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Passengers by Thomas Newman (Review)

posted Dec 20, 2016, 1:42 PM by Kaya Savas

Passengers, it’s that one weirdly A-List casted studio-polished movie that opens near Christmas but really has zero appeal. Passengers tells the story of a ship transporting human passengers to a colony on another planet, but one passenger is mistakenly woken from hyper sleep 90 years early. As he wanders about alone, he becomes infatuated with one other passenger and purposefully wakes her just so he’s not alone anymore. The two must now ensure the rest of the passengers survive when crisis strikes in this science fiction romantic adventure yarn. Thomas Newman off the bat might have been a strange choice, but his ability to weave emotions into any genre while never abandoning his style works for the most part here.

Thomas Newman’s style is one of the most unmistakeable sounds in the industry, and for Passengers he embraces his sound fully. If you’re familiar with Newman’s work then nothing here will surprise you other than the fact that he was able to really make his score feel appropriate for the sci-fi setting without being overtly sci-fi with the approach. There is a sense of style over substance here as the music doesn't necessarily do a good job of creating an emotional arc for the characters. It does however do an excellent job of setting the stage, getting us immersed in the story and then entertaining us with some fun action pieces. Throughout the journey, the music’s sharp style seems to try and distract us from how void of character and emotion the whole narrative is. Sure we can map out all 3 acts of the story very clearly through the music, and it does a great job of walking us through it. But we never sense the shape of the characters, just the shape of the story. So by the time that signature Tommy Newman "End Title" track hits (which is oddly very similar to his "End Title" to Lemony Snicket), we kind of feel a little empty.

Passengers is a stylish attempt from Thomas Newman to try and infuse a sparkly and attractive sheen to a story that doesn't bring any attractive qualities on its own besides its sexy acting leads. Neman’s signature bag of tricks do the job for the most part by structuring the narrative quite firmly and clearly, we really feel the progression as we move through the 3 acts. There are some nice moments here and there where we can be marveled and dazzled thanks to how talented Newman is as a storyteller. But in the end, the music cannot create an emotional connection if it has nothing to pull from when it comes to the weakly developed characters. Passengers will remain a decent and well-polished distraction.