In a year filled with sequels, adaptions and big blockbusters, Passengers is something of an enigma; a completely original story set in space with a light atmospheric vibe to it. Add on to that it’s a sci-fi and romantic epic starring two of the biggest celebrities in the industry, Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. Passengers is an incredibly intimate story with very urgent consequences that is mostly able to thrive thanks to strong talent and solid production value. Is it worth the price of an admission ticket? Read on to find out…
The Starship Avalon is a spaceship carrying 5,259 people on a voyage to a distant colony planet known as “Homestead II”. Due to a malfunctioning issue in the hibernation chamber, two of the ship’s pods break down, causing two passengers to wake up 90 years prematurely. The woken passengers are Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), a mechanical engineer from Denver, and Aurora Dunn (Jennifer Lawrence), a journalist from New York City. As they find themselves falling in love, they realize that being stranded is not the only problem facing them.
Above the surface, Passengers is a fairly generic Hollywood love story. I’ll spare you the more spoilery details, but the romance between Jim and Aurora is cliché after cliché. Furthermore, the third act is a mess. Luckily, Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence are very lovely to look at. They pave their way through some of the more cringy dialogue to deliver some pretty terrific performances. While conventional plot arcs are present, there are enough big ideas and visually imaginative wonder to overshadow the more traditional themes.
Beneath the surface, Passengers has some wit to it. It has a lot of minimalist characteristics to it, yet incorporates big ideas and remarkable special effects. The two characters flaunt quite a bit of emotional depth that neighbor concepts of fear and loneliness; making it easy for us to sympathize with them. There’s a big moment halfway through that really shifts the entire dynamic of our two characters that sort of punches you in the gut – completely drawing you into this world. Unfortunately, the third act pulls the viewer out with predicability and clichés-galore.
Okay, so the opening act is terrific; the first 45 minutes or so focuses entirely on Pratt’s character and the struggles of facing the reality of his situation. I picked up huge vibes from The Martian and Buried, two terrific “stranded” flicks. The second arc still maintains this mood despite some changes. However, the third act just doesn’t cut it. I can’t say much without giving things away, but it’s way too uninspired, especially considering the talent involved. Thankfully, there’s enough good to salvage this film. While Passengers is far from perfect, it’s surely worth the price of a matinee ticket.