Passengers (2016)7:01 AM
There is a reason they woke up.
This review contains Spoilers.
Passengers is directed by Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game, Headhunters) and stars Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games, Silver Linings Playbook), Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World), Michael Sheen (Underworld, Midnight in Paris) and Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, Hannibal). "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" (IMDb, 2016). A spectacular trailer that was delayed due to a lawsuit, casting that was heavily talked about due to controversy over how women in Hollywood are paid and a script that has been on the blacklist - Passengers has had many hurdles to get over before actually being made but was it worth all of the hassle?
So 2016 has been a year where you can't really rely on a film to be good and that is definitely something I have learnt this year - Suicide Squad, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Batman vs Superman, The BFG....I could go on. Unfortunately, Passengers joins that list as I am really disappointed in this film - how can a film with two of Hollywood's biggest stars turn out like this? An acclaimed director and a much wanted script as well...I just don't know where it all went wrong. Don't get me wrong, Passengers isn't awful and does have a few redeeming qualities - such as the amazing visuals and decent performances from Lawrence and Pratt but this definitely will not be an awards contender and I don't know if it will be a hit with audiences either.
I love Jennifer Lawrence and I honestly think she is the best part about this film. I do think Sony should be a little worried with how much they agreed to pay her as she isn't even the actual lead - the story is told through Pratt's eyes. And with the poor reviews this film is getting, I don't think it is going to be quite as big of a box office performer as it could have been. However, Lawrence is good - this isn't one of her best performances but she is still solid. However, I think what made me less passionate about her is the character she plays - to begin with, I really liked Aurora - I thought it was funny how she is the sleeping woman and has the same name as Sleeping Beauty but I also thought her character was ambitious and strong. That was until she finds out that Jim (Pratt) woke her up - she is incredibly aggressive (rightfully so) but then her character comes back round to still loving Pratt despite what he did to her - she convinced us that she was so hurt but she just learns to forgive. This could be seen as a good character trait but I think it would be incredibly difficult to forgive someone for indirectly killing you. Aurora also comes across quite weak, clueless and helpless towards the end of the film - it is Pratt who has to fix the problem, she is just a helping hand. However, she does turn into a hero towards the end of the film and does save Pratt but it didn't feel as heroic as it could have been which I put down to unlikeable characters with poor development.
His name may be Chris Pratt but his character is a real prat (excuse the language). I liked Jim at first and thought he was quite funny and likeable but then he turns into this creepy sex-hungry hairy man - he literally wakes Aurora up because he finds her attractive and he believes she is the one - how cheesy, how typical and how objectifying to the character of Aurora - a good portion of the first act is spent Jim just gazing at Aurora's sleeping body - the male gaze brought to life. I think Pratt is miscast - someone like Matt Damon or Bradley Cooper would have been much better - Pratt's weaknesses lie when he has to be serious and dramatic - it still comes across as comical and is not taken seriously. I really disliked his character and I found it shocking how quickly Aurora forgave him. If Jim wasn't such a tool and Aurora was a little stronger, this would have worked. It is important to note that Pratt and Lawrence do have good chemistry and their love is believable when it is blossoming.
The concept for Passengers is excellent and really thought provoking - I can understand why this was on the blacklist and why so many people wanted to see it brought to life. Once again though, an excellent concept is wasted on a pretty generic, relatively bland and silly script. There is no real surprise - the biggest plot point is actually revealed pretty early on. I think the film would have worked much better if it was told from Aurora's perspective so we (the audience) were unaware why she was woken up - this would have made an effective Hans-like reveal (Frozen) rather than us knowing what a douche Jim was all along. The plot for Passengers isn't Titanic in space - the failure of the ship actually doesn't happen until the last 30 minutes - I feel like it was just added to throw in some extra entertainment. I've said how Aurora woke up but how did Jim? Well, it really, isn't that exciting, he literally woke up due to a failure in the ship - easy to guess and no big surprise there. This would have been a good romance in space film - remove the ship failure and add in some more character moments so it would be more of a slow burn learning how these characters are going to deal with this terrifying situation. I will give Passengers some credit - the stakes do feel quite high - especially when Aurora is expressing her fear and anger for being woken up early. The message for the film is also quite muddled and not that inspiring - I basically took away that you should learn to live with your problems rather than finding ways to overcome them - the characters are given opportunities to improve their situation but their ultimate choice isn't once I agree with. However, it could also be seen as promoting the idea of making the most of where you are and what you have which I suppose is a pretty important message. The script and narrative is what lets Passengers down majorly so I don't actually understand why so many people wanted it made into a film other than the great concept.
One thing that definitely was not underwhelming was the visuals - the CGI is brilliant - once again space is extremely well realised but I think the ship and the futuristic technologies on board were also very well done. Passengers has a very metallic and clean colour palette which it maintains all the way through, until the very end - this likely has an underlying purpose. I thought the cinematography was also very good - the wide shot of the characters looking through the window at the star they pass comes to mind as a standout moment.
Just some other general comments - I think Passengers suffers from an identity crisis - I don't think it knows whether it wants to be a high-brow sci-fi like Gravity and The Martian or whether it wants to be a light-hearted blockbuster popcorn flick like Guardians of the Galaxy or Transformers. It really finds itself a grey area in the middle and I don't think it really works - Jennifer Lawrence is doing her best Sandra Bullock in Gravity whilst Pratt is doing his usual - the director should have been more aware of this. Then again, this issue is probably the directors fault as he probably wanted a film that was critically and financially successful and thought this was the way to achieve that. The big sex scene that they keep going on in the interviews has obviously been heavily cut (similar to The Legend of Tarzan) but the film does push boundaries - hints at sex on the dining table and shots of Pratt's bum come to mind.
Passengers is a let down but it isn't a terrible film. The visuals are outstanding and the performances from Lawrence and Pratt are solid. However, this isn't quite enough to redeem the unlikeable characters and a plot that is extremely flawed and definitely a missed opportunity. I would recommend this film to fans of Lawrence and Pratt as they will find something to like and also to those who have seen most other big releases and want to go to the cinema. However, this isn't anything revolutionary and you won't be talking about it for long after seeing it. Unfortunately, Passengers is nothing special and I wish there was a better reason for why they woke up.
What did you think of PASSENGERS? It took such a long time to get made, was it that worth it? - COMMENT BELOW
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