What do you get when you put two of today’s hottest actors together in a big budget science fiction romance flick? If you answered, “I don’t know because Sony Pictures, in their ultimate wisdom, decided to release their space film Passengers less than 120 hours after the theatrical debut of the second most anticipated Star Wars film in the past decade”, then you would be correct.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, the geniuses who green-lit the abomination that is the Ghostbusters reboot, scheduled their own space-based movie within a lunar week of Star Wars: Rogue One; the latest entry into the most iconic movie franchise since the single cell amoeba first started evolving.
“Pratt and Lawrence and space, oh my!”
Marketing incompetence aside, Sony Pictures actually managed to release what I would describe as a (*GASP*) excellent film! Now before you get all judgey on the Outlaw, let me further explain that by excellent, I’m not talking award-sweeping, ground breaking or life changing. It is however, a well-acted, intriguing, visually solid and overall entertaining ride through space. So what specifically makes Passengers a worthwhile theatrical trip? Let me count the ways…
Pratt Pratt Pratt:
Without a doubt in my mind – and Lord knows I have plenty of them – Chris Pratt may be the hottest commodity in Tinsel Town as of this posting. With blockbuster success in films such as The Lego Movie, Guardians of The Galaxy, Jurassic World, the soon to be released Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and a better than expected take in The Magnificent Seven reboot, it seems almost everything he stars in turns to Hollywood gold. (I mean he was in Gem and the Holograms. Though it was more of a cameo regarded by many as the film’s one bright spot, so I’m willing to give him a mulligan for it just this once.)
Location wise, Passengers isn’t new territory for Pratt, whose live-action claim to fame was with Marvel’s Guardians franchise. (SIDE NOTE: Please tell me I’m not the only one who saw almost the same exact space related scene towards the end of Guardians and Passengers.) What’s new is the ruggedly handsome actor – because guys can have male crushes too – flexes his acting muscle in addition to his physical ones. Jennifer Lawrence is undeniably top-billing in the film too, but from beginning to end, it’s about Pratt’s Jim Preston character, the decisions he makes, and how he deals with those choices. Again, there will be no Oscar statues on his mantle for the performance, but here Pratt proves he’s got more to him then sly smirks and well timed sarcasm.
Lawrence of Filmabia:
There’s not much else to say about Jennifer Lawrence that hasn’t already been said. Talent, beauty, allure, Oscars; she’s the total entertainment package. Not shy of the geeky blockbuster franchises herself with The Hunger Games and X-Men under her belt, conquering space was only just a matter of time. With Passengers, she delivers yet another emotionally believable performance, particularly given the unique situation her character is put in. For what seems like the umpteenth time, she had the Outlaw tearing up, and not just because she rebuked another one of my marriage proposals.
Mind Over Space Matter:
Does the film present drool worthy special effects, explosions, action sequences and panoramic shots of the infinite beauty of space? Does Kim Kardashian poop on a gold plated toilet? (I’m thinking yes, although it would require more gold than I originally assumed.)
I digress. Passengers indeed contains those pieces of visually stimulating eye candy, but fortunately they serve as backdrop to the bigger picture; the relationship between the two main protagonists. If one wants to dig even deeper (and by all means, please do), there are also very thought-provoking themes regarding the desire for human companionship, living in the moment, and the importance we put on our individual significance in the grand scheme of the universe. An intellectual head-scratcher like Arrival, it is not. However, it’s not meant to be, and that’s not a bad thing.
The ponderance of subject matter regarding humanity and how we view our place in the cosmos as individuals, still makes for very heavy stuff, even in the weightlessness of space. All of the above mentioned elements come together to give the film heart and emotional heft that I wasn’t expecting based on the trailers. Thankfully, the previews themselves don’t reveal enough of the true nature of Passengers to ruin what’s taking place on the funky corkscrew designed spaceship. It was a welcome surprise compared to every other movie marketing campaign that shares 98% of the plot details in a span of roughly 90 seconds.
While the film may have been beaten and battered at the box office by the titanic audience magnet that is Rogue One, fortunately there is no film-like Death Star to wipe it out of pop culture existence. That’s great news for Passengers because it’s one of the most entertaining science fiction films I’ve seen all year. Yes, I even found it far more enjoyable than Rogue One (as did four others who viewed both films with me. All four requested to be unnamed and entered into a witness protection program for fear of being mercilessly scoffed at by lightsaber wielding Star Wars aficionados.)
I, on the other hand, am used to receiving relentless ridicule from movie watching folk via all walks of life… Hold on a second… a large and spectacular moon just rose on the horizon. Wait a minute, that’s no moon! And why is it aimed directly at my living room? Odd, I just got the strange urge to tweak my review…