Thursday, August 3, 2017

Passengers

Some spoilers.

Thirty years into a hundred and twenty-year voyage into deep space, a cryogenic pod malfunction wakes up to the biggest bummer of his entire life: he's gonna have to spend the rest of his life alone. Starving for company, he wakes up to join him.

Romance blossoms! Oh but wait -- that was actually a super mean thing to do...

For such a straightforward movie, my thoughts on it are annoyingly complicated. I wish I could just say, "It's pretty, its characters are pretty, there's science fiction, there's romance, it's not great, but it's decent." That would be true enough, but not the full truth. The full truth is that this movie bugged me creatively and caused me to think about what I would have wanted to be different, which opened up a whole lot of possibilities -- potential alternate timelines if you will -- against which to judge the version we got stuck with.

It is pretty though. Oh boy. I can't even say that and leave it alone, because I think the movie's dedication to being beautiful actually hindered its storytelling. It's pristine, and when things go wrong, it's still pristine, just in red and black, instead of blue and white, and with a bit of glossy sweat. If it had committed, and stuck its hands in the mud, it might have pulled out something valuable.

See???

I wanted to see Pratt's character be darker -- like as dark as you can go while still clinging to a sliver of sympathy. As dark as only scifi can support so eloquently. But he's Chris Pratt, so no; he has to be a good guy who makes an extremely dark mistake. What if he didn't see waking Jen up as a mistake until near the end? That would have been dark, and honestly more believable, but Pratt is so much more enjoyable as a good guy. Also, he does some fine acting in this movie. Very fine. Like, Jen does her exploding-anger-mental-breakdown-serious-acting and I was still more impressed with Pratt and his subtlety.

I just couldn't buy that good-guy-Chris-Pratt would ever fall so low as to actually wake someone else up. He's hyper aware of how terrible a thing it is, and even immediately seems to regret his actions. The movie's inability to commit to its premise was irritating. I'd like to see a version play out where he doesn't hide that he woke her up, so the anger can be immediate, and then he can spend the rest of the movie returning to sanity and understanding his error, while Jen slowly falls in love.

Check out how creepy he looks here.

Or, as my family and I were discussing during the movie, there could be a horror twist where he goes completely crazy, and has woken up several people before Jen. They all get angry with him so he kills them. Jen finds out, and has to fight for her life. That, in all honesty, seems like the least contrived direction this movie could have taken -- the honest progression of a character who is so desperately alone that they ruin another person's life to help themselves. I would hate to see Chris Pratt do horror-villain, but at the same time, his innate niceness and charm would make the twist all the more disturbing.

As it is, the plotting is as straightforward as they come, and incredibly, hopelessly predictable, in spite of the forced direction it takes. If only they had hidden something from us. I saw a video suggesting that the film begin with Lawrence waking up, and filling in Pratt's character slowly. That would have been tremendously better. Or even if we aren't told that he woke her up -- if were allowed to believe maybe it was an incredible coincidence; be suspicious of him; any kind of intrigue or mystery at all!

This movie focused way too much on looking good. (Note in the background. He's the android bartender. The reveal of him being an android was spoiled by the trailer. My fault for watching it, I suppose.)

There is mystery involving why the original malfunction happened, and that's the most intriguing aspect of the movie. Until the mystery is solved of course, (by deus ex machina ) and then it becomes the film's most trite aspect. But since this movie is a character piece, it needs more character intrigue than plot intrigue. It desperately needed character intrigue, and was sadly, sadly lacking. You would think there would be a lot, considering the fantastic situation these characters are put in, but the bulk of the meager character interest is due to performances that are better than their material.

It's unfortunate. A great number of things could have been done to change this movie into something, if not great, at least better. As it is, it isn't terrible. It has two fine leads, and a memorable premise -- the things that attracted me in the first place. It's visually unique, and should get credit for being an original story in this age of remakes. It has plenty of small flaws, but nothing huge or glaring.

Probably works best if you're looking for a romance rather than a scifi.

If you can turn off your mind, suspend your disbelief, and be ready for a disproportionate amount of romance, you might get something out of Passengers. And if that something is being entertained for two hours by Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence roaming through a pretty scifi world... well, it could be better, sure, but it certainly could be worse.

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