Passengers: Pratt & Lawrence Shine in Predictable Romance-Soaked Sci-Fi
Chris PrattJennifer Lawrence...
In 9 Cinemas
With its talented leads and a premise that’s engaging on a philosophical level, Morten Tyldum’s Passengers has its moments; but an all-round flimsy scripts undermines what was at one point this year one of the most anticipated sci-fi films of 2016.
Set sometime in the distant future, we’re introduced to blue-collar mechanic, Jim Preston (Pratt) who – along with five-thousand other passengers – is embarking on a hundred-and-twenty year voyage aboard the starship Avalon, which is on its way to colonise a new planet called Homestead II. About thirty years into their journey, however, the ship runs into some technical trouble which unfortunately causes Jim’s hibernation pod to malfunction, waking him up from his sleep nine decades too soon.
All alone and with no way of contacting the sleeping crew, Jim spends the next year roaming the empty ship, with no one else to talk to apart from a droid bartender played by Michael Sheen – a fittingly creepy character who seems to have been pulled straight out of The Shining. As depression and desperate loneliness set in, Jim comes to fall in love with another passenger; through a series of video blogs-come-diary-entries, Jim gets to ‘know’ journalist Aurora Lane (Lawrence) and wrestles with the idea waking her.
The trailers of course show Lawrence and Pratt together and herein lies the problem with Passengers; the twist, this philosophical conundrum, that Pratt’s character finds himself in is an intriguing one and watching the romance play out while Lawrence is completely unaware that her opposite number’s selfishness is what put her in this lost-in-space predicament should have been the central element of the film.
But Tyldum doesn’t seem to know where to go with the story and the resolution is as predictable as it gets. If Jim’s actions say something about the base of our human instincts, then the ending romanticises those instincts into a flat finale.
Despite the rich production design – the swimming pool scene is truly mesmerising – and several thrilling action set-pieces, the story generally fails to build any real excitement, with the middle part of the story – where Jim and Aurora meet and begin their journey of love – being a stretched out lifeless snooze-fest.
As expected, both Pratt and Lawrence share an easy chemistry and, for what it’s worth, they manage to sell their stories well. But both are trapped in conventional characters that aren’t written in a complex enough way for them to truly revel in a film that had much of the ingredients to make for a thoughtful sci-fi. Passengers almost say something important, but chooses instead to go for a neater, more crowd-pleasing route.