Rating: 3.5 of 5
I’ve been interested in seeing Passengers since I first saw the trailer. Shiny sci-fi with a bit of romance, a bit of fun and a bit of danger. Even a mystery to unravel. Plus a chance for two endearing actors to prove themselves in a starring vehicle.
Then after hearing whispers that critics weren’t kind, I wasn’t sure. I refuse to read any reviews or judge a film on anything but the trailer until I’ve seen it myself… so I went to see it for myself with a bit of trepidation. It was pretty much exactly what I thought it’d be. Well, maybe a bit less mystery and thankfully a bit less veering into horror/sci-fi. There was one line from the trailer that ended up being a bit misleading but other than that, it did not disappoint me.But it was interesting in different ways than I expected and fun to watch.
The writing was stronger than I expected. A couple of times I thought it would go one way and it went in a different, more interesting direction. The characters were forced into choices instead of the plot simply playing out for them, which I enjoyed. And there were refreshing loops and layers in the plot.It also didn’t go down the darker (more cliche) paths hinted at in the trailer, which I appreciated
But the plot, by it’s nature, hinges on Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. Especially Pratt. He’s like the perfect everyman – a little bit more handsome – a little bit tougher and a little bit funnier but fabulously unassuming in a way that makes it so easy to like him. What he lacks is a whopping dose of charisma. The films works with that, editing sharply around his time alone so it doesn’t get boring to watch just him. It’s not such a bad thing, Matt Damon has a thriving career and he’s stiff in every role and has about as much charisma as Pratt. I prefer Pratt to Damon, who I think I once called a great everyman.
And it becomes more dynamic as soon as Lawrence is in the picture. They’re both talented enough for the film to work but neither one has the star power you’d hope for in a movie that revolves around just them.
But neither Jennifer Lawrence of Chris Pratt are especially charismatic and this film sort of exposes that. Talented, obviously. Likable, totally.
Here’s the thing, I never saw Cast Away, because it just sounded boring to me. But I remember it being such a big hit (it made over $200M domestically) and Tom Hanks was nominated for an Oscar for it. And there’s this section of Passengers where it’s only Chris Pratt. And as endearing as he is, as amusing as he is, I thought of Cast Away and that no one would show up to watch two hours of Pratt by himself the way they did for Hanks.
Still, while it’s not GREAT, it’s more than good enough. The visual effects are beautiful; there’s fun set pieces to highlight the sci-fi elements; and Pratt and Lawrence have very good chemistry and make the story grounded and practical amidst the spectacle.
Passengers is the sort of movie that, though it’s a big sci-fi spectacle, is ok if you wait to catch on tv. As enjoyable as it is, it’s a small story that isn’t compelling enough to need to see right now or epic enough to need to see in the theater.