The 2016 Oscar nominees were announced earlier today so I thought it would be good to look at another nominee for Best Original Score. I loved the score to La La Land, so let’s see how Passengers fares.

Composed by Thomas Newman (who’s no stranger to Oscar noms), Passengers has plenty of competition in both its fellow nominees and other space movies of the past few years.

The score starts promising enough, using the same minimalist style found on recent scores to space epics. Early tracks have a good use of synth (always welcome in space movies). So far it’s easy to see why the Academy would nominate it. Soon after you get over the initial few tracks, patterns emerge. And not good ones.

 Passengers does have decent themes and a distinct sound. It’s in the remaining score where you find problems. The main theme sounds more like something from Pixar than a space drama. Newman gives it variety with strings and layered orchestrations but haven’t we seen that before? Strange-sounding synth notes and buildup give way to silence. Sound familiar? That’s right, many tracks sound similar to Gravity, InterstellarThe Martian, or Newman’s own Wall-E.

I consider the above scores (with the exception of Interstellar) the defining scores of modern space films. Making the score similar wasn’t the problem here. Once you realize what Passengers sounds like the score becomes instantly underwhelming.

With some scores the composer isn’t right for the film or they can’t make the score fit the style. In this case the style fails the composer. This is a solid score by itself. Yet no matter what it tries Passengers can’t break away from the sounds of its superior predecessors.



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