this scene and then the movie felt like it picked up in pace, rushing through the highs and lows of their relationship.
     Looking over my notes again, it becomes clear that once Jim and Aurora's relationship tanks the movie doesn't offer a whole lot in terms of substance.  It's not like Jim goes all psycho over the fact that he's alone again despite not being the only person awake on the ship or Aurora finds something that Jim hasn't tried to reactivate their pods, they just sort of...exist.  Another character gets introduced at the 1hr 12min mark but they're only around for, what, literally ten minutes?  I would wonder why the movie even bothered introducing this character but obviously its for plot convenience so the story can attempt to build up suspense and tension for a finale on the exterior of the ship that probably sounds cool when you hear it but lacks that sense of peril in execution.
     As far as other technical things go, the only thing that stood out was that I was not overly impressed by the CGI in this movie.  There were a few dodgy green screen moments as well as CG effects that were not very convincing and these damaged the sense of immersion that I usually feel when watching a movie.  I will give credit though to the Zero Gravity Pool sequence though, where the onboard gravity malfunctions while Aurora is swimming and she gets trapped in a floating bubble of water.  Not only did the CGI look the best here but in order to really sell Aurora's predicament, Jennifer Lawrence was tied down in a water tank for authenticity.  Method acting for the win!

"Go for a swim," I said.  "It'll be relaxing," I said...

     In the end, Passengers is a movie that I'm glad I didn't see in theatres because I feel like I would feel more bitter towards it if I had.  The quality starts to dip after the first twenty minutes or so and that's a shame.  There are moments where you think the plot is going to go a certain way but then it goes a far less interesting route and it does that a few times leading up to an ending that doesn't so much feel like an ending but an abrupt stop that'll make you say, "That's it?"  Do I hate this movie?  No, I don't feel like I want the 110min runtime of my life back but I'm not in any rush to revisit the Avalon any time soon.  I liked Pratt, Lawrence and the score but the rest of it overall is pretty "Meh," and with that I'm giving Passengers the ranking of Indifferent.

 Yeah, that happened.

     What did you guys think of Passengers?  Good, bad or meh, let me know down in the comments below.  Thanks for reading and if you like what you see on the blog, be sure to nudge that "Follow" button and stay cynical!
     -The Cynic

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