Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence (Best Actress, Silver Linings Playbook, 2012) and Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) are among the 5,000 passengers who decided to board the Avalon spaceship for a 120-year journey that offers them the opportunity to wake up in a new century, on a new planet. The trip takes a deadly turn when their hibernation pods mysteriously wake them 90 years before they reach their destination. As they try to unravel the mystery behind the malfunction, they discover that the ship itself is in grave danger. With the lives of 5,000 sleeping passengers at stake, only Jim and Aurora can save them all.
Passengers seemed like a sure-fire blockbuster. Two of the most popular actors in the world right now -- Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence -- in a big-budget sci-fi setting that's a cross between Titanic and The Martian. But poor Sony can't seem to catch a break these days at the box office, and while Passengers wasn't exactly a bomb, it didn't pull in as much as the studio anticipated.
The movie was not well-received in part due to the bashing it received from critics who questioned the actions of the main character early in the film, and whether or not anything he did in the second half could redeem him. It also didn't help that Sony marketed the movie without mention of these actions.
Since the events we're talking about take place in the first 30 or so minutes, they're effectively the film's whole premise, so I don't personally consider them spoilers. But if you'd like to go into Passengers with a blank slate, this is a good point to jump down to the other sections of the review.
Still with me? Let's get started...
Chris Pratt stars as Jim Preston, one of about 5,000 passengers in hibernation tubes aboard the spaceship Avalon, which is making a multi-year journey from Earth to a new world known as Homestead II. But something goes wrong with Jim's tube, stranding him awake and alone with 90 years left on the Avalon's long trip across the stars.
Jim tries to make the best of things with his free time -- exploring the ship, trying to figure out if he can fix his hibernation pod (he can't), and spending a lot of time talking to the ship's robot bartender, Arthur (Michael Sheen). He subsists for a whole year, but the solitude wears on him to the point of considering suicide. During one of his more down moments, Jim comes across the hibernation pod of Aurora Lane and is immediately drawn to her (she's played by Jennifer Lawrence, so who wouldn't be?!). After finding out everything he can about Aurora, Jim considers waking her up. It will solve his loneliness, but it's also condemning her to a life on the ship with him instead of the one on Homestead II that she signed up for.
After much internal debate (as well as bouncing his ideas off of Arthur), Jim finally goes through with it and makes her pod malfunction -- waking Aurora up. Of course, he doesn't tell her the truth, but is at least honest about spending the last year on the Avalon alone. The two spend time together and eventually fall in love with each other... until Aurora discovers the truth about Jim waking her up, causing a major rift between the two. Without giving away too much more of the storyline, a situation eventually develops where the two -- along with one of the ship's officers (played by Laurence Fishburne) whose pod also malfunctions -- realize the Avalon's systems are failing and, if they don't fix things, everyone aboard will die.
So the big debate over the movie -- one of the major reasons many critics and moviegoers hated it -- was due to the fact that the film's "hero", Jim, is kind of creepy... becoming obsessed with Aurora and then making a decision that potentially ruins her life (Aurora equates it to murder in the movie, and she's not far off). I didn't have as huge of a problem with this development as others, and I'll tell you why: the story never takes Jim's actions lightly. In fact, he's haunted by it throughout most of the film. What I did have more of an issue with is the rest of the storyline – which honestly, is pretty light fare (despite the fact that the fate of the ship and all aboard hang in the balance). The plot isn't very complex at all, and I couldn't help wondering while watching it why Sony invested so much money and star power into a movie that might have worked just as well (and arguably better) as just a small-budget film with a couple of unknowns in the lead.
The story never takes Jim's actions lightly.
In fact, he's haunted by his choices throughout the film. What I did have more of an issue with is the rest of the storyline, which, honestly, is pretty light fare despite the fact that the fate of the ship and all aboard hang in the balance. The plot isn't very complex, and I couldn't help wondering why Sony invested so much money and star power into a movie that might have worked just as well (and arguably better) as just a small-budget film starring a couple of unknowns.
