Movie Review: Passengers

"Passengers" isn't quite what I expected, but definitely worth the price of admission, just to see the visuals alone.

The set-up for Passengers is a great premise. Two passengers mistakenly awaken earlier than expected, while in the middle of their 120-year voyage from Earth to colonize another planet.

Although the film starts off pretty slow, the visuals and cinematography absolutely hold your attention.  I went to a 3-D showing and it felt like I was right there among the stars. The visuals are simply gorgeous and the effects that render space and time travel initially suggest this is going to be a worthy blockbuster.  Visually, it definitely holds up its end of the bargain but story-wise I felt that it was lacking, although it still made for a pretty enjoyable flick.

The Starship Avalon is on a 120-year journey through space to Homestead II, which is a new colony to be inhabited by the ship’s 5,000 civilians who are seeking a new life away from Earth.

These travelers lie in induced hibernation for the duration of the trip, and only scheduled to awaken four months prior to their arrival to Homestead II.  They are to be awoken so that they can enjoy leisure activities such as you’d see on a top of the line cruise ship, and to prepare for their new home.

Unfortunately, something causes passenger Jim Preston (the popularly charismatic Chris Pratt) to wake too soon. 90 years too soon. Facing a lonely life and certain death before the vessel reaches its destination, Jim’s future now turns on an ethical dilemma.

Passengers‘ strong points include its aspirational, futuristic production design and the casting of Jennifer Lawrence against Pratt, which was surely predicted to be chemistry on tap. But the real scene stealer was Michael Sheen, who played the cliché-spouting android bartender Arthur.  It was a delight to see how his character interacted with the lonely Jim Preston, once Jim found out he wasn’t the only one up on the ship. Their whimsical and sometimes tense conversations about Jim being the only human awake on the ship is what help shape the climax of the film once Jennifer Lawrence’s character awakens.

And of course, the interstellar setting promises much, including Gravity-esque space walks and a terrific scene which aptly demonstrates the importance of actual gravity.

Sadly, despite these wonderful opportunities, the plot lets it down. The initially gripping “How could this happen?” is even tantalizingly dangled in the film’s tagline “There is a reason they woke up.” Well, yes there is – but it turns out it’s not something you can really build a film around. I was expecting a much bigger twist for the reasons why the Passengers woke up.  I felt that the trailers and marketing materials misled its viewers tremendously.

I was expecting a Total Recall-like reveal, but instead, the plot relies heavily on the romantic chemistry of Pratt and Lawrence instead of the reasons why they are in the predicament that they’re in.

This film suddenly became Titanic in space with Pratt’s Jim even being the lower class of passenger to Lawrence’s Aurora, and his question “Do you trust me?” is a sure nod to the famous “I’m flying!” scene in the doomed boat drama.

The ending to the film was too cliche’ and like I said before I was expecting more of a twist to the reasons why they were in their predicament. Instead, we get a formula that you can sniff out a mile away.

Granted, purely as big-screen entertainment, Passengers does deliver some spectacle and engagement…especially in 3D.  But with a $110 million budget and with two stars in their prime, with Pratt and Lawrence, I was expecting much more.

Passengers is definitely worth seeing for the visuals alone, and if there’s a good deal on 3D showings in your area.  Also, if you’re a huge fan of Chris Pratt.  You definitely see a lot of him in this film, and I do mean a lot!

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