Passengers is a film made by Norwegian director Morten Tyldum (best known for 2014’s The Imitation Game) and stars two of America’s favorite contemporary thespians: Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I go nuts for movies that have any kind of space-adventure sci-fi roots in their story. That being said, when I first saw the trailer for this film, my reaction was much the same as the rest of the world; it looked interesting, but had all the necessary elements for a shameless cash grab. For those that are not sure if they can accurately spot a cash grab movie, let’s go through the list: it’s directed by an up-and-coming director, its cast is composed almost entirely of the trendiest names in acting, it seems to want to combine genres, it has a Winter or Summer release date, and it fulfills this year’s need for the trending genre (the current trending genre being space-travel movies started a few years ago by Interstellar). Essentially, everything about this film feels “trendy,” which is typically not a good sign.
I have no problems with the names involved in the making of this film. I thought that Tyldum did a decent job with The Imitation Game. Lawrence and Pratt, while they have their fair share of subpar films, have never given me a reason to dislike their acting abilities. John Spaiths (writer) helped write Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, which I enjoy despite the pleasure most people take in bashing it. Finally, Thomas Newman (composer), has scored a great number of films with excellent music. So, to me, it didn’t seem like there could be anything seriously wrong with this movie at the same time. I was conflicted up until twenty minutes before the showing started when my group of friends and I finally decided that we would, in fact, go see the film.
The script for this movie was pulled off of a website called the Blacklist. No, this has nothing to do with the shitty action-thriller television series on NBC. My good friend and partner here at Millennial Movie Cast, Nick, was the first to inform of this site. Essentially, all it is a site where writers and producers can post un-used scripts that have a lot of potential and hype surrounding them. Unfortunately, this also means that anyone can read the script before the movie comes out and compare it to the final product, which has absolutely become the case with Passengers. I have not read the script because I wanted to be able to critique the film without having any knowledge of what was “supposed to happen.”
From a big picture view, the story is fairly bland. As I said earlier, it tries to combine the trendy space-adventure with an odd romantic drama, and the result is that neither two are able to take priority over the other and build a compelling plotline.
Many critics have used the words “overly-complicated” to describe the film’s plot. This is not inaccurate, but I want to try and better explain what they mean. This film is not overly-complicated in the sense that it caused peoples’ heads to hurt like Inception or Primer. It’s overly-complicated in the sense that the overall plot is pretty straightforward: there’s two passengers on an intergalactic cruiser that wake up 90 years too early from hibernation sleep and cannot find a way to go back to sleep. On a small scale, however, there are tons of things that happen that muddle the plot and distract from the central storyline: which is the relationship between the two characters and what isolation can bring out in people. In other words, if the story would have stuck to just having these two characters wake up too early and have to deal with all the emotional and psychological struggles that come along with it, it would have been a far better movie.
Also, as a final comment, in his video review, Chris Stuckmann commented that he believed that the story of was told out of the correct order. I completely agree with him and will also add that this movie would have worked better if it had picked one character (preferably Jennifer Lawrence) and stuck with their point-of-view for the duration of the film.
Again, neither Jennifer Lawrence or Chris Pratt do anything that I can complain about. Neither of them are particularly compelling either. However, that is mostly due to the script’s inability to give these character’s well thought out and personalized dialogue. A lot of their lines are very cheesy, and a lot of it is exposition that is beat into the ground by repetition. But, this is mainly a result of the poor script rather than their acting ability, and they will not be penalized for it.
There are two other actors in this film, but for sake of spoilers, I won’t say who they are. I will say that they seem out of their elements and only showed up to receive a pay check.
Tyldum’s direction is not bad by any means. It’s just… not great either. It’s clear that Tyldum didn’t have much of a vision for this film (probably again due to the muddled plot), so the direction is mostly conventional and not at all outstanding or unique. Still, it could be have been much worse, so I won’t complain too much.
The CGI used in this film is actually pretty decent, though it’s not used as much as one might expect. The most notable scenes are one involving a swimming pool (that I’m sure you’ve seen in the trailers), and the first-time Chris Pratt does a spacewalk. The only thing I can complain about is that I’m pretty sure they used the same CG image of space every time someone looks out of the window. Though I can’t really prove that this is true without having various freeze frames, I fully expect that you’ll just take my word for it and leave it at that.
Thomas Newman is usually a pretty good composer, and some of the music in this film is up to par with his other work, but a lot is not and barely goes noticed. It’s not that the music is bad, it’s how it’s used in the film that I find the most wrong-doing. In a film about isolation, one should expect a lot of silence and tension filled music. Unfortunately, there is very little tension in Newman’s score and there is rarely a moment of silence. So, it’s not in the music itself that I find fault, but the way it is used.
Also, the closing credits begin with a song by Imagine Dragons, which… gross. Besides being Imagine Dragons, the song does not fit the overall tone of the movie at all and seemed really weird. It’s probably more of a play on the trendiness of the film than anything else.
X-Factor: 5/10, Arthur is not an Android
The robotic bartender, Arthur, describes himself in one scene as an android. I’m here to tell you right here and now that Arthur is nowhere close to being an android. He is a piece of machinery that comes along with the rest of the ship, not an artificial human. If he were an android, he would be able to help the characters with their moral struggles and emotional problems. He would be like Bishop or Ash in Alien and Aliens, or Ava in Ex Machina, or Harrison Ford in Blade Runner, or John Connor in the Terminator series, or Harrison Ford in Star Wars, or Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. Are some of those lies to throw you off? Maybe.
Passengers is not really deserving of its abysmal Rotten Tomatoes score of 31%, but it’s still not a great film. It doesn’t really offer anything new and original to the world of film and will quickly be forgotten amidst the flood of Oscar potential that will be coming out this month. That being said, I can pretty much guarantee you that it is a better movie than Assassin’s Creed or that animated movie made by the same people that consistently remind us of why Pixar was a welcome sight to all in the world of animation by putting out. While it may be bland, it would be hard to find something to hate about this film.