It doesn’t take long for Passengers to let you know what kind of film you’re getting yourself into. It’s shiny, loud and as empty as space itself. Despite a few ethical quandaries, most had by our handsome lead Chris Pratt, the film never dares to delve deeper into his struggles; and what a struggle it is. Chris Pratt’s character, Jim Preston, wakes up 90 years too soon while in hyper sleep aboard the Avalon on a 120-year journey to a new colony on another planet. He appropriately panics at first but ultimately accepts his fate and attempts to live through it for about a year. After a year of pitiful lonesome partying, hundreds of Dance Dance Revolution games and free drinks at the bar (everything is actually billed to his account which was a slightly funny gag) he finds panic and loneliness again until he comes across Aurora’s (Jennifer Lawrence) sleep pod.
Light spoilers incoming.
He falls in love with her and after much deliberation, actually wakes her up. When she wakes he doesn’t tell her right away; you could almost see the sleaze spill over the silver screen. It’s a despicable act, an act done in utter desperation that completely alters the audience’s perception of Jim. It’s a crucial, slimy moment for his character and a choice that could have been further explored in compelling ways but the movie is more satisfied with blowing stuff up and having our two leads kiss and make-up. Aurora’s reaction after finding out is earned and she is justifiably furious, after all, Jim basically handed her a death sentence out of fear of loneliness and to quell his own desires.
A much more worthwhile film would have had Jim be a more ambiguously menacing figure, one that would give us a hard time to trust but instead he’s treated as a lonely dude who made a stupid mistake. You can practically blame Chris Pratt’s inherent likability for this almost swept-under-the-rug moment. What follows is a busy, jumbled over-the-top action movie that is more concerned about redeeming Jim than exploring the rich potential the movie started with.
That isn’t to say there isn’t much to like in Passengers, the film is gorgeously shot and the visuals are dazzling to look at. There is a scene in particular where Aurora is swimming in a pool and there is a malfunctioning which causes a zero gravity state. The whole ship suffers from this one effect and Aurora has it the worst as she is enclosed in a giant bubble trying desperately not to drown. It’s a visually striking scene and quite memorable. The set design is also impeccable, the interior of the ship is a striking blend of art deco and futuristic minimalism.
Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence give good performances and so do the supporting cast which includes Michael Sheen and Lawrence Fishburne but none of them could save an otherwise bland script. It’s hard to figure out who this film is for, it’s got two of Hollywood’s biggest stars in a romantic sci-fi epic but it fails to capture any sense of wonderment or thrilling adventure like say The Martian did or even Interstellar. One might even wonder why this film is even releasing now and not on Valentine’s Day where couples would surely flock to see a love story set in the vastness of space.
Even with it’s troubling script and wasted potential, Passengers does offer a visual feast that should entertain those looking for a big IMAX experience. If not, well, maybe catch it on Netflix sometime or better yet just watch Titanic instead.