Review: Passengers – Heads in their asteroids

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PassengersWow, finally a movie that pits Star-Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy against Mystique from the X-Men franchise!

Well, no, unfortunately that’s not the plot from the new film, Passengers (even though Chris Pratt does – once again – get frozen while floating out in space.)

So instead of an uber Marvel movie mash-up, what we have is a great science-fiction concept – two lost souls on a century long journey across the galaxy – that goes wildly awry and eventually defies all logic.

The spaceship Avalon is speeding across space on its way to “Homestead II,” a planet being colonized by the Homestead Corporation. Onboard the ship is 5,000 passengers and 200-plus crew members, all in deep-sleep hibernation for the 120 year journey.

The Avalon is a pretty awesome looking star-craft, with a large force-shield in front that disintegrates any obstacles it might come across while traveling through space; that is until it goes through an asteroid field with a huge rock that beats the shield and causes damage to ship.

Now one would think that if Homestead has the technology to create such a magnificent vehicle and shield, that it would also have smarts enough to build some kind of warning system to see deadly obstacles in advance and wake the crew in time to avoid them. But it’s just that kind of thinking that will ruin this movie for you, so stop it!

Before you can say ‘suspended animation’ the asteroid damage prematurely wakes a mechanical engineer, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), who now faces the remaining 90 years of the journey alone, as he cannot put himself back into hibernation.

Additionally, the sleeping ship’s crew is locked tight inside a separate hibernation quarters, and messages to Earth from the Avalon takes decades for delivery due to the distance between the two. Again, don’t ponder these plot points for too long (obviously the writer, Jon Spaihts, didn’t.)

Passengers Jim flys solo for over a year, with his only companion being a bartending robot named Arthur (Michael Sheen), who turns out to be inadequate company. Until one day the would-be Star-Lord eyes a hibernation tube holding the lovely and charming writer, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), and our hero concludes that spending the next 90 years with her might not be so bad.

Next thing you know Ms. Lane (I’m assuming a long lost descendent of Lois) and Mr. Preston are a romantic item; but will Aurora discover the truth about her premature awakening? How will the deep space power couple save their damaged ship? Will they discover that in space no one can hear you groan?

Despite the aforementioned plot holes, Passengers could have been a decent psychological thriller set in space, but just when it starts to go down that very path the narrative is disrupted with a ridiculous deus ex machina left turn that destroys any potential the movie might have had.

Directed by Morten Tyldum (who did 2014’s excellent The Imitation Game), Passengers has some great visual effects and good performances by Lawrence and Pratt, who do the best they can with some extremely clunky dialogue.

Passengers is a disappointment and proof positive that good movies require good stories – not just money, special effects and star power; and good science-fiction movies require at least a little bit of common sense. Grade: 4.5/10

Photos © 2016 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

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About the author

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Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.

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