Possible spoilers ahead!
The spaceship Avalon is on a 120-year voyage to a distant colony planet known as the Homestead Colony II. The ship is transporting 5,259 passengers and crew, and everything is fine until the ship suffers a malfunction to its sleep chambers.
As a result. the pod containing mechanic Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) opens prematurely, and he’s later joined by fellow passenger, writer Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence). Now the two passengers find themselves stranded on the spaceship, with almost 90 years to go before the Avalon is due to reach its destination.
I don’t understand the amount of hate that “Passengers” is getting from critics. As I am writing this review, the movie has a 32% on Rotten Tomatoes, and that’s just not right. It sounds to me like many of those critics were expecting something else from this movie, and when they didn’t get it, they decided to beat up on it. I for one, enjoyed “Passengers,” I would even say its a good date movie and pretty slick sci-fi movie.
Maybe critics were pissed that the movie takes place entirely in the ship, but even then I don’t get the criticism. I thought the marketing did a good job explaining the whole thing took place on the Avalon. And yet, the movie never feels small-scale. The filmmakers make the most of their one location, and much of the credit goes to the design team that built a futuristic high-end cruise ship with plenty of luxuries for Jim and Aurora to enjoy.
Another good thing about “Passengers” is that the film is not as dependent on visual effects as other sci-fi movies are. But when the script calls for some special effects, “Passengers” delivers good ones. One of the stand out scenes is the zero-gravity sequence in a swimming pool, and a couple of space walk scenes.
Now we come to the acting. Regardless of what some of the reviews are saying about the leads, I thought there was great chemistry between Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. As the two start to bond exploring the ship, come to grips with their new situation,and fall in love, it felt real. You could tell the two actors enjoyed playing off each other, and were having fun for most of the movie.
In terms of performances, both Lawrence and Pratt delivered solid performances, but I’d also be a fool not to acknowledge that the two have also done better work in other films. Even so, I liked what both talented actors brought to this movie.
“Passengers” also features another inspired performance by Michael Sheen as Arthur, the android bartender. He is the film’s source of comic relief and in a way, its conscience. The movie also has a small role from Laurence Fishburne, and a blink and you’ll miss it cameo from Andy Garcia.
I have to imagine that Garcia’s role was dramatically cut from the movie, because I can’t imagine the filmmakers would cast Andy Garcia for a cameo that lasts under 10 seconds.
I suppose if I have one complaint about “Passengers” it would be the run time. This movie could easily have been 20 minutes shorter, and that would have helped the pace of the story. Another thing that may have helped things would be some character development.
Jennifer Lawrence’s Aurora gets the most development, but we only get a few lines about Chris Pratt’s character. Although he does carry the first act of the movie by himself. It would also have been fun to learn a bit more about what else they enjoyed on the Avalon other than basketball, movies, and dance offs. Yup, this movie has dance offs.
As far as space travel films go, “Passengers” stood out for me for a few reasons: the movie was thought-provoking piece that had me ask myself what would I do in that situation, could my mind handle the stress, and what about never seeing my friends and family again?
I’m not saying “Passengers” is as good as last year’s “The Martian,” or one of the best movies of the year. What I am saying is that “Passengers” is better than what critics are saying, and it is a well executed film. And if you’re still not convinced to give this movie a try, then just watch it for JLaw who spends the movie in tank tops, tiny dresses, work out gear, and a bikini.
“Passengers” score: B