Star power alone can’t push this slow moving spaceship.
An ark of five thousand stasis-sleeping passengers, on a trip to a new planet to call home, suffers from damage to its systems, waking two people while there’s still ninety years of travel remaining. They find the task of getting to know each other complicated with saving the ship from disaster.
I love science fiction, but Passengers feels conflicted with what it wants to achieve and we’ve had many “trapped on a space ship” scenarios in film before (Sunshine, Moon, even Alien) making quite an exclusive club. It cannot decide if it wants to be a subtle look into the human condition or a glossy action drama. The film feels laboured by its screenplay, chugging along through hoops it devises without any real purpose.
The film’s marketing is eager to tell audiences that it has two of the most attractive and popular stars in Hollywood today at the forefront: James played by Chris Pratt, and Aurora played by Jennifer Lawrence. One wonders if most of the budget went into acquiring them. But Starlord and Mystique struggle with some rather flat, repetitive material. There are sparks from their chemistry, that bring light to proceedings, but the screenplay struggles with delivering the gravity of the situation.
It does all this heavy lifting with one classic writing cliché: the liar reveal…
Chris Pratt’s character, desperately alone and suicidal, actually wakes Lawrence’s Aurora deliberately so he wouldn’t be alone, but dooming her to die with him. While this moment is monumental and emotional, it is literally the one trick this sci-fi has and it blatantly waiting in the wings. Even poor Laurence Fishburne is dragged into proceedings extremely late in the game, but is given next to nothing to do. He should have been the one to break the harmony, instead Michael Sheen’s robot barman (who had sworn secrecy with Pratt’s character earlier) is the random catalyst.
Ultimately, the screenplay isn’t just generically simple, but it boils Fishburne’s entire character down to a simple “plot convenience”, probably due to the film writing itself into a corner.
Sadly Passengers is below-average. It feels repetitive and vague. It is best for Lawrence and Pratt, who’s chemistry does shine through during the second act and let’s be honest, who can complain seeing these two get together?? It’s just a shame it has to be in a mediocre sci-fi flick.
Unless you really like J-Law and Chris Pratt, it would be time better spent watching Sunshine or Moon, for better stories of humans trapped in deep space.
Additional Marshmallows: Sony Entertainment are really struggling with films this year, huh?