Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Passengers (2016)

Passengers (2016): written by Jon Spaihts; directed by Morgan Tyldum; starring Jennifer Lawrence (Aurora Lane), Chris Pratt (Jim Preston), Michael Sheen (Arthur the Android Bartender), and Laurence Fishburne (Gus Mancuso): There was a lot of (rhetorical) hand-wringing when Passengers hit theatres last winter over a particular decision made by Chris Pratt's character. And yes, it's a terrible decision. And the ultimate reaction of Jennifer Lawrence's character is going to be disturbing for a lot of people. But Passengers was still a lot more entertaining than I expected.

The film-makers even tried to go for a certain level of scientific accuracy, at least as we know it now. The Starship Avalon is a colony ship delivering 5000 passengers in some form of suspension to a colony world roughly 60 light years from Earth. The ship rotates those sections that require artificial gravity, as would we. And it's restricted to slower-than-light travel, as would we be. So kudos for that, though implausibilities creep in throughout as to how spin-generated AG would work.

The trip takes 120 years, so everyone onboard sleeps for most of it. Except something happens and Chris Pratt, a lovable mechanic, wakes up with 90 years to go. He's increasingly lonely. Then Jennifer Lawrence, a lovable writer, wakes up. Then some other stuff happens.

Passengers goes pretty much everywhere I expected it to go. But the set design and the CGI are actually interesting, and Lawrence and Pratt make for an engaging pair (along with lovable android bartender Arthur, played by Michael Sheen). There are a number of Idiot Plot moments, but not enough to destroy the viewing experience. And at least this is neither a superhero movie nor a giant epic. Jennifer Lawrence gets top billing, possibly because the plot requires her to strip down to her underwear or bathing suit every 20 minutes. Next time, make her the mechanic and Pratt the writer. Lightly recommended.

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