Movie Review: Passengers
I had so much fun writing the last reviews, I decided to give you another one! I hope you enjoy my efforts! Seriously, I’m breaking new ground by going where literally everyone else has gone before!
Speaking of reviews, please remember to rate anything you’ve read on Amazon, GoodReads and anywhere else fine reviews are shared! Anyway, I wanted to share my thoughts on a movie that I just finished with you!
Length: 116 Minutes
First, let me say that none of what I’ll say in this section couldn’t be found on the back copy of the movie. Heck, I cribbed this summary from the back, and then I added my own twist! And not even much of one, since most of the movies I watch have kick butt descriptions (aka blurbs). If the blurb and cover don’t catch my eye, then I tend to skip the movie unless a friend recommends it. Generally speaking, my goal is to provide a spoiler-free review, so here goes nothing!
Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt star in a high-stakes adventure about two passengers, Aurora and Jim, onboard a spaceship transporting them to a new life on another planet. The trip takes a deadly turn when their hibernation pods mysteriously wake them 90 years before they reach their destination. As they try to unravel the mystery behind the malfunction, they discover that the ship itself is in grave danger. With the lives of 5,000 sleeping passengers at stake, only Jim and Aurora can save them all. If this sounds like your flavor of badassery, then you’ve come to the right place!
In this movie, we followed just two characters, which is definitely not the kind of movie I normally watch. I enjoyed the acting of the two principal stars, though I felt like some of their characterizations were lacking.
Jim Preston (Chris Pratt): He’s a mechanical engineer who wants a new life on the planet of Homestead II, one where there is room to grow and settle down. He’s seeking an existence where his skill at repairing things has value and is disillusioned by the consumer waste that was modern Earth. When his hibernation pod malfunctions, he wakes up 90 years too early and is stranded on the Avalon, the colony ship taking him to his new home. I liked this guy as a character, I was sympathetic to his plight and how the isolation nearly drove him mad. However, it felt like, other than the creeping madness that Jim fought off, the character arc was flat. I just wish the movie had done more with his character, something to climb that hurdle into 5 Grenade territory!
Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence): She’s the daughter of a famous novelist, who is herself a journalist and author. She plans on traveling to the colony world of Homestead II, living for a year and then returning to Earth to tell the tale. This would make her the only passenger to return from a colony world, though it will be over 200 years into the future, meaning everyone she knows and loves is dead. She’s desperate to live up to the shadow cast by her famous father and has a generally listless personality. She’s constantly on the move seeking new experiences to write about, and in doing so she’s forgotten how to live. We see that person grow and evolve over the course of the movie, until Aurora can accept her circumstances and live in the moment, enjoying the world around her. I really liked her character, more so than Jim, because we could see a more meaningful character arc. My only real complaint was that her name sounded like something out of the adult industry, but we didn’t dwell on her full name, so it was mostly a momentary cringe before we simply called her Aurora.
Gus Mancuso (Lawrence Fishburne): He’s one of the Chief Deck Officer’s onboard the Avalon, who was woken prematurely when his hibernation pod failed. This character was well acted and seemed like someone you’d want to know in real life. His role was brief, but his performance was one of the bright shining stars of this movie experience! He’s the reason I took my overall assessment of 3.5 Grenades and rounded it to a solid 4.
Overall, it seems like these characters weren’t horrible. There was definitely room for growth from the two main protagonists. It was clearly an issue caused by the script and not something caused by poor delivery. I felt like the secondary character, Gus, was a lot more fun and definitely someone you’d want to have on your team. His performance saved the bad characterizations given to us in the form of Jim and Aurora. I give these characters 4 out of 5 Grenades and can’t wait to see if the movie studios do more with these characters.
I really wanted to love this movie, but it was only a sort of meh experience. It was tied between a 3 and a 4 out of 5, so I gave it the benefit of the doubt because of the cool special effects and the superb characterization from Gus Mancuso (Lawrence Fishburne). It was a fun movie, with some interesting themes about humanity, but the script ultimately fell short in exploring them. The special effects were amazing, though in this modern age that seems to be what viewers expect as a baseline, so I’m not sure how to quantify the value of this. I also really loved the musical score for this movie, which won an Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016. I wouldn’t mind listening to it as white noise while I write, it was seriously good!
Moving on, let’s talk about the cover of this movie! The first thing that caught my eye was the fantastic cover. Seriously, the art was compelling because it lacked the frills of many of the modern movies. The art director instead opted for a simple theme and indavertantly hit the art out of the park. It showcases a couple, holding hands, ready to walk into the light. The imagery was evocative, with the cover seeming to showcase humanity stepping into the cosmos. By showcasing the characters before they crossed the threshold into the stars, the viewer can relate to them. Further, because it’s a silhouette, we can picture ourselves in their place. I love art that allows us to place ourselves in the shoes of the characters, for me this cover was a win.
