Wednesday, December 28, 2016


All stories have characters who are trying to achieve something; a goal which we the audience can get fully behind, so when the end comes and our hero has hopefully made it, there is satisfaction to be had. In Morten Tyldum’s PASSENGERS, the main character is literally stuck with a decision of moral and ethical implications which effects his end-goal…and what that character does with it determines if this ship sinks or sails.

The starship Avalon is transporting over 5,000 colonists to inhabit a new world in a journey that takes 120 years. When the ship is struck by a meteor, Jim (Chris Pratt), is woken out of hyper-sleep 90 years too early, and with no way to go back to hibernation, is stuck on the ship alone with just a robot-bartender (Michael Sheen), for company. After a year alone and desperate for company, Jim decides to wake up another passenger; Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), and the two begin a romance…

Character motivations go a long way in telling a story. It’s not what a character does as much as why, and PASSENGERS is a film which rests upon the shoulders of two of Jim’s decisions. His first big call is to break Aurora out of hyper-sleep which essentially condemns her to an imprisoned life aboard the ship (she later calls it murder), and his second major decision is to lie to her…when he tells her that she was knocked out of hibernation because of a ship malfunction. Although the early goings of the film takes a lot of time to show us Jim’s desperation and loneliness, it’s still difficult to get behind his decisions…which come off as self-centered and greedy. There’s certainly a question of “what would you do in that situation”, but the question doesn’t even get asked as everything that follows starts with Jim’s deception and selfish act.

On top of the questionable character motivation, PASSENGERS spends its final act in a run-of-the-mill sci-fi predictable snoozer. The ship begins to have serious malfunctions and the two must go into oh-my-god-we’re-gonna-die-if-we-don’t-work-together mode, and the ironic situations they both get put into can be seen coming from a light-year away.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about PASSENGERS is that the dumb plot and characters are inhabiting one of the most gorgeous production designs ever put to film. The Avalon is a luxury ship complete with a bar, swimming pool, stores, restaurants, and comfy suites. The design is stunningly beautiful, and everything right down to the little robots who clean the ship is a joy to watch. Director Morten Tyldum has no issues with pacing, editing, or framing a shot…and Thomas Newman’s score is very good.

Aurora’s goddamn namesake is way too on-the-nose.

Acting is another highlight. Chris Pratt does some heavy-lifting and handles it well, and his chemistry with Jennifer Lawrence makes things sizzle. Lawrence has the most work to do as a woman who feels like her life was taken away from her, and the scene where she finds out the truth behind Jim’s story is where she does some of the best acting of her career. Michael Sheen is an absolute joy as the robot-bartender, and there are a few other surprise cameos here and there…

By the end of PASSENGERS, Jim does indeed achieve what he wanted from the beginning…but despite all he and Aurora go through, it’s difficult to get behind him or feel good about it. It’s as if Ralphie from A CHRISTMAS STORY got his coveted BB-gun by murdering his friends. It doesn’t work, and makes PASSENGERS one flight worth missing.


No comments:

Post a Comment

A few rules:
1. Personal attacks not tolerated.
2. Haters welcome, if you can justify it.
3. Swearing is goddamn OK.