DVD Review - Passengers (2016)

Nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Production Design, the recognition for how the set looks has to be appreciated. The whole movie takes place on a spaceship and the architecture or construction of that vessel is very impressive. The layout of the ship is never explicitly clear but it looks very slick, shiny and well thought-out in terms of form and function. The aesthetics of the set isn't the only thing slick and shiny about the film though. The same could be said about its two primary actors. Both of whom are gorgeous and charming, which the movie utilizes heavily. Yet, for most critics, the actors' likeability wasn't enough to overcome the premise and overall plot, which many have seen as a moral or ethical failing.

Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World) stars as Jim Preston, a mechanic who is a low-level passenger aboard the star-ship Avalon. The Avalon is on route to an Earth-like planet that is 120 years away. Jim was supposed to be in suspended animation, asleep for that time period, but a meteoroid hits the ship and causes Jim to wake up with 90 years to go. He can't figure out how to go back to suspended animation. He has enough food, but he can't contact Earth and he can't gain access to the command center or the engine room, so he's doomed to spend the rest of his life alone on the ship. He does so for a year before the isolation and loneliness begin to drive him crazy.

Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games and X-Men: First Class) co-stars as Aurora Lane, a journalist and aspiring writer who is a slightly, wealthier passenger. She wakes up too a year after Jim does. After she freaks out about having to spend her whole life on this ship, she eventually falls in love with Jim. She's a beautiful girl with a lovely and funny personality. She wants to write daring stories and be adventurous, so she is able to connect with Jim.

Spoiler alert! Aurora wakes up early because Jim messes with her hibernation unit. He does so knowing that she'll be stuck on the ship alone for 80 years too. She'll be too old or dead by the time the ship gets to its destination, but at least she'll be able to keep him company. When she discovers what he did, she calls it murder, and most critics don't approve of how the movie deals with this reality and resolves the conflict. I'm guessing the critics didn't like the film's happy, Hollywood ending.

What I gather is that the critics wanted Jim not to have been forgiven or he should have been punished more harshly. This is odd to me because I don't know what harsher punishment he could have been given than death itself, and technically Jim does die. He gives his life to save the Avalon. Aurora saves him in return, but he does die. Strangely, Jim discovers a way to put Aurora back in suspended animation by the end, but just her and not himself, so he would have been alone again. With that, I'm not sure what more critics wanted to be done to him.

The premise is such that it could have been a set-up for an episode of The Twilight Zone, but it doesn't have the twist or the cruel irony that Rod Serling often employed. It would have been more interesting if Jim had woken up a man or if Aurora turned out to be a lesbian, thus cutting off that romantic aspect because the romantic aspect is supremely obvious and boring. Maybe the movie could have switched tones and become a horror film where Aurora becomes a serial killer or a psychopath.

I'll grant that any of those options would have been just as, if not more interesting a direction for this film. That being said, I didn't mind the happier route this movie decided to take.

Rated PG-13 for sexuality, nudity and peril.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 56 mins.


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