THE STORY – On a routine journey through space to a new home, two passengers, sleeping in suspended animation, are awakened 90 years too early when their ship malfunctions. As Jim and Aurora face living the rest of their lives on board, with every luxury they could ever ask for, they begin to fall for each other, unable to deny their intense attraction until they discover the ship is in grave danger. With the lives of 5,000 sleeping passengers at stake, only Jim and Aurora can save them all.
THE CAST – Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne & Andy Garcia
THE TEAM – Morten Tyldum (Director) & John Spaihts (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 116 Minutes
By Matt Neglia
What would you do if you awoke 120 years early from your hibernation sleep on a spaceship alone and with no way to go back asleep? This is the premise of the science fiction romance (If one can call it that), “Passengers” and it is a film that is incredibly difficult to talk about without getting into spoilers. While the premise sounds interesting on paper and there are times where Morten Tyldum explores these moral conundrums, the decisions which the two characters, Jim and Aurora make, do not ring true. After about 25 minutes or so into this movie, one of the characters makes a decision that results in the film failing faster than the ship itself is failing.
The Avalon is a spaceship which is leaving Earth with over 5000 people in hibernation sleep, heading for Homestead II where the passengers will start a new colony. The destination will be reached in approximately 120 years. Unfortunately, two passengers awaken early from their hibernation pods, an engineer named Jim (Chris Pratt) and a writer named Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), only to find an empty ship with some activities, a robot bartender (Michael Sheen) and each other. Though attracted to one another, their relationship takes a turn in unexpected ways as they also simultaneously discover that the ship itself may not reach its ultimate destination.
Morten Tyldum (Who was nominated for an Oscar for his last directed film, “The Imitation Game“) exemplifies a level of polish that a big blockbuster film such as this requires. However, Tyldum is no James Cameron and “Passengers” is no “Titanic” in space. Instead, the film casts aside whatever investment we may have in the relationship between Jim and Aurora in favor of clumsy writing which results in one of the most head-scratching endings of the year. Not because it’s confusing in the sense of the plot or it makes you question everything that has come before but because of how much it disrespects the core essence of what a relationship actually is. The film tries very hard to get us to care about whether or not this relationship will succeed, as the ship, which holds the two passengers, threatens to doom them and the other 5000 souls on board. It’s one questionable choice after another made by screenwriter John Spaihts and not explored fully enough by director Morten Tyldum.
While “Passengers” may fail in terms of story and character, it is certainly stunning to look at as the production design of the Avalon ship is detailed, expansive and fascinating. The score by Thomas Newman is also beautiful at times (When it’s not obtrusive during dialogue scenes) and the overall soundscape of the film is also well done. The two actors of Pratt and Lawrence astonishingly don’t exude an on-screen chemistry that many (Myself included) thought would be such a given due to their likability and charisma. Well, when your story calls for one of these characters to be unlikeable, you immediately strip that chance away from us at having a believable romance which we can get invested in. For all it is worth, Pratt gives probably his best on-screen performance yet here, while Lawrence looks to be phoning it in for the most part. Like her, Fishburne, Sheen and a blink and you’ll miss him Andy Garcia could all do these roles in their sleep.
Not even two of the most bankable and likable stars in the world can save the misguided film that is “Passengers.” You can throw all of the money, star power, and special effects at the screen as much as you want to get people in the seats to see the film. But once they see it and understand what a morally reprehensible film “Passengers” is and how the filmmakers actually try to convince us that it is all okay, they will most likely sing their disapproval of it, much in the same way I am right now. Don’t let the marketing fool you, “Passengers” is truly lost in space.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Chris Pratt’s performance is his best yet. The film’s score, sound and production design.
THE BAD – The film has one of the characters make a choice that while interesting in the questions and themes it brings up, is let down by the filmmakers handling of such issues.