The bottom line? Passengers isn't as bad as you may have heard, but neither is it nowhere near as good as you might have hoped. It's a middling movie, neither awful or great, and I honestly couldn't make a strong argument against the film's fans any more than I could make one against those who loathe it. It's definitely one of those titles you'll want to rent or catch on a streaming service before making a purchasing decision.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Passengers lands on 4K in a 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/Digital HD combo pack. The slightly thicker-than-usual black keepcase houses the three discs, with the 3D disc held on a plastic hub and the 4K and Blu-ray contained on each one of the inside covers. The keepcase also has two inserts, one containing a code for a digital copy of the movie as well as for Sony Rewards points, with the flipside containing a second code for a discount off Sony movies online. The other insert is a single-fold advertisement for 4K Ultra HD and a handful of titles available from the studio. A slipcover matching the artwork of the keepcase slides overtop.
The 4K disc in this release is front-loaded with a single advertisement for 4K Ultra HD movies from Sony, while the 50GB Blu-ray disc has an ad for Digital HD titles (and how to use the inserted code), plus trailers for Inferno, The Magnificent Seven, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, the Passengers: Awakening virtual reality game, and Resident Evil: Vendetta. There are no front-loaded trailers on the 3D Blu-ray disc. The main menu on the 4K disc is similar to other Sony 4K releases, meaning different still images that can be navigated via one's remote, horizontally and vertically, which take you to different sections, including "Moments", "Languages", "Cast & Crew", "Scenes", and the "Feature" page on which one can launch the movie. The main menu on both the Blu-ray and the 3D Blu-ray is a still shot of the top part of the box cover image (head shots of the two stars) with menu selections horizontally across the bottom of the screen.
Both Blu-rays in this release are region-free, and there is no region coding for 4K Ultra HD discs.
Ultra HD Blu-ray (4.5 Stars)
Passengers was shot digitally on the Arri Alexa 65 and the 4K transfer here was taken from a 4K digital intermediate of the movie, meaning home viewers get the "true" 4K experience (as opposed to an up-convert). The film is presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio.
The 4K image here is quite impressive, full of details that really show off the production design of the movie. Not only are facial features well defined, but clothing and other set pieces give off a level of detail that just can't be matched on the Blu-ray counterparts here. There are a couple of sequences in the movie where the 4K disc's HDR capabilities are also quite helpful, not the least of them in the scenes that take place in the bar on the spaceship, particularly the deep red of actor Michael Sheen's suit.
The 4K image isn't quite error free, however, as I did notice a number of instances where the picture seemed to shimmer a bit under the bright lighting of the sets. Another problem with the 4K (although it didn't affect by rating of the disc) is the fact that the image is so crystal clear at times, it's more obvious when green screen is being used. The scenes where the characters venture outside the Avalon spaceship in suits are particularly noticeable.
Black levels are excellent on the 4K version, and other than those several instances of shimmering, this is pretty much a flawless presentation. I held off on giving it a reference-quality score, but it's still one of the best-looking Ultra HD discs we've seen from Sony to date.
Blu-ray 3D (4.5 Stars)
The 3D disc is only available via this 4K combo pack, which I find surprising because all the manufacturers pushing Ultra HD displays dropped 3D support at CES 2017.
That means there's only a handful of people out there lucky enough -- and I say "lucky" because I truly believe 3D can be really impressive in one's home theater -- to have a 4K TV that also supports 3D (and I'm one of them). The image here is almost completely about depth, rather than things that jump out at the viewer. Given the expansive set design of the movie, the 3D image provides a lot of great shots (with only a handful that suffer from problems like shimmering and aliasing) that make it more entertaining that the standard Blu-ray, although I still think the 4K version is the way to go if all three options are available to you and you only plan to view this movie once.
Ultra HD Blu-ray (4.5 Stars)
The 4K disc features an English Dolby Atmos track, which downmixes to 7.1 Dolby True HD for those without an Atmos home theater. As you might imagine, the audio here is quite impressive, particularly during the last act of the movie where our two heroes are trying to save the ship from exploding. But even in the quieter moments of the movie, the beeps, bops, and bloops of the computers on the Avalon spaceship are crisp, clear, and provide a genuinely immersive experience. Of course, when you really "feel" the audio is the moments when the Avalon is rumbling through space, with deep LFE use.
Blu-ray 3D (4.0 Stars)
The 3D Blu-ray gets only an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. It's impressive for what it is, but doesn't quite have the weight or the "oomph" of the Atmos track. Dialogue is crisp and clear, both separation of sounds and the overall mix is well-done, and there's still an effective use of both LFE and the surrounds.
I detected no obvious glitches, dropouts, or other error in the audio on any of the above tracks.
Alternate Audio & Subtitle Choices
The 4K disc also has 5.1 Dolby Digital audio tracks in French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), and an English Audio Descriptive Service track. Subtitles on the 4K come in English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), French, Indonesian, Italian, Korean, Malay, Portuguese, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), Thai, and Vietnamese. The Blu-ray also has audio tracks in French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, and an English Audio Descriptive Service track, as well as subtitles in English, English SDH, French, and Spanish. The 3D Blu-ray comes with additional tracks in French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, and an English Audio Descriptive Service track, as well as subtitles in English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), French, Indonesian, Korean, Malay, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese.
NOTE: All of the bonus materials listed below appear on the 2D Blu-ray. There are no extras on either the 4K or 3D discs.
Deleted Scenes (HD 9:49) – A collection of eight deleted scenes from the movie, which can be watched together or individually. They consist of:
No New Drinks (1:55)
Memory Maker (0:17)
Tacos and Cocktails (2:34)
Kiss in the Photo Booth (0:32)
Aurora Finds Jim's Photos (0:45)
Drunk Dial (1:50)
Gus Reveals His Past (1:48)
Gus Looks for a Solution (0:50)
Casting the Passengers (HD 10:39) – Writer/Executive Producer Jon Spaihts, Producer Neal H. Moritz, and Director Morten Tyldum talk about the characters and the actors who portray them. Also included here are comments from stars Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, and Laurence Fishburne.
Space on Screen: The Visual Effects of Passengers (HD 7:26) – As you may have guessed from the title, this featurette covers all the visual F/X of the movie, with comments from various members of the cast and crew, including Visual Effects Supervisor Erik Nordby.
On the Set with Chris Pratt (HD 4:19) – This short, but fun, little featurette has star Chris Pratt goofing around on the set, intertwined with "talking head" comments from his cast mates telling us how he's a great guy.
Creating the Avalon (HD 9:35) – This segment takes a look at the massive production design of the Alvalon set. There are comments here from members of the cast and crew, including Production Designer Guy Hendrix Dyas.
Outtakes from the Set (HD 4:23) – Most blooper reels aren't worth the time, but this is a nice collection of flubs, errors, and just screwing around on the set that most viewers should enjoy.
Book Passage (HD 4:40) – These are short, faux advertisements for how one can book a journey aboard the Avalon. They can be watched together or individually and consist of:
Choose Your Star (1:20)
Dare to Dream (1:12)
Elite Suites (1:01)
A Flight to Remember (1:06)
Far from a great movie, Passengers is still a lot better than some of its critics would argue, and worth at least one viewing. While the story does have a number of issues, I'll give the movie credit for not being overcomplicated nor feeling the need to wow audiences with a ton of needless action scenes. It's nothing that will thrill you, but it's still a fairly pleasant watch.
The Ultra HD Blu-ray boasts one of the best-looking UHD HDR transfers we've seen from Sony to date coupled with an impressive Dolby Atmos audio mix. The 3D Blu-ray is great too but, unfortunately, is limited to less immersive 5.1.
Still, despite excellent a/v merits, Give It a Rent before making a purchasing decision.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.