CHRIS PRATT WAS PERFECTLY CAST in Guardians of the Galaxy. Which is why he’s hard to take seriously in Passengers. Jennifer Lawrence, too, I have a hard time taking seriously these days. Before she was the queen of A-List celebrity, I saw her in Winter’s Bone. So I know she’s got acting chops. But all the silly roles in silly blockbusters (stupid Hunger Games) and greatly overrated films like Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle have taken their toll, as far as I’m concerned.
Those ratings. Passengers was something of a test of Rotten Tomatoes. Too often films with a high Tomatometer score, such as the other big Sci-Fi film this year, Arrival, I find phenomenally disappointing. And too often I disregard films with low scores. And by disregard, I mean miss. Passengers — with a lowly 17% score among “Top Critics” — would have been one of those I missed, but I stuck to my gut instinct and was happily surprised.
Which, just like the non-failure of the AE-35 unit in 2001, just about does it for Rotten Tomatoes. I’ll still refer to it, but that percent score by itself will neither compel me to, or dissuade me from, watching any given picture.
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Back to Chris Pratt. His tongue-in-cheek countenance weighs a little on Passengers in the beginning, because after all he is in a quite dire, life-or-death situation. But the film plays off that lightheartedness, and marries with it. This is a tack the film takes which weakens it; a heavier tone could have turned this good film into a great one.
In other words, a little hokum runs as an undercurrent through the first half of Passengers, and Pratt fits that stream well. The bits of corniness may be viewed as pandering to the lowest common denominator of audiences, and as I said a sterner approach would have produced better results. Luckily though, this occasional dearth of depth is the film’s worst problem, and as such hardly ruins it. I even liked Jennifer Lawrence.
I was sorely disappointed by Arrival, and the big “sci-fi” film of last year, The Martian. Both highly regarded by critics, as reflected on the Tomatometer, and both really sucky movies. The good news? I reckon it’ll keep me writing these posts. If I could find a source of criticism that I could rely on to only watch good movies, God knows I’d go with it. But if it exists, I haven’t found it.
I very much liked Passengers, and it stuck with me through the night. Overall very entertaining, and never boring. The little glitches hold it to a solid recommendation at the top side of 7/10.
Comparison Notes: (Recommended): Moon