PASSENGERS (2016) Movie Review

PASSENGERS (2016) 3 Stars (out of 5)

PASSENGERS (2016) Movie Review

Rated PG-13 — 116 Minutes

As I walked out of the theater after seeing PASSENGERS, I really wanted to scream at all of the 12 producers, the one director, cast and the crew of this sci-fi fantasy romance thriller with its A-list co-stars. I would liked to have said to them: “You spent all of this time, effort, energy and lots of money creating PASSENGERS. It has everything for 100 minutes including moments of great humor. Good acting. Great special effects. A strong musical score. Then for 16 minutes, the story falls apart with a cop out ending. Didn’t anyone ever tell you that it is the screenplay that holds a movie together?”

Apparently not.

PASSENGERS had the potential to be a great movie.

It is not.

98% of PASSENGERS takes place in an interstellar hibernation starship, The Avalon — cruising at warp speed between Earth and a nearby star system. It takes 120 years to get there. Why someone would want to make this life altering move to Homestead 2 is clearly explained. When we first enter the ship, we find more than 5,000 soles in a deep sleep in their individual pod. Wouldn’t you agree that this is an intriguing story with a lot of potential?

No need to issue a spoiler alert. You have probably already seen the trailers either on TV or the Internet. Chris Pratt, as handsome as ever, wakes-up early (90 years early). A year later, Jennifer Lawrence, as beautiful as ever, also wakes up. And then the love story begins.

Oh the potential. All of us can look back on more than a century of science fiction movies set in space, beginning back in 1902 with Georges Melies’ A TRIP TO THE MOON. From 2001: A SPACE ODDYSET to THE MARTIAN; and from STAR TREK to STAR WARS — it has been one heck of a wonderful ride.

Despite the above three paragraphs, this is not as negative a review as you might think. Despite the sell-out last 16 minutes, there are four extraordinary performances and some exceptional production achievements that are worth noting. Joining Lawrence and Pratt, is Michael Sheen and Laurence Fishburne. Sheen is wonderful and so is Fishburne.

This is the “film of the year” to appreciate the technical genius of Guy Hendrix Dyas, the production designer. If you liked his work in “MATRIX RELOADED”, “INCEPTION” and “INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL” — you will be impressed and amazed at his vision for PASSENGERS.

Forget the CGI. We are talking about building section sets. Dyas has created a ship with kinetic movement to create artificial gravity (again, a nod to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.) When the ship makes its first pass across the screen, you will hold your breath looking at this large frame holding three outer hulls and a central hull containing the propulsion unit. Be amazed at the hibernation pods, the grand concourse, the restaurants, shopping mall, gym, swimming pool, the New York bar — the list goes on and on. All interiors were built, actually physically constructed.

You may also chew on the film long after the voyage is over. Much is left for interpretation and is ripe for discussion. NOTE: The name of Jennifer Lawrence’s character is Aurora. According to Roman mythology, she is “the Goddess of the Dawn”. Ignore all of the science and technology. What is our future as human beings?

PASSENGERS is directed by Mortem Tyldum. Music is by Thomas Newman. Cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto and Editing by Maryann Brandon.

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