1 + 1 = 2. Simple math. But movies don’t work that way. One great actor, plus another great actor, plus an intriguing concept should equate to a good movie. Unfortunately, sometimes even when a film has all of these factors working for it, a multitude of other things can keep it from being as triumphant as we want it to be. Passengers, is an ‘A’ movie concept, with ‘C’ level execution.
The film takes place in a distant future where space ships ferry humans off to live on different colonized worlds. These trips take decades and often centuries, so the passengers are meant to be kept in cryogenic sleep until they’re months away from their destination. Enter Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), one of over 5,000 passengers aboard the Avalon. Jim is awakened 90 years too soon from his cryogenic sleep after the Avalon collides with a meteor that triggers a slow wave of malfunctions. With an android bar tender as his only companion (Martin Sheen), Jim slowly falls into a deep depression with the realization that he cannot be put back to sleep. That is until journalist Aurora Lane (Jenifer Lawrence) is also awakened. Alone on a randomly malfunctioning ship, the two fall in love until a dark secret threatens their relationship.
The best thing the film has going for it is Chris Pratt. Pratt has the charisma to carry a movie on his own and manages to personify all of the most emotional moments in the movie much better than his co-star. Lawrence isn’t bad by any stretch and the two have wonderful chemistry that makes their love story seem genuine, which is important considering there aren’t many other characters ever on screen. But, Jennifer Lawrence’s Aurora seems a bit boring and the movie could almost be more interesting without her. Her presence and the montage that depicts the happier moments of their romance, actually manage to undermine the more enjoyable Cast Away-like tone that the movie establishes when it’s just Pratt onscreen.
But the most significant reason Passengers disappoints revolves around the film’s latter half. The philosophically intriguing twist that engulfs the movie’s middle is barely explored and seemingly tossed aside in the end to make things feel happier, but much more formulaic. The feelings and moral complexities conjured between the characters as a result of the twist could’ve and should’ve been the focal point of the movie. Instead, it feels like a footnote on a film that is essentially Space Titanic.
The climax is filled with action sequences as the two try to fix the ship in ways that seem preposterous even for a science fiction film. Then there’s Laurence FIshburne’s wasted character Gus, the ship’s captain. The character is a commanding, yet calming presence, but isn’t onscreen long enough to be anything other than a plot device meant to forward the arc of the main actors.
The effects are solid and there are plenty of exciting moments to go along with the solid performances. But Passengers could’ve been a film as psychologically stimulating as Arrival. Instead it settles for being a Nicolas Sparks movie with a generic blockbuster ending. And while that may be entertaining for some, it’s disappointing for anyone who hoped to see something unique.
FINAL GRADE: C