Review: “Passengers”

Posted by Michael Parsons on December 21, 2016 in / No Comments


It seems the space movie has become a requisite for this season: “Gravity”, “Interstellar”, “The Martian”, and now “Passengers”, a celestial romance starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt as star-crossed couple Aurora and Jim. Along with 5,000 other passengers aboard the spacecraft Avalon, they are en route to Homestead II, a planet owned by a corporation that makes eight or so gazillion—or 8 million-billion—dollars giving people an alternative to an overcrowded Earth.

Unlike the other 4,998 paying customers, Jim and Aurora emerge from their cryosleep early—roughly 90 years shy of their 120-year journey. Jim, a mechanic who’d awakened a year prior to Aurora, has tried everything to figure out how to re-hibernate, to no avail.  The door to the ship’s bridge is impenetrable. The computer doesn’t understand his conundrum. And since Jim isn’t a Gold Club member, he’s stuck drinking crappy coffee.

So what’s a guy to do? Other than suicide, which he comes close to attempting, drinking seems like a pretty good option. During the grief stage of his situation,  Jim makes the acquaintance of android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen), who surely passengersowes something to Lloyd from “The Shining”. (Except Lloyd, I think, was better at keeping secrets).

Then Aurora comes along and changes everything. She’s a journalist who intends to make the trip to Homestead II for a year, and then head back to Earth to write her masterpiece. As the Avalon swivels through space like an enormous chrome rotary engine, she begins to accept her fate; the passage of time is no longer indicated by the length of Jim’s beard, but by the progression of their relationship. A rather old-fashioned courtship ensues (during which Jim uses his engineering skills for some cutesy romantic gestures).  As an audience, one could certainly be in worse company. I mean, could you possibly pair two more likable actors? With all of the critical failures that occur during “Passengers”, the evolving dynamic between Lawrence and Pratt isn’t one of them.

Tech concepts are generally pretty cool, director Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game”) and his production team fancying the sort of idyllic sleek design of “Elysium”, something that people would believably shell out big bucks to inhabit. But all it takes is for one asteroid to slip past the Avalon’s particle shield to cause cascading malfunctions—and you don’t want to be in the swimming pool when the gravity goes out. I suppose there’s a metaphor there, but writer Jon Spaihts just punches a hole in the hull and let’s space do the rest.

Area Theaters December 21st

—M. Parsons

Posted in

Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *