Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Passengers and Collateral Beauty: Great Concepts, Bad Execution?

The Christmas season is always a busy time frame for American cinema and the big blockbuster space themed Passengers and the star-studded melodrama Collateral Beauty seem to be the perfect films for the period. 

Both explore human emotion in extraordinary circumstances, and both have fantastic casts. Passengers is about two passengers on board a spaceship bound for a new planet, who wake up 90 years too soon from an induced hibernation. Hollywood superstars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence play the passengers in the film which has received a mixed-to-negative reception from critics. Collateral Beauty stars Will Smith as a father who tries to deal with his grief following the death of his young daughter by writing letters to death, time and love who happen to come to life and visit Howard and answer his letters. Beauty received an even harsher reaction from critics. Both films have high concepts which would catch the eye of any budding cinema goer but these films also share something in common... twists!

Yes, both of these films feature twists which are hidden from the public and of course are cleverly hidden from trailers and all promotion. 


 In Passengers, Jim (played by Chris Pratt) is the only passenger whose pod malfunctions. His character then takes it upon himself to awake Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence's character) which essentially kills off any chance of their relationship being the result of fate or "true love". It is simply a man ruining the life of an innocent woman because he fancies her. Similarly, we are told Howard is mysteriously visited by Time, Death and Love (which he technically is) but what we do not know until we have paid for our cinema ticket is that these characters are actors who are paid by Howard's colleagues to answer his letters in order to make him look crazy so that he leaves his job. The plot is transformed from A Christmas Carol to colleagues plotting against their depressed workmate. 

This leads me to explain why I decided to pair these movies together. Both Passengers and Beauty have fantastic concepts and original ideas but falter in their execution. Passengers was once featured on the coveted Black List of Hollywood's best unproduced screenplays so something must have happened in the ten years between then and production. Passengers could and should have been a huge film, it could have been the Titantic for a new generation. But by making Jim's decision so selfish and self-centred, it essentially ruined its chances to become the iconic dramatic original blockbuster we have been waiting for. Similarly, the melodrama in Beauty is outdated with modern day cinema goers who seems to like more oomph and special effects in their films (which is why Passengers should have been bigger because it merges drama and oomph). The death of a child is used as a prop in order to show the questionable behaviour of colleagues in response to their fellow work mate and friend who is desperate need of help. 

Hopefully, lessons will be learned from where these movies falters and will not coax studios into regressing from original screenplays.

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