Passengers

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I went to see an advance screening of Passengers last night. They do this fun thing sometimes at these screenings where they valet your cell phone and any recording devices you may have on you. Here’s how it works: a man in a tuxedo takes your phone, acts like you’re lying about not having any other recording devices, and then talks into a fitbit about how The Eagle has landed.

The only part of that story that I didn’t fabricate was the man in a tuxedo taking my phone. He asked if I had an iPad or anything. What he doesn’t know, is that I can’t afford an iPad. Take my phone, just let me keep my triscuits, sir.

I’ve found, recently, that I have an affinity for films that are contained to one space and have a small cast. If done correctly, they are often more effective than movies with a lot going on. Just this year we had The VVitch, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Don’t Breathe, The Shallows, and Blair Witch just to name a few. All very different movies following the same protocol; take a handful of characters, put ’em somewhere they can’t leave, and make ’em do stuff.

Aboard the Starship Avalon, there are roughly 250 captain and crew and 5,000 passengers. They are all on the their way to a new start on a planet that is essentially a better Earth called Homestead II. The journey will take 120 years to complete and everybody gets to snooze the entire way in hibernation pods. Not too shabby if you ask me. Leave crappy Earth behind and wake up in Xanadu? Sign me up. Let’s get started on ruining this planet, too!

The only problem is — and I work for a tech company so I know what I’m talking about — sometimes, in technology and in life, we experience glitches. The glitch can be something as small as a website not loading properly, or as big as your hibernation pod malfunctioning with 90 years left ’til you arrive at your final destination.

I feel like the trailer to this movie could have been the voiceover guy going, “Jim (Chris Pratt) and Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) are having a REALLY BAD DAY,” and then it cuts to the two of them freaking out about waking up too early and just running in and out of different doors down a hallway, Yakety Sax style.

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Upon realizing that they are the only ones awake on the Avalon, the pair do some sleuthing and discover that if they can’t get their pods up and running again, they will die long before they’ve arrived at Homiestead II. Yeah, I changed it. It’s cooler.

I don’t know about you guys, but whenever I’m alone long enough I get real weird; making strange noises, talking in different accents, pretending I’m a secret agent in my own apartment, and so on. Imagine having an entire fancy spaceship to play on. This thing has a swimming pool that looks out into space, a video game room, a basketball court, a French restaurant, and a bar with an android barkeep called Arthur (Michael Sheen).

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Nothing makes you forget that you’re stuck somewhere for 90 years with one other person like boozin’ and making out a bunch, but when flaws in the ship start popping up left and right, they need to crawl out of their sex dungeon and get real or over 5,000 people are going to die with them.

Passengers is a good movie with a sweet message, but a blockbuster it is not. It’s not for lack of trying from the cast. Everyone is excellent. In this humble critic’s opinion, many filmmakers get a few big-ticket names on a project and sort of let that carry the premise to a glorious finish. That does not always work. In fact, most times it doesn’t. As topical and thoughtful as the screenplay is, it just doesn’t come full circle the way it would like to.

The movie is trying to provoke the idea that we need to pay better attention to what we’re doing here on Earth while also evolving a love story. A story and B story is one thing, but trying to do two dances at the same time often does not work. You can have a movie that contains a deep and provocative message and still include the fun and games, but this one just doesn’t pull it off. It’s essentially a romcom in outerspace that forgets the takehome point Re: we’re totally blowing through all of our natural resources and we need to be more mindful until the last 10-ish minutes of the film.

At least that’s what I felt about it.

Thomas Newman was on the score for this film and, man… so much of what that guy does ALMOST sounds like a Pure Michigan commercial. It’s pretty, but it’s nothing special.

Jennifer and — geez, I almost typed Bradley – force of habit! — CHRIS… Jennifer and Chris are both very fine actors, respectively. They’re a great watch. And seeing Michael Sheen bash his face into the bar was hands down the very best part of the movie because he’s doing what I feel like doing at my desk 100 times a day.

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Anyway, go and see it. You’ll get a tasteful glimpse of Chris Pratt’s chiseled  glutes, all of Jennifer Lawrence’s greatness, and Michael Sheen’s charming and British impression  of what we all want to do after this godforsaken year. Here’s to having to find a new planet to live on once we completely ruin this one!

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