A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away; science fiction movies were only ever made for, valued by and in many cases understood by those who existed within a certain niche. The comic book collector who had more conversations with a limited edition’ Sexy Wookie Deluxe Doll than a living human person – you understand the stereotype. Roadshow’s newest blockbuster Passengers, released on Sunday, stands to prove how far the genre has subverted itself in recent years. With a script designed to be understood and appreciated at face value, visuals that advertise its own luxurious budget and two of the most iconic and successful actors of our time at its front: Passengers proves how mainstream and different movies rooted in the world of science fiction have become.
The premise of the film is irresistibly sexy. A spacecraft travelling to a distant ‘colony planet’ and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers, and as a result two individuals are woken up 90 years too early. While my inner-cynic must condemn some promotional choices made by those behind the film that teased “a hidden motivation” to the events of the film as completely misleading, you won’t be disappointed for long. The structure of the film was well-paced, but not bland which kept crucial nail-biting moments of tension, and although the plot of this film relies on its twists to keep the audience intrigued, none of them seem superficial or rushed. This is a film that earns its narrative, and does it incredible justice.
Without question the films most prosperous victory is its characterisation, and furthermore its analysis of the human psyche and how vulnerable it is to circumstance. For a script taking place in one of the most futuristic and unearthly settings imaginable, its grasp on reality and insistence on keeping its characters consistently flawed and relatable is incredibly impressive. It is here that actors Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence prove their worth, each having the opportunity to flex their abilities and capture the melange of grief, passion, love and pain that plague their character’s inescapable reality. ‘Inescapable’ really is the key word when it comes to this film, and perhaps one of the most refreshing aspects of the narrative is that for its entire duration doesn’t compromise its premise. From very early on in the movie it is established that there is no hope for these characters; and instead of being a film based around how to change things, it becomes a story about whether it is at all possible to deal with them.
While there is nothing outwardly problematic about Passengers, it is far from the perfect film, though it doesn’t really need to be. The conclusion will no doubt challenge the audience’s suspension of disbelief, yet ultimately how it is digested is more dependent on the individual watching the movie rather then the narrative choice itself. Perhaps the only disappointing aspect of the film is regardless of how entertaining it is, there really isn’t anything historic or innovative about it, and with creatives such as Lawrence, Pratt and Director, Morton Tyldum at the helm: it had the potential to be.
After my defence of critically panned films such as 2016’s Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, readers wouldn’t be blamed for questioning whether or not I have myself developed some twisted motivation to champion the films my peers write off. While its 30% Rotten Tomatoes rating definitely fits the brief, Passengers truly doesn’t have many polarising aspects that might warrant its critical reception – and instead is only held back by the bitterness and cynicism of an industry that demands every movie change the world or not bother trying. Passengers is a well structured and thoroughly fulfilling film that is sure to engage and entertain the vast majority of audience members who simply want to be entertained, impressed and challenged by the cinema.