Hot Take: The worst thing about Passengers was its expectations. It would have fared much better being released during the summer months instead of during awards season.
There was a point where Passengers was being discussed as a movie of the year candidate. Unfortunately, that was before anyone saw it. With a cast featuring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, there’s no surprise the film was being highly touted. With lush, impressive visuals and a space setting which has been a Hollywood awards season staple for the past couple of years, how could it go wrong?
Well, for the most part, Passengers wasn’t a movie that typically gets recognized for awards but is better served during warm summer months where critics are more forgiving and viewers care more about their popcorn than plot. That being said, Passengers is nowhere near the disaster most critics are making it out to be. It is not without issues but the futuristic two hour space version of Cast Away (if Cast Away replaced Wilson the Volleyball with Jennifer Lawrence), has its moments.
One of the challenges Passengers faces is how gender is portrayed in the movie. I’m not really sure why this is such an issue but since Chris Pratt’s Jim wakes up first and faces 90 years of solitude and decides to eventually “wake up” one of the other passengers on the 120 year journey and that passenger happens to be a beautiful young woman (Lawrence’s Aurora), questions about Hollywood’s treatment of women rears its ugly head.
Those critics who have a problem with this aren’t wrong. However, sometimes that’s just how the story goes. Would it have been a better movie if Aurora had woke up first and decided to wake up a male passenger instead? Doubtful. Would the film have more layers? Unlikely. Reversing genders of the characters would do nothing other than appease a small nearly impossible to satisfy segment of the audience. The film would still have to navigate the potential problems that decision would have. Is she so weak and helpless that she needed the help of a man to cope? It wouldn’t have mattered if they went that direction either in the grand scheme of things.
In the end, it feels like Passengers really had no shot of being seen as a great movie. To be fair, it’s definitely not a great movie even if it is receiving some unjust criticism in the face of insurmountable expectations. Considering the history of the film (it took 10 years for screenwriter Jon Spraihts to get the film made and after Pratt and Lawrence were cast, the film faced story edits and a change in the ending), it’s impossible to know if Passengers could have been better but it seems like it had more potential than what resulted. However, it’s worth a look for the visuals alone and both Pratt and Lawrence turn in serviceable performances. There’s just certain expectations of movies released this time of year that Passengers could never satisfy.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- The Visuals
Space has always presented well on film and Passengers is no exception. The visuals are better than the film itself but that happens rather frequently in movies set in space.
- Michael Sheen
As Android bartender Arthur, Sheen delivers an entertaining performance.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- A Summer Movie In Awards Movie Clothing
This is popcorn fare but the time of year and unrealistic expectations set by award talk that began last January set Passengers down a path toward failure.
- Andy Garcia
What’s the point of his character in this film? How often does an actor of Garcia’s stature get zero speaking lines and maybe 30 seconds of screen time?