I have been waiting on this movie for years, it seems. I am such a proud "passenger" of the Jennifer Lawrence fan train for many reasons: 1, she's a great actress, 2, the Hunger Games District 12 is based on where I'm from, and 3, she is so down to earth, it seems (no pun intended for the plot of this movie). All that aside, this movie has some serious issues.
Passengers is the story of a man, a woman, and the Hollywood trope of Adam and Eve. They are aboard the Avalon, a ship that is traveling to a planet that is 120 years away, traveling at half the speed of light. In a way, our Adam here (Chris Pratt, AKA, Jim) creates his own Eve (Jennifer Lawrence, AKA, Aurora), but, just like the original dynamic duo of the first man and woman, there is trouble in paradise. It's a life or death situation, i.e., every space travel movie ever made, and there's nothing quite original about it. The "man needs woman" trope is almost offensive if you don't consider that Chris Pratt would have likely gone crazy from loneliness in a Tom Hanks in Castaway fashion had it not been for Jennifer Lawrence's character's appearance, no matter how she had been brought into the picture.
First off, this movie is slow to start, and understandably so, but Chris Pratt's Jim is alone for so long that you almost begin to feel his boredom, and as a movie-goer, that's the last thing people want to experience. No, not every movie is meant to be action packed, but I maybe needed 15-18 minutes tops of his isolation in order to understand his loneliness. Maybe that's all we had, but it was that boring that it was about to drive me nuts as a viewer. I get it from an artistic perspective, but to the executives at Sony who thought that this movie might be an Oscar contender, are you kidding me? It has Oscar-quality acting from Lawrence, and Chris Pratt certainly gives a good performance, but this script is so weak and flawed that you don't even begin to enjoy the movie until the real drama starts, and even the main conflict is anti-climactic despite the high stakes.
The movie heavily relies on convenience, another sign of a weak script. SPOILERS AHEAD: It just so happens that Lawrence Fishburne's character also wakes up because of a malfunction in the ship, and he is part of the crew, not a passenger, so he can override any lock that Lawrence and Pratt encounter. Jennifer Lawrence just so happens to be able to literally resurrect Pratt's character from the dead. Trope, trope, trope. And I couldn't help but think that they gave Lawrence the name Aurora because that's Sleeping Beauty's name, and she was a sleeping beauty for the first act of the movie.
The movie could have also been better by giving us a little more backstory about the situation. What year was it when they left? Did global warming have anything to do with the migration? What was the current situation on Earth that led them (the entire crew and passengers) to leave, besides over-population? What of Pratt's character's life on Earth? You never even get a full explanation as to why he left, and this is really his movie more than it is Lawrence's. I knew nothing about Pratt except that he was an engineer (I think), was from Colorado, and that he was a passenger on the ship.
As a space geek, I did have a few problems with the way they portrayed a few things, one being that we see a tear roll down Chris Pratt's face in near zero gravity (zero gravity doesn't exist, really), as that is not possible. The tear should have stayed on his eyelashes. I'm serious; look it up. That's how tears work in space.
Despite the tropes, I did have somewhat of a good time. As a sucker from anything involving space travel, this was a must, but gee whiz, kids, Pratt and Lawrence deserve more than this. Their chemistry was off the charts, as has been displayed during the press tour, and I hope that they do another project together, because as an on screen pair, they really click. It was great to see them together - a combination I didn't know I needed. As always, Michael Sheen gives a great performance. He's even spectacular in the Twilight films. I'm waiting on him to get a role that will get him a much deserved Oscar, as I'm sick of him playing second fiddle in films.
This score is beautiful. It's not the most beautiful that I've ever heard, but Thomas Newman always does a great job, much like James Newton Howard: great artists yet so under appreciated. The CGI work in the film was absolutely breath taking and spectacular beyond image. Ground breaking, no, but gorgeous and highly realistic, yes.
As I left the theater and was discussing it with my dad (I'm home for Christmas), another movie goer asked us if we thought it was fabulous, too. I recommended that he watch Interstellar. Again, flawed, but so excellent at the same time, more impactful, and it has a deeper message that goes beyond the narrative of its characters, which is the necessary ingredient to any worthwhile movie. Even movies that are strict character studies should do that, as those films also should leave you questioning your own psyche; Birdman is a great example. A good movie sticks with you, and I just can't seeing this sticking with me. Maybe that's why despite the life or death situation they were in, I didn't feel scared for them, as I never felt attached to their characters, because I saw nothing in them that reminded me of my own human experience. Honestly, the only movies that don't need to go beyond the narrative of their characters are comedies. Cartoon movies even try to leave you with a message. This movie just leaves you with, "well, they lived together."
I give this movie a 50%. Worth the rental, not worth the ticket, but if this pair ever gets together again, you know I'll watch it.
May the Glitter Geek be with you!