Movie of the Week 49
Passengers 2016 drama, romance, sci-fi
It's not a spoiler to say that you must watch this flick from the beginning. In the first minutes of the film we get a bird's eye view of a huge space ship, the Avalon, colliding head on with an asteroid swarm. Don't ask why this incredibly complicated ship couldn't/didn't attempt any evasive maneuvers. In any case the ship's automated systems are only partially successful in dealing with the asteroids, triggering a sequence of events ending with one of the passengers being awakened prematurely (by 90 years) from his hibernation pod. It's also important to know before the curtain goes up that the 5,000 passengers are not astronauts, they are pioneers on a space-borne cruise ship taking them, in suspended animation, on a 120-year journey to colonize a new world. There are a couple potholes in the story that I will mention below, but if you can suspend disbelief you will be very entertained by this movie.
A few highlights (No Spoilers). The production set designs are most impressive: truly a first class job. The space cinematography is jaw dropping and rivals some of the all-time great space travel films. Watch this on the largest screen possible. As expected from a movie starring two of the most popular, young male & female actors, the heart of the story is a romance. The space ship voyage provides the action, flash and tension. Jennifer Lawrence (Aurora) is the stunning sleeping beauty and love interest while Chris Pratt (Jim) again plays the heroic alpha male to perfection. There is no idiotic gender confusion here; the formula is normal and well understood. It is a boy gets girl, boy loses girl, and will they get back together (?) type of romance movie. Michael Sheen shines as the robot-bartender and adds plenty of much needed comic relief. Other than a brief (and mostly unnecessary) appearance by Larry Fishburne, the film has a minimalist three person cast. The sparse cast together with the thoughtful, lingering handling of the central moral dilemma may annoy some viewers, but it was engrossing to me.
The film is not without flaws. Common sense tells us that the super complex Avalon would require a small army of electro-mechanical technicians and computer aces working 24/7 shift work. In this flick the entire crew is dozing in the pods, so they are useless when TSHTF. But having the crew around would ruin the narrative of the film; let them sleep. Pothole #2 – Many viewers criticized the final action scenes as being over-the-top and unbelievable. Maybe so, but they had me on the edge of my seat. Finally, not to nitpick, but the sex scenes were too tame and brief. The lack of eroticism is another lame PC trend which encourages movie makers to play it too safe. A few nude scenes of Aurora would have spiced up the movie and transformed the film into a riskier, edgier classic movie.
Ignore the negative reviews. Passengers is something quite rare: a science fiction film that is entirely fresh and new, not part of a series, and not a reboot, remake, or rip-off of other films. Passengers has a unique visual style, first rate acting — and it tells a fascinating and conservative story.
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Written by Ben Clark. Copyright 2016-2023. All rights reserved.