Beautiful People in Space – Passengers (2016)

Don’t judge a book by its cover.  So this is about a gigantic luxury space ship on transit from Earth to a new habitable planet that is a quite a distance away.  It will take approximately 120 years to reach there, so naturally, all 5,000+ people are put into a state of hypersleep.  An unexpected asteroid field causes a power short that ultimately ends up waking up just two of the ship’s passengers (Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence) about 90 years too early.  I saw trailers to this, and I could see this movie going either way.  Space movies seldom do all that well from a fiscal standpoint because they’re usually so expensive, but there are two leads featured in this that are known for getting butts in seats.  Then the negative reviews started to pour in (this is currently sitting on a 30% on rottentomatoes), and while my expectations were certainly tethered, I still wanted to check this out.  I will avoid spoilers in this review, but I will not go any further without passing along the same piece of information that was given to me: this movie is not what its trailer makes it out to be.

2The first twenty minutes are going to change your perspective on the entire film.

Now this is from the same director as the brilliant Imitation Game, so I really had every reason to be excited.  Chris Pratt is quickly becoming the next box office superstar, and Jennifer Lawrence still is a quality actress when she’s not in those X-Men movies that she clearly is not interested in being in anymore.  This is a very difficult movie to review, and the marketing campaign to this has put critics and reviewers in a difficult spot; I hate to be the one to spoil a movie, but I can usually summarize what happens in the first act and be perfectly fine.  Not here.  I guess I don’t really have a whole lot of a choice than to stick with vague tip toeing.  When the opening twist happens, it’s going to drastically alter how you feel about one of these characters.  Even though you understand why the decision is made, it still doesn’t make it any less creepy, or any less of a jerk move.  It causes you to have a disconnect, even though it still remains interesting with this moral question that is raised.

1I sincerely wish I could tell you more.

Both Pratt and Lawrence have a good chemistry together, which is essential, because it really is just a two person show (please don’t go to this movie for Andy Garcia).  Because of their connection, it is never boring, and I always wanted to see how it was going to play out.  It’s a good looking movie, and all of the special effects are clean and fully rendered.  That said, I do have issues with the writing.  Chris Pratt is painted as being competent and handy, but when this reaches the finale, he’s making giant leaps of intelligence in very stressful and time sensitive situations that would only be plausible if he was a robot.  Also, with the twist that I can’t mention, it takes it to a dark place, which could have potentially explored a morally fascinating avenue, but the rest of the film doesn’t match tonally, and you end up getting two movies in one that don’t complement each other.  I watched this movie last weekend and I feel like I am still making up my mind on how I feel about it…  So I suppose I am coming in with a middle of the road rating.

Passengers (2016) ***

– Critic for Hire

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