Weekly Review: Passengers (2016)

After a ship malfunction on a 120 year journey to a new world, two passengers are woken up 90 years early with no means of going back to sleep. Faced with the reality of living the rest of their lives on the ship, the two begin to fall for each other before realizing that the malfunction that woke them is just the beginning.

I wasn’t excited for Passengers. I saw the trailers, and it looked pretty… meh. It had the potential to be an interesting concept, but nothing that was shown to me really made it stand out. For this reason, I didn’t run out to see it in theaters.

When I eventually got around to seeing the film, my initial predictions proved to be correct. There are some things in the plot that surprised me, but for the most part, the plot is very predictable. Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence play their roles well, but the story leaves much to be desired. There are definitely a lot of opportunities that were passed over.

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The first thing that you’ll see when watching Passengers is that the trailers lied to you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I really have to commend the trailer for actually keeping secrets in this day and age. Honestly, the plot points that the trailer refuses to show are one of the only interesting parts of the film. It’s a rather dark twist that puts the film in an entirely different light. The ethical questions it asks are pretty deep and could definitely spark discussion.

This moral ambiguity is really the only thing that surprised me about Passengers (minus a surprise character addition about 3/4 of the way in). Even still, this plot point eventually turns stale. What you’re left with is a formulaic romance in space, except it’s entirely set on a space ship where day-to-day life is rather tedious.

Waking up from cryogenic sleep 90 years too early and having to deal with the weight of that, on top of the moral concerns that are posed, could have been a piece of science fiction art all on its own. In many ways, I really wish they had chosen to go with that route rather than the one they eventually sided with.

As I mentioned above, Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence play their lead roles well. Lawrence is able to very properly convey the rage that her character Aurora Lane would feel in this situation. Pratt also plays his role well as the lonely hero. Neither of these roles are really out of the ordinary for either of these two actors.

Michael Sheen brings a nice flare of wit to the film with his character Arther, an android bartender. Arthur supplies many of the instances of humor that break from the tedium. The surprise actor addition in the last half of the film temporarily revives the plot as well, but even this runs its course pretty quickly.

There are definitely some visually stunning moments. Outer space is always beautiful, so I enjoyed the imagery of that. One part that really stands out involves a character swimming in a pool during a momentary loss of gravity. The person I was watching this movie with pointed out that most of the set design seems inspired by the video game Mass Effect. While I don’t play that game, I will admit that the set design seems very familiar, but nice nonetheless.

I was really let down by the ending of Passengers. Although the movie was predictable throughout, the ending could have potentially saved it for me. Unfortunately, the ending feels rushed, hastily trying to answer all of the questions the viewer may have. It feels rather Hollywood, tying up loose ends in the safest way possible. With the murky ethics of the situation in the film, I would have preferred an ending that was more murky to match.

Overall, it would appear Passengers has average to below average reviews with most people agreeing that it’s a forgettable film. What people liked and didn’t like about it seems to have a bit of variety though. I would probably say that the premise of waking from cryogenic sleep so early and the emotions that accompany that situation are the best points about this film. If you really focus on that, then you may find that Passengers has staying power, but I really don’t feel that they played up on those emotions enough.

If you’re a fan of romantic space operas, then you may enjoy Passengers. If you’re a fan of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, then that may be a reason for you to give it a try as well. I just wouldn’t go into it expecting it to really stick with you. It all depends on how you look at it.

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