Oscars 2017: Passengers


The Film: Passengers

The Pitch: Sleeping Beauty in Space … or possibly a highly creepy Lifetime Movie in Space, except this time the weirdo control freak/stalker/obsessed neighbour is … the good guy?

Number of Nominations: 2

Which Categories? Best Original Score, Best Production Design

Will it Win? Probably not. Composer Thomas Newman has been nominated fourteen times and amazingly has never won, and he surely has a lot of friends in the industry, and his score for Passengers is great, but the Academy is more than likely going to honour Justin Hurwitz for La La Land. Likewise, the production design by Guy Hendrix Dyas and Gene Serdena is pretty amazing, but faces stiff competition from La La Land and others.

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Synopsis: Jim Preston and Aurora Lane, two passengers aboard a luxurious starship bound for an interplanetary colony, are unexpectedly awoken from suspended animation 90 years early. As the only humans awake, the pair relies on each other for company, but while their relationship deepens, they discover that the ship and their fellow passengers are in danger.

Jon Spaihts‘ script for Passengers was doing the rounds in Hollywood for several years as a hot property, and the film reportedly came close to getting made several times before it finally came together last year with Morten Tyldum (Headhunters, The Imitation Game) directing arguably the biggest movie star in the world, Jennifer Lawrence alongside Hollywood’s newly-minted hunky wiseass, Chris Pratt. With a big budget, high concept yet ‘serious’ story, and Christmas release, it was expected to do a ton of business and show up on year-end Top 10 lists.

That didn’t happen. The critical response was pretty blah and the box-office was disappointing, and watching it, it’s easy to see why, because while Lawrence and Pratt have great chemistry, and while it’s refreshing to see a science-fiction film with a very limited cast of characters and an intimate story instead of lasers and explosions, its central premise is – to say the least – decidedly off-putting.

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SPOILERS TO FOLLOW – Go away if you haven’t seen the film yet

Jim Preston, an ordinary joe mechanic type, is happily enjoying his hypersleep on board the Avalon as it makes its way to the colony Homestead II, a journey that takes 120 years, when a malfunction wakes him up early. After a few days of running around the luxurious interstellar spaceship and going crazy as he realises he has woken up 90 years too soon and is doomed to die all alone, he resigns himself to his fate, upgrades his accommodation and sets abut enjoying all the Avalon has to offer, including a pretty cool-looking cocktail bar manned by Arthur the android (Michael Sheen doing his version of Joe Turkel in The Shining). Things go along as well as they can for Jim, but after a year of being alone he finally decides to commit suicide, only to balk at the last minute.

He notices another sleeping passenger, Aurora (as in Sleeping Beauty, geddit?) and he falls in love with her … okay, that’s the nice version: in reality, he hacks into her video profile and reads her blog, and sits by her sleep-pod watching her in her slumber.

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She’s a writer, or a wannabe writer anyway; she’s the sort of young writer who probably hangs around the futuristic version of Starbucks penning things like 15 Ways to Get the Best Hypersleep for Buzzfeed. Her main story idea is actually pretty decent: spend 120 years travelling to Homestead II, hang out there for a while, then spend another 120 years coming back to Earth to write about it.

Faced with living alone for years more, Jim decides to

… wake Aurora up

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… because he’s, you know, lonely horny

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… and then pretend her pod also malfunctioned …

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… which is dead romantic, and I’m sure he sees it like this:

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actual footage of Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt

… but it must be romantic, because eventually this happens:

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… so the lesson, guys, is being a creepy manipulative shit is the way to a lady’s heart

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Of course, Aurora discovers the deception, and gets angry and despondent, so we get to see Jennifer Lawrence in full acting-pissed-off mode, which is mostly this

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… and this

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… and this for some reason

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Soon, though, Aurora realises she has bigger problems than having had sex with a role model for roofie-toting fratboy gobshites, because the ship is malfunctioning in the way that noisy science-fiction spaceships do. Jim, however, gets to be a hero, save the day and get a shot at redemption (and win her heart back!) while Hollywood once again reduces a potentially interesting female character to a damsel in distress.

And they all live happily ever after.

Verdict: Two Creepy Love Stories out of Five

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