Sunday, January 1, 2017


Passengers (2016) Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Andy García. Directed by Morten Tyldum. Screenplay by Jon Spaihts. Produced by Neal H. Moritz. Stephen Hamel, Michael Maher, Ori Marmur Run Time: 116 minutes.U.S.A. Color. Science Fiction, Fantasy

While Hollywood loves to rely on sequels and prequels and whatever you want to call the MCU, there are occasionally original stories that make it to the screen. Passengers appears to be one of those movies. There is no book it's based on, nor a previous film in a series.

That sadly does not mean it's entirely original nor that it is really good.

Without giving too much away, the story revolves around two people on a 120-year-long voyage from Earth to Homestead II, a planet that has been settled by the Homestead Corporation, yes even space will eventually get commercialized if you believe this film. Passengers aboard the ship spend all but the last four months of the voyage in suspended animation with the crew getting one month less sleep before landing.

But that's not what happens. Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), a mechanic hoping to go to a world where he can build things, is awoken 90 years too early, an error he doesn't become aware of until the next day. All the systems that are available to passengers are working and Jim is moved along as if nothing is the matter. It is when he goes to orientation that he realizes he is alone.

His only companion is Arthur (Michael Sheen), a robot bartender. That is until Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) is awoken. The how and whys are a secret to her. Needless to say, that will remain mum here as well so as not to give away too much of the plot. But when she finds out, things change rapidly.

The writer, Jon Spaihts, must have found himself in a corner, because he needed a Deus Ex Machina to get him out. Enter Chief Gus Mancuso (Laurence Fishburne), the chief deck officer, who suddenly is brought out of his suspended animated state. Mancuso also neatly exits once he is no longer needed to the plot. While you have to give Spaihts credit for finding a way out, it does point to a flaw in the film. The story comes to a point of no return with about an hour to go. It needs the introduction of a third character to get it back on track.

With their short term predicament resolved, but their long term one impossible to fix, Aurora and Jim, we're told, make the best of the years they spend alone in space.

Now, there are moments of high drama and personal introspection to go along with the space travel, which is dangerous enough.

There are other problems which the movie doesn't address, which means the viewer really has to suspend their disbelief to get past. One of them is the premise of the story; not that a corporation would own a planet, but that you could do commerce with a 120 year lag time. Once you get past that, there is the issue of how they could have colonized a planet such a great distance from Earth. If it took 120 years to get to and you were missing a part, it would take 240 years to get one. They establish that communication with Earth would take years if not decades. That doesn't seem to work well with decision-making or emergencies. By the time supplies would get back and forth, they would be outdated at best, as technology doesn't show any signs of slowing down. Not only would have transportation bypassed the current means, but just think about how many versions of the iPhone a Homesteader would be behind.

There are some really good special effects and ones that are very imaginative, but that's not enough to save the film.

Neither are the stars. This seems to be a match made in Hollywood heaven. Neither Jennifer Lawrence or Chris Pratt ever seem to be in bad movies or box office duds, They are a very likable pair individually and they make a somewhat believable chemistry; don't all beautiful people?

Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence make a good-looking couple.

While Fishburne may have a small role, he is a welcomed relief in some ways, though we almost know from the beginning that he won't last. Michael Sheen is an enjoyable robot for both Jim and Aurora to bounce ideas off of. Sheen seems to be making a career out of playing barkeeps in science fiction films; remember Tron: Legacy?

Michael Sheen plays a robot barkeep in Passengers.

And if you're going because Andy Garcia is in it, don't. He might have the biggest credit in a film for doing so little. I don't even think he speaks a word of dialogue in his seconds of screentime. Now, there is a role just about anyone could have played. One suspects his scenes were cut, since no one of his stature was needed for the part.

Overall, I'm happy I went, but I would not recommend Passengers. There are too many other films out that are probably better. Unless you're just crazy for sci-fi space films, then you might want to look elsewhere to spend your entertainment dollar.

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