Bringing you honest reviews of recent releases
Chris Pratt – Jim Preston
Jennifer Lawrence – Aurora Lane
Michael Sheen – Arthur
Andy García – Captain Norris
What we have here is a futuristic sci-fi which blends a nice amount of fantasty with a feasible plot. And I must say, the opening of this movie with its glossy graphics and compelling ‘what happened to everything?’ style atmosphere kept me transfixed on the screen. Four elements that grip me with a space travel movie:
Earth has become uninhabitable. Why? And what does it look like now?
At the other side of the galaxy is a new planet with people making it their new home – what does that one look like?
What will it be like for the passengers when they arrive?
Will they even arrive?
Things like that, you know. And I was impressed by this movie’s plot. Unlike most space travel stories these days that involve battling airships and tiresome fights between alleged heros and enemies on board one which take just over two hours to kick off, Passengers tackles a concept many people in real life have deliberated about; that one day new inhabitable planets may be discovered and the residents of Earth are able to ‘move in’. Excellent stuff – almost an impossible dream-like notion but still feasible. Running alongside this theme is the whole cryogenic suspension element; this eventuality taking so many light years to complete that the space travellers will need to be frozen in order to arrive at their destination not hundreds of years old – or dead, obviously.
The passengers onboard the Avalon are kept in pods, one of which malfunctions and out pops a rather strapping Chris Pratt in a pair of space-travel shorts and fitted vest (not so strapping when his beard becomes so huge and messy it would put Brian Blessed to shame).
No time for a boner though, I was fully focused on how his character would deal with being shaken awake and having to live by himself, enduring years of loneliness whilst trying various ways to wake up the crew and fix the ship. Yes, you have two stories here; a manic race to fix the damaged spaceship before everyone is fucked. And an undercurrent of sadness when the lead character realises he may not be able to return to suspension, thus living out the rest of his life floating around space.
Viewers aren’t short of action during Passengers, its simple story and fascinating sub-plot make for a very watchable piece of cinema.
Pratt heightens the tensity nicely during the opening scene (as well as the opening of his pod). The actor gives it a hundred – well… ninety percent with a lot of frustrated facial expressions, tears, shouting, and pounding on metal doors. He stirs up a sense of panic, devastation and this keeps the movie flowing brilliantly – no time is spared on tedious bullshit thankfully. And graphics wise, I cannot fault Passengers. Its use of vibrant colours and slick machinery is fantastic. Rich, glossy blue swimming pools. Silvery-gold industrial flight decks and metal tunnels. And outer space: an deep blackness not needing much CGI or other work done on it to be as fluid as it is. Passengers nails the visuals, top marks.
The mechanics of the ship are just as superb..
When Jim awakens and has full use of the starship Avalon, everything he could possibly want is on tap and in easy reach. Although quite a clinical environment, the ship provides 24-hour food and drink, exercise equipment, entertainment. So as well as being screwed, he can’t complain about being low on facilities.
The imagination gone into the mechanics is great; I.E. in the canteen: when faced with the central keypad (which also orders and spits out consumables) Jim discovers any flavour and size of coffee when placing an order – think Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory meets Starbucks. And hundreds of dishes served hot or cold, any size. Cereals, vegetables, chocolate.. great stuff. This is what futuristic movies are missing nowadays; attention to detail on human comforts. Many movies stage the issue at hand and throw a load of lasers, swords or lightsabers around the set – but who’s serving the tea and Spotted Dick? (that is indeed a British pudding and not a condition).
So what went wrong with Passengers?
Something about this movie is just awful. Although sparkling with imagination, it contains a few plot holes and those cliché moments where a character says or does something – which no one ever would, or should. It becomes a bit boring in places, especially when Jim falls for a woman he hasn’t even met. This is the reason he wakes her up prematurely from suspension – so that he can make her love him. Fucking ridiculous I thought, with natural eye-rolling reactions during their subsequent scenes.
The ending is a bit poor too; as the camera floats up towards the ceiling of the Avalon and one of the protagonists delivers a parting speech, I couldn’t have felt more dissatisfied with how the movie concluded. I wanted answers. I wanted to know what happened to the pair, how everything turned out, but most of all..
I WANTED TO SEE HOMESTEAD II.
A movie about the habitation of a new planet is fascinating but not as fascinating if viewers don’t get a glimpse of the new world. This reminded me instantly of 2011 flick Another Earth (Brit Marling); another movie in which a new planet is discovered and humans are allowed to visit / move up. But in the end, viewers don’t even get a glimpse of the amazing place the characters buzz about.
Sometimes, a movie where the director leaves it up to the viewer’s imagination to paint the ending is good. Other times it’s just plain irritating and dull.
Passengers does include a little symbolic performance every now and then. Mainly shown in Jim’s selfish actions, such as waking up Aurora without authority. And not wanting to die alone, longing for company whilst going out of his mind on the Avalon when he wakes up alone. And perhaps the scene just before he wakes her up was a hint of reference to how we live nowadays:
Jim sits next to Aurora’s pod for months, watching her biographical videos on an iPad-like device and becoming more interested in her as a person. Laughing heartily at her jokes, empathising with her reasoning for leaving Earth and moving to Homestead II, etc. Just through a screen – he likes her.
Just like many people in the world nowadays on dating apps; Tindr for example. Swiping through a stranger’s photos and listening to what they have to say about themselves.. liking someone – through a screen.
And that’s that.
A star-studded (pun fully intended) futuristic sci-fi with a fascinating concept, yet slightly tedious way of telling its story. I’m sure the producers thought they’d struck gold by marketing this movie with a glossy poster of Pratt and Lawrence staring intriguingly out into space, and a bold yet simple title font. They certainly did well on the promotion side – but production side, Passengers is a bit of a flop. I just wish its consistency remained solid all the way through.
But hey, it fills an hour or so should you find yourself bored senseless on a Saturday night.