Friday, December 30, 2016

Passengers Review

We've began a fun tradition in Hollywood. Every year we've had a big-budget space movie released towards the end of the year. And no, I'm not talking about Star Wars, although that yearly tradition starting up has been cool, too. I'm talking about "Gravity" in 2013, "Interstellar" in 2014, "The Martian" in 2015 and now "Passengers" in 2016. As I'm sure is the case with many people, I've always been fascinated with space and I love it when movies or TV shows take me to space. And no, I don't care how scientifically accurate these space movies are. That's not how I judge my enjoyment of them. I just like good space movies. As far as the three previously mentioned movies, I personally loved "Gravity and "The Martian." "Gravity" was my favorite movie of 2013 while "The Martian" was in my top 10 last year. "Insterstellar" I enjoyed for the first two-thirds of the movie until it completely crashed and died for me at the end. I gave it a decent score in my initial review, but it got worse for me over time. "Passengers" seemed like it had everything going for it, but unfortunately for me, we're now two for four in with these movies. "Passengers" is another 2016 blockbuster flushed down the drain.

On paper it seems like a huge win, which is why I was really excited for this. It was directed by Morten Tyldum, the director of 2014's "The Imitation Game," a movie that I enjoyed, but not quite as much as others. I thought the performances by Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley far outshined the actual movie itself. But I was still excited to see Tyldum's follow-up to that and curious about him jumping from the indie realm to the sci-fi realm. And of course you can't go wrong with Hollywood's two biggest stars right now - Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. Plus the premise was intriguing to me. A large spacecraft is transporting thousands of Earth people to a distant planet that will take 120 years to travel to while going light speed. All the passengers are in fancy hibernation pods that will prevent them from aging. Until a malfunction happens that causes Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence to wake up 90 years early. Yeah, that's a problem. That means unless they figure something out, they will spend the rest of their lives travelling on a ship and will be dead before it arrives. What are they going to do? I needed to know. And I was excited to go on this journey!

Little did I know that this movie would feel like it was 90 years long. Like holy freaking fetch. Run time comes in at just under two hours, but it felt like I was watching a five-hour space opera that had no idea what to do with this intriguing premise it set up. Chris Pratt wakes up first and wanders around the ship in a very confused state before finally realizing what has happened. His pod has malfunctioned and now he is all alone on a giant ship with nothing to do and no one to talk to except for this android bartender. He has no idea what he's going to do and quite frankly the writers had no idea what he was supposed to do either. We're just wandering through this movie as he confusedly wanders through life on the ship. And it is so freaking boring. I'm totally fine with a slow burn movie as long as it's written well. I don't need a movie to be action-packed with a ton of fancy effects. But I need something. There's just nothing to this movie to start off. No interesting moments. No flashbacks. Hardly any backstory as far as why they are in the ship. For a moment I thought they were going to do some sort of political, in your face "WALL-E" sort of thing. But no, they didn't even do that. They just wandered aimlessly through the first section of this movie and I was bored to tears.

Then Jennifer Lawrence wakes up. I was thinking to myself, "Yay! Now something is going to happen!" Nope. Even with Jennifer Lawrence awake, the movie still didn't know what it wanted to do. The writers were like, "Hey look! We have Hollywood's two most beautiful people signed on to do our movie. Let's just have them fall in love, make-out and sleep together for the next third of this movie." Because, yup. That's all that happens. I'm sure Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence were having fun. But I wasn't. I felt like I was spying on someone's Honeymoon and it just got awkward really fast. I certainly don't mind romance in movies. But this was ridiculous. No tension. No drama. No story. No depth. No flashbacks. No explanations for what's going on. Just Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence making out and making love. There's no "draw me like one of your French girls" scenes in this movie, if I know what I mean (although more "Titanic" comparisons here in a bit), but they got as close to the R-rating they could with this romance story while still maintaining a PG-13. I don't want to make comparisons to a PG-13 porn movie. But for a while that's all this is. Two beautiful people kissing and sleeping together with no story at all for the second third of the movie.

I don't know how far we got into this movie before we actually started having some drama and tension here, but it was a while. And when it happened, the movie turned into an unintentional comedy with how bad it was. The big problem? I thought the day would never come when I would say this, but the big problem was Jennifer Lawrence. I don't know what was going through her head during the filming of this movie, but it just looked like she didn't care one bit about this movie or the role she was playing. There comes a point when stuff happens and Jennifer Lawrence just starts yelling, screaming and crying to the extreme. It was supposed to make this romance intense and emotional, but she just went so overboard that instead it made me laugh. These two had no chemistry in this movie up to this point and they certainly didn't now with Jennifer's overacting. I think the only thing going through her head was gold trophies and she tried too hard to get another one. The Academy gives them to her so frequently (or at least the nominations) that it's almost getting ridiculous. I love her as an actress, but she did not give Oscar-worthy performances in "American Hustle" or "Joy," but she got the nominations anyways. Seeing her overacting to get another one was frustrating.

I do feel bad for Chris Pratt. He gave this role his all, but the writers gave him nothing and his co-star gave him nothing. It ended up being a poorly done "Titanic" in space movie. Because halfway through, that hit me. Two lovers on a sinking ship. That's "Titanic." That's what "Passengers" was going for. The thing they got wrong was that "Titanic" actually had good execution. Jack and Rose made a fantastic on-screen couple. Not only did they ooze in chemistry, but the fact that Rose comes from a rich background and Jack came from a poor background added a lot of drama and tension that was done well. And despite it being three hours long, the flow is there. There's two unnecessary scenes that should've made the movie R and the fact that there was room on that platform for both of them made for a slightly silly ending, but outside I think "Titanic" is a great movie with a beautiful score, tragic ending, and well-written drama that keeps your attention throughout the three-hour run time. "Passengers" tried to follow that formula, but they fell flat on their face in the execution category. It's as lifeless movie with no chemistry between the two leads.

I won't spoil the ending for you, but when things actually happen in this movie, it gets ridiculous. We started out with boring, then we went to awkward, then we transitioned to laughable, then we ended with ridiculous. Things didn't make sense. They could've ended in a way that would've made it somewhat redeemable, but instead it just crashes and burns. Halfway through this movie I was hoping that this ship would've just blown up and put me out of my misery, so I could get out of this theater that I felt trapped in. The only thing that is slightly redeemable about this movie is a nice message at the end that puts a fancy bow on it. But that certainly wasn't enough to save the movie. I also suppose we had good visual effects, good cinematography and a decent score. But with zero substance and zero story, that all felt wasted. It's like getting a Christmas present in a nice fancy box that's beautifully wrapped in pretty wrapping paper and has a big fancy bow, but has no actual present inside. Or has a present that consists of the dog crap that your brother cleaned off the lawn and wrapped for you. It's worthless and insulting. This movie is a waste of good talent, a waste of a good idea, and a waste of well done effects. That's frustrating. I'm giving "Passengers" a 5/10.

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