Passengers (2016)

35

I watched this film about two weeks ago when I was on holiday in Portugal. Perhaps you can attribute it to the fact that it was cold, or the fact that I was in a cinema instead of enjoying the beautiful country I was in, but I found myself hating Passengers more than I’ve hated many films in my life. I don’t say this about many films, but Passengers is an outright failure of a film, and I just did not enjoy it – and I know exactly why, which I will explain soon enough. Needless to say, I’ll be honest – it is not a good film.

Passengers is not the worst film of the year. It most certainly isn’t even a contender. The reason why Passengers is such a bad film is that it wasn’t supposed to be this bad, and it was supposed to be a contender for one of the year’s best films. Let’s be honest here – the writing was on the wall for this film to be great – the concept was wonderful, and in an era where films set in space or the future continue to be utterly incredible, Passengers seemed to be another addition to great space films, at least on paper it did. It is led by two of this generation’s most endearing and beloved performers, the adorable and quirky Jennifer Lawrence, and the eternally likable Chris Pratt. The director was Morten Tyldum, known for his wonderful Headhunters and the superb biopic The Imitation Game. There was very little chance that Passengers would not be a good film, and it defied expectations and actually took the opportunity to go against the perception we all had towards what this film could be, and squeezed it way through the minuscule chance of failure to become of the year’s biggest disasters – and unlike the actual bad films of the year, such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Passengers had so much potential, which was so wasted.

Passengers is about a large spacecraft transporting a small sample of the human population to a settlement on another planet, where they will live and build civilization there. The journey takes 120 years, and the passengers are put into a hibernate-like state, where they remain asleep until arriving at the settlement. One passenger, Jim Preston (played by Chris Pratt) wakes up 90 years too early, and for a year, he finds himself alone and left to his own devices on the spacecraft. With only the company of robotic bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen), Jim finds himself lonely, and decides to wake up another passenger, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), and leading her to believe that she also woke up by accident, Jim falls in love with Aurora. However, they soon discover the reason why they woke up, and they need to prevent the loss of the thousands of lives on board.

Here’s where the big problem with Passengers is. It is boring. It is one of the most excruciatingly boring films I’ve ever seen. It is slow, dull and has absolutely no personality (and when you look at how charismatic the two leads are in other films and in real life, this becomes a tragic fact) – it is so bland and dull, and the fact that they got two big stars like Pratt and Lawrence to agree to be in the film is sad, because neither performer deserved such a dull film. There is just no personality in this film – the attempts at humour are desperate, the story is so standard and boring, and the fact that they had to make it a love story is just too much, because while a good love story can be wonderful, in such a film as Passengers, something a bit more complex would have been a lot more interesting (just think of the potential if say, Maggie Smith and Quvenzhané Wallis starred in the film – now that would’ve been a fascinating film – this film didn’t need to be a love story, and making it a love story was taking the easy way out, and I don’t like how lazy Passengers was). However, we received a film that was so dull, pointless and silly, and I don’t think I’ve regretted seeing a film as much as I regretted seeing Passengers, because while I have seen worse films, I haven’t seen a film that squandered its infinite potential quite like this one, and that proves how painful of an experience Passengers was.

I think Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are two effortlessly talented and charismatic stars – but you wouldn’t tell from Passengers, because they both seem to be doing a very bad impersonation of serious actors. Neither is able to show their quirky personalities or their charisma, and a big part of why both became stars is because of this. Chris Pratt became a big star because of Guardians of the Galaxy, a blockbuster that highlighted the fact that Pratt could be both an action star and a comedic performer, and even though the first act of Passengers (the only bearable part of the film) does try and show his more comedic side, it descends into a mess of a performance, where he tries to show that he can be a standard action star – here’s the thing…he isn’t an action star. He may be very good in Guardians of the Galaxy, but when it comes to straightforward action, he just isn’t that good.

Jennifer Lawrence, on the other hand, is a very funny actress, but in The Hunger Games, she showed her serious side in a dramatic role – there isn’t anything wrong with her as an action actress – it just so happens that Passengers is just such an underwritten role for her, and she does next to nothing, which I can understand if they had cast an unknown, but when you have Jennifer Lawrence, the biggest star of her generation, in the leading role of your film, it seems insulting to relegate her to such an under-cooked and dull character. Both actors have been far better in the past, and I hold onto hope that they will be much better than this in the future. Neither Pratt nor Lawrence deserve to have their careers defined by such a film as Passengers, which is strange, because if this film was better, it would’ve been the exact kind of film that any actor would want to be remembered for. I wouldn’t blame Pratt or Lawrence if they feel regret for making this film.

Let’s not talk about Laurence Fishburne, who is so hilariously bad in his smaller role (and has one of the most cheesy and cringe-worthy death scenes in cinema history), and Andy Garcia, who they convinced to be in this film and literally do nothing other than open a door towards the end of the film – how does Andy Garcia sleep at night, knowing that people are willing to hire him to just make a wordless cameo at the end? I will be very shocked and disappointed if he was paid to do this film, if all he did was show up at the end and say nothing – and if it turns out that he actually did have a bigger part in this film, and they cut his scenes, then I will be even more disappointed, because that just shows the sloppiness in the making of this film.

I don’t know how they did it, but they managed to take an interesting story, with top-notch visual effects and two very talented leads, and a visionary filmmaker, and managed to make an absolute disaster. I don’t recommend seeing this film, because it is such a failure, and I just did not enjoy it at all. The worst part is that this film had real potential and somehow, it managed to completely miss everything that could’ve made this a great film. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a terrible film, but even calling it mediocre seems too kind. I really did not enjoy Passengers, and I hate the fact that I didn’t, because I really was hoping that this would be a good film.

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