I’ll happily say it – Passengers did not look good. It was a film where the major plot point was ruined during the film’s announcement, and the advertising campaign relied solely on the two famous and impossibly attractive faces of the main characters. Still, Chris Pratt is basically impossible to dislike, Jennifer Lawrence is an Oscar winner and is keen to add more statues to her mantelpiece, and Moren Tyldum is a director fresh off an awards contender of his own, The Imitation Game.
Audiences have also grown used to seeing at least one big Oscar contender a year set in space. It started with Gravity in 2013, in 2014 we had Interstellar, and last year saw the release of The Martian. All of those were at least moderately successful, both at the box office and during awards season, so I was at least hopeful that Passengers could carry on what’s becoming somewhat of an annual tradition.
During a journey supposed to last more than a century, two passengers (get it?) on board the Avalon wake up ninety years too early. With no way of getting back into into their sleep chambers, and things on board starting to malfunction, simply waiting nine decades for their journey to finish is not an option.
As I’ve already eluded to, there is a major plot point that happens very early in this film, that hasn’t appeared in any of the marketing. That makes this a difficult film to discuss without ruining anything, however I will say one thing, both main characters here go through a lot of emotional trauma, and while we’ve seen that many times from Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt definitely shows that there’s more to him than being the cool, funny guy.
Everything about Passengers, apart from the setting, reminds me of an old fashioned disaster film. It’s more or less a two-hander, although Michael Sheen and Laurence Fishburne do have smaller supporting roles. Helping add to this feeling is the music by veteran composer Thomas Newman, which brilliantly captures the balance between old fashioned star power driven film making, and the futuristic setting of the Starship Avalon.
This film is by no means perfect, however. I felt like the characters given to Pratt and Lawrence were clearly separated by gender, with each one coming close to being a stereotype of how a man and a woman “should” act in certain situations. The ending also disappointed me slightly, although most wide release blockbusters don’t stray far from the expected formula.
I would be surprised if Passengers is a film that’s mentioned during awards season, as it was no doubt intended. It is however a largely enjoyable, highly tense adventure in space, and it’s proven to me at least that modern films can rely on star power alone, if you’ve got the right people for the job.
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