Passengers is basically Castaway in space – with a bit of Gravity and The Martian thrown into the mix. Only it’s not as good as the aforementioned titles, mostly because it lacks tension and drama. Even the sexual tension between the attractive main characters is dispensed of rather quickly, if ya know what I mean.
Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World) and Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games, American Hustle) play Jim Preston and Aurora Lane, a mechanical engineer and a journalist who are among 5,000 passengers who are supposed to sleep through a 120-year journey to Homestead II – a colony planet far, far away. They’ve been placed in hibernation pods aboard the Starship Avalon, the space equivalent of a luxury cruiseliner. Everything runs smoothly on autopilot, until a malfunction causes Jim’s hibernation pod to fail and he wakes up – 90 years early. All alone. His despair grows (along with his facial hair) as he is forced to ponder the meaning of life, and the prospect of decades of isolation. After about a year, he’s had enough. And he makes a decision that will effect not only his life, but the lives of Aurora and all the other passengers and crew. He wakes her up. They fall in love. They show a lot of skin. Secrets are revealed. Consequences ensue. That’s about all I can say about the plot without giving too much away. Except Lawrence Fishburne shows up for a heartbeat as Chief Deck Officer Gus Mancuso. And Michael Sheen steals a few scenes as Arthur, an android bartender who is programmed to dispense drinks and small talk.
Ironically, there’s been a bit of a backlash in recent days relating to what some regard as Jim’s abhorrent decision to manipulate someone else’s fate. But I was okay with that part. At least he felt conflicted and showed contrition. And they don’t exactly just kiss and make up. My problem is that the film is simply too slow and devoid of action. I guess it’s more of a ‘thinking man’s space movie’ or cerebral chick flick. Passengers does benefit from having two very strong and watchable leads in Pratt and Lawrence. But it’s not enough to make this particular sci-fi adventure drama romance flick a strong contender in the cinematic space race. Rogue One… Arrival… Hidden Figures… they’re all better.