Passengers is a sci-fi film starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. Passengers was written by Jon Spaihts (Doctor Strange and Prometheus) and directed by Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Games). This film has quite a bit of talent and star power involved however it has been met with less than stellar reviews.
Plot/Summary: At an unspecified point in the future, five thousand passengers leave an overpopulated Earth aboard the starship Avalon. They embark on a 120-year voyage to colonize the new planet Homestead II and give humanity a fresh start on another world. Thirty years into this journey, the ship begins to experience system malfunctions, and two passengers- Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) – awake from their hibernation pods long before anyone else. Coming to the harrowing realization that they will spend the rest of their lives alone together on the Avalon, Jim and Aurora attempt to make the best of their situation, forming a connection and befriending the ship’s robot bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen). Unfortunately for Jim and Aurora the Avalon seems to be plagued with breakdowns which continuously puts the lives of everyone on board in jeopardy. The first act is rushed as Tyldum hurries through to get Pratt and Lawrence together – yet when the two are on-screen there is not much for them to do. This film also toys with some moral and ethical questions that sound intriguing on paper, but are ultimately poorly executed. Certain themes are touched upon, and the creative team deserves some credit for taking a risk with a big-budget film, yet it does not pay off in the end. Some moviegoers (like myself) will be unable to look past the multitude of issues this film brings to the surface. Spaihts fails to fully develop these core concepts (which are integral to the narrative), meaning key emotional beats are unearned as the film builds to a problematic and messy conclusion. The potential was there for a captivating sci-fi drama but Passengers is unsettling, and instead of focusing on its primary themes it meanders frequently leaving the audience uninterested. 7/10
Cinematography: The production design team (spearheaded by Guy Hendrix Dyas) do a good job of crafting the world of the Avalon. Passengers takes place entirely on the Avalon, but the ship never feels small scale. The filmmakers do an excellent job making the most of the location and building a place with the aesthetic of a futuristic high-end cruise ship. This film is thankfully not as dependent on visual effects as some other sci-fi works of the past, but when they’re called for Passengers delivers. The zero-gravity scene in the swimming pool is stunning. Passengers is a visually appealing film however that cannot overcome its many flaws. 8/10
Characterization: While the acting in passengers was great, the script did not give these stars much to work with. As one would expect Pratt and Lawrence make for a likable pair and have solid chemistry with one another. The second act is where the romantic element starts and the two use their charm to play off each other in a manner that feels natural. Pratt has a more layered character, carrying Passengers for stretches while also showcasing his action hero chops. On the flip side Lawrence, does not have a whole lot to do as Aurora besides serve as a love interest. The Oscar winner tries to elevate what is on the page, but Aurora ultimately is not at all interesting, and her motivations and actions are more for the service of the story than realistic. The supporting cast is obviously small although Sheen is amazing as Arthur. Arthur is an android that is an obvious call back to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. However, Arthur is possibly the most memorable character in this film. 6.5/10
Conclusion: Passengers had all the makings of the next great sci-fi movie, but it ultimately cannot deliver on that promise. If the core idea (and main catalyst of the story) had been handled in another way, the movie could have been a thought-provoking piece that challenged viewers instead of the flawed tale it turned out to be. If you are looking for a good sci-fi film set in space lucky for you Rogue One is still in theatres.
Final Score: 7.2