Wednesday, February 15, 2017

'Passengers' Is Carried by the Chemistry and Charisma of Its Two Leads

When I first learned of Passengers, I was intrigued – immediately making it an anticipated movie of mine back in 2016.  Even before any trailers, just reading about it, that it’s going to be a love story about two people travelling on a ship heading to another planet and would star Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, I was pretty much digging it.  But its lukewarm reception brought me to put off watching it.

Passengers is about two passengers of the Avalon, a luxurious ship transporting colonists to inhabit a planet 120 years away from Earth named “Homestead II”, who find themselves waking up from hibernated sleep many years too early.  Thus, they find themselves having the ship and its conveniences all for themselves, but are set to die of old age before the ship can reach its destination.  Also, they fall in love.
This movie has been around for some time now, so I won’t be wary of touching upon some spoilers.  So Pratt and J-Law’s characters didn’t both wake up prematurely from hibernation due to malfunction in their pods.  Only Pratt did.  After a year of being alone in the ship, with an android bartender (Michael Sheen) serving as his only source of conversation, he reached the point of considering suicide.  But after encountering J-Law’s pod later, he fell in love with her, and woke her up.

This plot detail does add a facet of selfishness and creepiness to the love story, but I bought it since the idea of being alone can compel someone to do some crazy things such as this.  But it took a while before I could get over this kind of “warping” dynamic to the sweet, straightforward sci-fi romance I was expecting.  However, I think the story could have been improved a lot if this detail had been used as a third-act plot twist instead of showing it immediately in the first act.  It’s as if the script wanted to get this uncomfortable detail dealt with as soon as possible, so that such unsettling act could be given the pass brought by a romantic context (in the same way the abusive, unhealthy relationships in stories like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey are made to be deemed “romantic”.  Ugh).  It’s a pity it was unwilling to take the risk of doing a late reveal since I sincerely think it could have actually made their relationship more interesting.
There’s nothing profound about the plot.  There are no surprises.  The narrative simply plays out the path that one would expect it to go.  When this movie was still limited by written synopses and trailers, I felt that it was doing something fresh.  But I didn’t have that feeling while watching it.

In the end, I still found it fine.  Christ Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence’s charisma and chemistry is ultimately sufficient to carry this movie.  Also, there’s always something about the premise of “characters having a whole ship and its conveniences for themselves” that makes it as cozily appealing as being mistakenly locked in a mall where you can goof around, play, and eat stuff (the premise of a Sweet Valley Kids book that I have and enjoyed immensely as a kid).  These make Passengers entertaining enough.

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