People complain most often that Hollywood doesn’t make anything anymore but remakes and adaptations of other properties these days. Every now and then though, we do get an original movie come through the Hollywood pipeline, such is this holiday season’s Passengers, starring Hollywood’s latest It-guy Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence.
It’s set at an undetermined time in the future, wherein to combat an overcrowded Earth, the Homestead Corporation has set up planets for people to live on in other galaxies. The only way to travel to these new planets is a 90 year voyage across the stars, where people are placed in cryosleep until they get closer to their new home planet.
A malfunction causes engineer Jim (Chris Pratt) to wake up from his cryosleep decades before they are to arrive at Homestead II. From here we get a Castaway in space movie for the first 15 minutes of the movie or so, until after a year of isolation he succumbs to depression and nearly kills himself, until he runs into the sleeping beauty, Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) and becomes obsessed with her, looking up her video file and reading all of her work (she’s an author) until he breaks down and figures out a way to open her pod so he can have some companionship.
This movie is essentially a few different stories wrapped in one, the aforementioned Castaway in space, a creepy stalker-ish story, a love story, and then the Titanic portion of the movie. It’s a real testament to the charms and acting prowess of Chris Pratt that he carries the first 15 minutes of the movie or so on his back, and succeeds. His chemistry with Jennifer Lawrence is also believable, though it is a bit creepy at times if you really think about it, about how he essentially stalked her and then ruined her life, but like Laurence Fishburne’s character says, “He was a drowning man, and a drowning man will try to take somebody else down with them.”
The script by Jon Spaihts (Doctor Strange) takes the story through some twists and turns, some of the writing is a bit on the nose I thought, Jennifer Lawrence’s character, this sleeping beauty that Chris Pratt falls for is named Aurora, there’s a scene right after Fishburne’s “drowning man” line where Jennifer Lawrence nearly drowns in a gravity mishap, whilst Pratt is asleep in his bed, with the northern lights a.k.a. Aurora Borealis plays out on the viewscreen behind him, but other than a few things I picked up on as a writer myself that screamed lazy writing, it was a good script overall.
The direction by Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) keeps the movie flowing at a good pace, through all of it’s mini-story arcs that go throughout the presentation. I did have a slight problem with the actors themselves though. Their chemistry is great, but both of them have reached a point in their fame where I can’t see them in their characters, it’s just Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. I did buy into their characters, and the chemistry, but I couldn’t see Jim and Aurora for the most part, it’s just Chris and Jennifer doing what they do best. But I guess that happens to most actors overall, when they get really big. Except for people like Johnny Depp, who changes from role to role like a human chameleon.
I’d heard there were some reshoots to this movie, and you can kind of tell in some spots where the movie was changed by a committee, namely the ending, which I’d heard had two options, either the happy or the sad ending, and you can see that there was stuff on the cutting room floor, namely I’m sure Andy Garcia didn’t pick up a check just to be an extra in this movie, even though that’s what he amounts to in this cut of the movie, just kind of showing up near the end and that’s it. I wish sometimes that studios would just let filmmakers do what they do, and let the real audiences decide a movie’s quality, but I also understand that this is an investment on their part, and they want it to go as well as possible. Still, as a writer and creative type I feel this undermines what the writer was trying to do.
In the end this movie isn’t going to go on any best of the year lists, but it’s still a decent time at the movies, especially if you’re a fan of either of the film’s two leads you’ll have a good time with this movie, as the movie is mostly just the two of them throughout the picture.
Final rating: ***.5 out of 5 Stars.
Passengers is in theaters now.