Passengers was promoted with an interesting premise, a man and a woman are awakened from hibernation 90 years too early on a journey to another planet as their ship begins to malfunction. The resulting movie tries to be several different types of movies at once, and all but skips over a moral dilemma of one of the key characters.
The Production: 3.5/5
Thirty years into a 120 year journey, the spaceship Avalon sustains damage while travelling through an asteroid field, and accidentally awakens passenger and mechanical engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt). The ship assumes he was awakened as usual, taking Jim through the initiation steps of coming out of hibernation and adjusting to life on the ship and eventually on the planet the ship is about to inhabit. But Jim is all alone, with the exception of Arthur (Michael Sheen), the ship’s android bartender, who suggests to Jim to “live it up.” After a year of taking over an upgraded suite, playing basketball and a simulated dance game, walking in space, and becoming bored and depressed, Jim stumbles upon the hibernation pod of Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), and begins to take an interest in her, fighting the urge to awaken her. Jim fights those urges the best he can, but eventually his loneliness wins out, and manually breaks Aurora out of hibernation, allowing her to believe that her pod also activated accidentally (even though Jim was by himself for over a year). The two get to know one another and eventually fall in love, until Arthur, through a misunderstanding, lets Aurora know that it was Jim, and not the ship, that awakened her. Aurora is quickly disgusted with Jim, keeping to herself and wanting nothing to do with Jim. The two try to live their own separate lives on the ship, until Chief Deck Officer Gus (Lawrence Fishburne) is also awakened due to a malfunction, with the ship beginning to show signs if distress from the damage sustained over a year ago. Gus’ pod had been malfunctioning long before he was awakened, causing his health to deteriorate, and it is up to Jim and Aurora to save the ship and its 5,000 passengers and crew before the ship breaks apart and they all perish.
Passengers is never quite sure what it wants to be. At first, it wants to be a character study of two people living alone on a vast spaceship, but when Jim’s secret is revealed to Aurora, instead of spending time invested in weighing the morality of his choice and having Jim pay for his bad decision, it quickly becomes Titanic in space, an attempt to rescue the ship and its inhabitants. Jim is given several opportunities to make amends during the rescue operation, but writer Jon Spaihts and director Morten Tyldum decide to go for the Hollywood ending, giving the film a saccharine feeling as the crew awakens 90 years later. Chris Pratt is almost too likable in the role of Jim, allowing the audience to almost feel sorry for the guy when he crosses the line of morality. Jennifer Lawrence is very good, as usual, as the strong, determined young woman who just wants to document space exploration. Michael Sheen is enjoyable as the quirky bartender. Lawrence Fishburne is commanding as the doomed crew member, despite his very small role. Fifth-billed Andy Garcia plays the ship’s captain in a blink and you’ll miss it role. Passengers could have been so much more, but instead tries to play it safe, and that is its eventual undoing.
3D Rating: 4/5
Captured at 6.5K using Arri Alexa 65 cameras and completed as a 4K digital intermediate, Passengers looks terrific in UHD. Colors are natural and well-saturated. Contrast is also exceptional, providing deep blacks with terrific shadow detail and whites that are crisp but never clip. Fine detail adds a sense of depth to the image, allowing for a perception of 3-dimensionality. Sony has also included the film in 3D Blu-ray. There is little to no forward projections in the 3D image, but there is an incredible sense of depth, not only on the ship, but exteriors have a deep starfield that appears to continue into infinity. I saw no ghosting or crosstalk, either.
As typical for a Sony release, only the UHD version gets the benefit of a Dolby Atmos track with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core. This is a very immersive track, providing a nice, wide soundstage and using the surrounds and heights to add atmospheric sounds throughout much of the film. LFE adds a nice punch to the action sequences, as do the surrounds. Dialogue is consistently clear and understandable, directed mostly to the center channel with some panning where necessary. Unfortunately, both the 3D and 2D Blu-ray editions contain a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, which is a shame.
Special Features: 2.5/5
All of the special features can be found on the included 2D Blu-ray edition.
Deleted Scenes (1080p; 9:49): Eight scenes are included – No New Drinks, Memory Maker, Tacos and Cocktails, Kiss in the Photo Booth, Aurora Finds Jim’s Photos, Drunk Dial, Gus Reveals His Past, and Gus Looks for a Solution.
Casting the Passengers (1080p; 10:39): Fairly standard EPK look at casting the four characters in the film.
Space on Screen: The Visual Effects of Passengers (1080p; 7:26): A look at the visual effects created for the film.
On the Set with Chris Pratt (1080p; 4:19): Another fairly standard EPK piece.
Creating the Avalon (1080p; 9:35): A look at the creation of the spaceship in the film.
Outtakes from the Set (1080p; 4:23): The film’s gag reel.
Book Passage (1080p; 4:40): Fake advertisements from the film.
Digital HD Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy through Ultraviolet. If redeemed through the Sony Pictures site and you have a Sony UHD display, you also get access to a streaming UHD copy.
Passengers is a film that had a great deal of potential, whose creative team decided instead to play it safe. Performances are first rate, as are the audio and video ratings for the UHD edition, and it’s always nice when Sony includes the 3D version with their new release UHD discs.