The opening sequence shows a massive gorgeously designed ship flowing through space on autopilot. So, sue me if I’m expecting all my space opera dreams to come true in the next hundred minutes. I blame the trailer (official trailer 2) I saw. It was misleading as all get out. Alright, so that’s my own fault (maybe)… I looked past the whole love story push to the explosions and got sucked in to the sweet sound effects in the back ground. Like I said, sue me.
5000+ people all paid for the pleasure of emigrating to another world for a fresh start and an escape from the overcrowded, hyper industrialized, seat of civilization that is Earth. On the way across the galaxy something goes wrong (you see exactly what goes wrong as it goes wrong so no surprise later) and the ship begins to malfunction. That malfunction results in one passenger’s sleep pod waking him up 90 years too soon.
Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is a mechanic and engineer. He wakes up and begins what he believes is the final leg of the journey towards Homestead II. He’s disoriented and fuzzy. It’s completely believable that he goes a full night before realizing that something is off; he’s the only one awake. He does what anyone waking up alone in space does, he searches for other people, sends a message back to Earth for help (this scene will have you regaining perspective on your phone experiences with tech support or customer support lines once the machine calculates how long it’ll take customer service to get back to him), searches the ships for manuals and tries to repair his hibernation tube so he can go back to sleep. Everything fails – obviously or we’d have no movie—and he comes to the realization that he’s going to die in space possibly decades before the ship reaches its final destination.
During all of this frantic searching for a solution, his only companion is the deadpan android bartender Arthur (played brilliantly by Michael Sheen) who politely begins their relationship by telling him, “it’s not possible for you to be here.” Arthur is a highlight of this movie as the wisdom imparting android bartender. He’s an enjoyable addition to this cast play by Sheen at his deadpan best.
Jim Preston’s been invited to travel to the new colony because he has desirable skills and trade. You figure out quickly during his wake-up process that he’s not traveling first class – I mean really what’s a guy gotta do to be eligible to get a damn mochaccino on this space craft??
As he begins to sink into desolation, Arthur (clearly the smarter of the two) points out that he’s letting the opportunity to live pass him by in his constant struggle to go back to sleep. Jim starts taking advantage of the ships amenities and distracting himself from his situation. He upgrades his room, access the gaming deck and has an all-around good time living it up… until he becomes hyper aware that this is going to be his very lonely, very empty life until he dies. Depression really sets in and Jim begins to go off the rails – his losing it does coincide with a rather nicely lit back shot of his naked bootie so all is not lost… okay, that might just have been an upside for me.
Now, if this was the movie I thought it was going to be, this is where you discover whatever it is that space has waiting to bite Jim in the ass. Explosions happen, battles are waged, sides engaged and bam! It’s all systems go on dangerous space times. Nope… not gonna happen people. There’s no rival company out to hijack the ship, no alien species angered by it passing through their air space, no space pirates looking for loot and bootie. We’re just not that luck today (yes, I realize my bitterness is showing again)…
Instead we watch as Jim becomes fixated on one of the sleeping passengers, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence). This is where things get a little hinky – at least for me. Due to circumstances, I’m pretty sure you can see coming from… umm space, Aurora Lane is awake. Do I really have to tell you what happens when Jim “I’m a bad ass engineer” Preston-alone for a year- gets all obsessed with the sleeping beauty that is laying just out of reach? Good I’m glad you figured it out. The movie then takes a turn towards the sweet and romantic (and stalker eerie) as Jim woos his dream girl.
There are some up moments during this part of the film, that are funny, touching and sweet. They display a deep understanding of the role that chance and circumstance play in how people come together. At any other point in their lives, Jim and Aurora never meet (she’s definitely traveling first class all the way) and wouldn’t ever have an opportunity to relate on such a personal level. It’s a look at how relationships could evolve be if people were in situations where the outside barriers that separate us were gone. But on the other hand, we all know that Jim is meeting Aurora on some shady (as hell circumstances). He knows things about her he shouldn’t and wouldn’t but for his duplicitous – read creeper- behavior. Yes, you guess it. THIS is the big moment in this movie. I won’t spoil it by tell you how it all goes down because it’s a perfect train wreck of amazing acting between the music, Michael Sheen and Jennifer Lawrence.
Now the whole time these two have been getting all lovely-dovey then all “stay the f* away from me you rat bastard – you’ll see, I’m not getting into it – the ship has continued to have malfunctions and resets. One of these resets causes another sleeping pod to malfunction – it was bound to happen eventually – and enter Crew Chief Gus Mancuso (Laurence Fishburne – don’t get excited there isn’t nearly enough Fishburne for anyone but he’s scenes are powerful) who FINALLY asks the right questions about what in the fresh hell is going on with the ship everyone says NEVER has breakdowns or malfunctions. Commence the -long overdue- search for what’s wrong with the Starship Avalon…
Needless to say, Passengers disappointed me five minutes in since I was expecting a real science fiction horror/suspense thriller. I got over it… mostly. This movie is straight up a drama; being in space is more of a backdrop instead of being truly integral to the point.
Don’t go looking for a movie about the mechanics of space travel you aren’t going to get it. The explanations come in the ordinary course of the movie. The math seems sound so that didn’t really bother me. It also plays well into the whole no one contemplated this type of space event so nothing’s been programmed in to the ship’s memory banks for reference. Don’t go looking for the ship to really be a character in this movie – although it should be- you’ll be disappointed. Despite being an intuitive AI the ship is mostly passive as the lives of Jim and Aurora play out. There are some pretty sweet anti-gravity scenes and one particularly compelling scene dealing with going into open space in a suit – another point where this movie could’ve taken an amazing turn but didn’t.
Passengers is all about the question of what would you do to secure your happiness. It asks the question (blatantly mind you), what would you sacrifice – for someone else – to change your future. What would you forgive and how would you choose to spend the life you find yourself stuck in. I know the creators were aiming for a moving love against the odds, forgiveness in the face of potential loss but it falls short of the mark. Far short.
They watered-down Aurora Lane in ways that really chaffed by the end of the film. There’s a seriously missed opportunity in the second half of this film with her and it didn’t have to be.
The acceleration of movie’s pace and the abrupt critical nature of the ship crisis with the introduction of Laurence Fishburne’s character felt rushed and disjointed. It was also annoying as hell how long it took these people to take their ass to the infirmary. All the rush and hustle at the end of the latter half of the movie makes me feel like there’s another edit of Passengers out in the universe that I’d love to get my hands on.
I had a great time pulling this movie apart with the person I saw it with – he walked away with a completely different feeling and questions. So, in that regard, it’s good for light fare, awesome space shots and a love story happening while the ship is on fire so you can totally yell at the screen. It has some humorous moments and interesting ideas about space colonization. But it comes nowhere near satisfying the bar it set for itself.
And seriously Jim is a creeper asshole; he really doesn’t deserve a happily ever after. I suppose that means Chris Pratt did a damn good acting job because I can’t get past it.
Rating: 2.75 out of 5
Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt star in an exciting action-thriller about two passengers who are on a 120-year journey to another planet when their hibernation pods wake them 90 years too early. Jim and Aurora are forced to unravel the mystery behind the malfunction as the ship teeters on the brink of collapse, with the lives of thousands of passengers in jeopardy.
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne
Screenplay by: Jon Spaihts
Directed by: Morten Tyldum