One of my biggest complaints about this movie was the huge plot hole that was the design of the Avalon. I wasn’t satisfied by the gaping holes the ship suffered from, merely because of lazy writing. Seriously, a spaceship where the engines and power plans were controlled by ONE computer? There should’ve been redundancy in place, meaning there would be no cascading failures of the system. Further, why did none of the ships design crew plan for the pods to fail? Nothing is infallible, nothing. A simple program to open the appropriate crew during such an emergency would’ve prevented all of this. And the inability to put people BACK into hibernation? Ugh, I can only suspend my disbelief so far. Do better Hollywood, I know you can do it!
Keeping with my complaints about the colony ship, I also had an issue with the onboard medical facility. The automated system required the singular onboard doctor to approve things, meaning if the doctor gets ill, everyone is screwed. Additionally, there was only one autodoc pod in the medical bay. Again, the lack of redundancy is a huge flaw in the Avalon’s design. What happens if two people get sick at the same time? Further, if the doctor only has to supervise the mechanical surgery pods, why aren’t there more of them? One doctor could feasibly supervise several surgeries at once, which would be important for a ship with a crew of 5,258. Seriously, redundancy is the basic watchword for any technological innovation. Even a neophyte like myself is aware of this, so why weren’t the scriptwriters or ship/set designers? I understand that only having one pod was pivotal to the ending, but there were several easy workarounds. Make the machines require a human to touch the start button and you have addressed the core redundancy issues without changing the major plot point. I’d still suggest that multiple medical staff be on hand, but that’s just me. It was very clear that whoever thought of this wasn’t a sci-fi nerd.
Another foundational concept from this movie that seemed flawed were the fiscal motivations of the Homestead Company. They fund these trips using an indentured servitude model, with the new colonists owing 20% of their income to the corporation in perpetuity. This is a huge risk for the corporation, as the payouts are hundreds of years away. Each leg of this trip takes 120 years. Comms signal traveled only marginally faster, so nothing would be there to keep each new colony world from simply declaring independence as soon as the colony ship departed. They could become sovereign polities and deny their debt the second the ship leaves for the return trip, instantly torpedoing the monetary impetus for this massive fiscal risk. Additionally, who’s to say that the founding colonist’s children will decide to honor the agreement their parents made? I’m no economist, so I could be wrong here, but this struck me as a flawed system.
Another thing that seemed out of place for me were the lack of kids. The main couple was awake for 80 years, with little to do to pass the time. (Wink, wink.) You’re telling me there were NO babies made by this healthy young pair during their journey? Colonizing planets requires fertility, it demands that a second-generation be created upon arrival. Anyone being shipped off to a colony world would be more likely to receive fertility drugs than birth control. Ergo, there should’ve been healthy baby Jim and Aurora’s running around when the crew reached their final destination. This lack of offspring makes no sense; if you want this to be true, you need to explain it better!
One area where this movie did an exceptional job was in the exploration of the moral issues faced by Jim Preston. We watch him struggle with this issue before he ultimately surrenders to weakness and wakes up Aurora Lane, his fellow passenger. I’ve seen several “holier than thou” reviewers crucify the man for this decision, but isolation is a cruel master. The lack of human contact can drive a man or woman insane. His desire to have company is understandable, though the decision was still morally questionable. This movie also explored the concept of love; who we love, how we love them and why we love them. This was done in an enjoyable way, allowing you to think more deeply on your own without feeling like you were being preached at. We get to explore the foundations of a romantic relationship and how we define free will. It has been argued by some professional movie critics that Aurora suffers from some sort of Stockholm Syndrome, but the ending showed that she used her free will. I would love to continue analyzing these concepts, but I’m desperately trying to keep this review spoiler-free, so I will end this part of the review.
Let me be clear, I did enjoy watching this movie with my wife family. It didn’t put me to sleep or make me want to switch it off. I loved seeing the scene were Aurora was swimming, and the gravity failed. Watching a swimming pool-sized floating water drop with someone trapped inside of it was breathtaking. I enjoyed the interaction with Arthur, the robotic bartender. Exploring the ship with Jim was also a lot of fun, especially for a space nerd like myself. This movie was a visual experience, one I wish I’d been able to experience in all of its large screen cinematic glory. I loved watching the performance of Gus and Arthur was a hoot.
My only major complaint with the movie was my hatred of the ending. I seriously didn’t like it; it felt rushed and unfulfilling. Also, as I mentioned above, the lack of children waiting for the other passengers and crew when they awoke felt off.
So yeah… the ending sucked and, in conclusion, I can only give this novel a 4 out of 5 grenades!
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