Passengers (2016) Reviews.  A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.
Director: Morten Tyldum
Writer: Jon Spaihts
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen

Passengers (2016) Trailer

Passengers (2016) Reviews

Passengers is something of an anomaly. It’s a big-budget original, costing anywhere from $90 million to 120 million depending on who you ask, from a major studio that is being sold entirely on star power. The trailer, which dropped a few hours ago, shows off a certain amount of sci-fi razzle-dazzle. But the core selling point, arguably the only selling point, is the idea that audiences will flock to see Jennifer Lawrence (who got $20m plus 30% of the profits once it breaks even) making outer-space whoopie with Chris Pratt (who will starve with a mere $12m payday).

There’s no IP, no franchise potential, and no previously established universe or characters. Passengers is an honest-to-goodness “star vehicle.” Jon Spaihts’s much-liked screenplay has been making the rounds for nearly a decade, with a bunch of theoretical pairings (Keanu Reeves and Rachel McAdams, for example). I don’t know (vague spoiler warning) if the final film kept the somewhat creepy central premise intact, but it’s not my place to discuss what may be a late-in-the-game reveal.

Morten Tyldum got the directing gig after The Imitation Game, and this is Sony’s big Christmas gamble. In a world of franchises and superheroes, is there still any worth in pure star power? Jennifer Lawrence is arguably one of the most famous women on the planet (and the world’s highest-paid actress) with the X-Men and The Hunger Games franchises under her belt and four Oscar nominations (and one win) since 2010.

Chris Pratt is one of the Internet’s most beloved celebrities, and he is unquestionably a big reason why Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc.’s The LEGO Movie, Walt Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Universal/Comcast Corp.’s Jurassic World all soared to unexpectedly large box office glories. But is he worth anything starring in a movie that isn’t an explicit brand name play?

Even Sony’s The Magnificent Seven won’t prove much, despite the fact that I’m expected it to break out pretty well this weekend. Denzel Washington has a long list of seemingly popular white male co-stars (Russell Crowe, Chris Pine, Ryan Reynolds, etc.) who flourish with him only to stumble without him.

And even Lawrence’s successful David O.Russell collaborations (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) had the advantage of mostly solid reviews, ensemble casts, the Oscar season heat and a long and leggy award season release. Absent those things, Joy “only” made $101 million worldwide for Fox last year on a $60m budget, albeit she gets credit for every dime of that.

And Pratt has never had a “just me and my star power” test, although to be fair he’s only been “a name” since early 2014. Point being, lot is riding on Passengers, including the notion that we can make new movie stars today outside the realm of cheap(er) comedy vehicles.

Can Sony still score a big-scale blockbuster that isn’t a James Bond movie or a Spider-Man picture? Will Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt prove themselves to be more than franchise supplements and/or Internet famous (to the extent that actual drawing power even exists in 2016)? Will audiences show up for one of those big-budget adult-skewing star-vehicles they always say Hollywood doesn’t make or were they just bluffing?

All of these questions and more will be answered when Passengers arrives in theaters on Dec. 21.

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