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Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt star in a high-stakes adventure about two passengers, Jim and Aurora, onboard a spaceship transporting them to a new life on another 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 begin to fall for each other only to discover that the ship itself is in grave danger. With the lives of 5000 sleeping passengers at stake, only Jim and Aurora can save them all.
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Sometime in the distant future, a huge corporation has developed a way to move Earth’s crowded citizens to a planet far far away. The ship is called the Avalon (maybe Toyota is an investor) and it carries 5,000 passengers and a crew of 268, all in stasis. The trip takes 120 years before it arrives at a planet colony called Homestead II. See, they’ve already done this once before. The Avalon is big as you might expect but looks like a combination of a helix and something from “2001.” It’s fitted with some kind of asteroid buster on the front end that theoretically provides a barrier to the meaty (technical term) part of the ship. But what if there’s a really big rock?
Two years after such an encounter and 30 years into the trip, one of the pods opens up and Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) comes out of hibernation. It doesn’t take long before he encounters a bartending android (Michael Sheen) and discovers he’s the only one awake and it comes 90 years too soon! Jim is identified as an engineer but he calls himself a mechanic. One of the reasons he decided to take the trip is that Earth doesn’t need his skills anymore. He likes to work with his hands and has plans to build a house himself…aww. His mechanical skills aside, he concludes that he can’t be put back to sleep and spends the next year trying to break into the officer’s quarters (can’t) and the rest of his time getting drunk, playing basketball and growing long hair and a beard that would be the pride of any werewolf.
Jim finally gets around to peeking inside the sleep pods (clear glass covers) and sees a writer named Aurora Lane who looks just like Jennifer Lawrence. He’s interested and who wouldn’t be. He starts to look at her background as he gets access to the passenger’s biographical material. He plays back her application and becomes fascinated with her. Jim is lonely as hell with only Arthur the robot to talk to. And he will never live to see the arrival at Homestead. What will he do? Thus the moral dilemma. With more time contemplating the decision, he finally flips the switch on Aurora’s pod and disappears. Aurora awakens with the same confusion Jim had over a year earlier. She’s frantic but eventually concludes it is hopeless after talking with Jim.
With time and no other companions outside of Arthur, the couple talk, play basketball, dance and do all the things that people in movies do when they fall in love. And that my friends is what this movie is all about. Oh sure, we know that Aurora will eventually finds out what Jim has done. And it isn’t pretty. She tells him, he’s committed murder and she means it and nearly kills him. But little incidents on the ship, minor to begin with, become more frequent and problematic. Another pod glitch occurs and a crew officer (Laurence Fishburne) awakens, but is of little help other than to tell them, they are in deep “ship.”
With only the estranged couple left, the Avalon becomes more and more unstable. In one of the best scenes, Aurora is taking one of her regular swims in the very cool swimming pool that juts out into space, when the gravity field quits working. Anything that isn’t strapped down now floats including water. Another thing I liked about the movie is the visual attention given to both the Avalon and to deep space. The Avalon is essentially stark and monochromatic but there is also a certain sophistication to it all.
In the third act, the action does pick up. Reality is that the ship was damaged during that encounter with an asteroid field. Computerized fixes kept things running but damage creep has created a state where destruction is inevitable. That is unless the generator that powers the ship can be cooled. That will require a space-walk to open an exterior hatch, and yes it is a potential death walk once the hatch is opened. Critics have pointed out that this is a conventional sexist plot development. But think about it. Who do you want doing it? A large, muscular man with experience in engineering and “fixing things” or a svelte writer. There are 5258 lives at stake here. And don’t worry, Aurora will eventually save the day.
I thought the movie was highly entertaining and yes it moves a bit slow during the middle section. But in the end this is a nice love story in space with great visuals (human and otherwise), a modicum of humor and an emotional payoff. Pratt and JLaw are totally believable. Call me a romantic sci-fi nut. Recommended.
(BLU RAY UPDATE 6-15-17):
With so many comments on my original review, I thought it appropriate to watch the movie again, this time on Blu ray and provide an update. As far as the film itself goes, as usual when watching a movie the second time around you pick up on little nuggets that you originally missed. Or perhaps solidified or changed your original perception. So it is here.
I missed the part where the new colonists on Homestead II must tithe 20% of their income back to The Homestead Corporation. I’m also more appreciative of the role of Michael Sheen as Arthur, the android bartender. It appears he is also a somewhat sentient being, one who learns to create a joke. He’s also a sympathetic listener. Although he innocently spills the beans as far as Jim waking up Aurora, the disc’s extras include a different scene as to how she learns of Jim’s transgression. I like the original.
Also credit to Laurence Fishburne as Gus, the tragically awakened crewmember. After Gus inspects the 3 pods to determine why they failed, he confronts Jim knowing how Aurora’s pod opened. Gus’s one word comment says it all, “Damn.” But later, talking with Aurora, while not condoning what Jim had done, he explains why. He says it is like when a person is drowning. They will grab on to anything they can, and Jim was drowning. You can see the light go on in Aurora’s eyes. Jennifer Lawrence is wonderful in this scene. I still think the movie is a great love story, set in outer space. It is also a chance for Chris Pratt to spread his wings as an actor.
The Blu ray transfer is wonderfully done. It has a 1080p video resolution of course and maintains the original film’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The movie was shot digitally and is beautifully done. The film’s well executed set design is represented at the highest levels for Blu ray. The sometimes stark, sleek production using shades of white, silver and blue is properly enhanced with splashes of color in the bar, restaurant and other areas. Check out the lighting and liquor bottles behind the bar. The black levels are deep throughout. Detail is excellent as well with skin tones spot on. Clothing textures are easy to delineate. In short, this is a visual masterpiece.
While the 4-K UHD release of this movie contains a Dolby Atmos track, the Blu ray features only a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. While many of us haven’t made the upgrade to Atmos, it will revert normally to 7.1. Not a huge deal as the 5.1 is excellent, it just doesn’t use my extra speakers at their fullest. There are plenty of opportunities for the audio to shine, beginning with the meteor shower early in the film. This is a film where additional speakers really add value to the experience. The Blu ray includes a French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks as well. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. Extras include 9 deleted scenes that should only be watched after viewing the film. Other supplements include Casting the Passengers, Space on Screen, On the Set with Chris Pratt, Creating the Avalon, Book Passage, some Sony previews and some outtakes (gag reel). I’ve added a half star to the rating.
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