It appeared that Passengers had everything. An original screenplay set in a popular genre, an Oscar-nominated director, oh and two of the most sought after Hollywood stars on the planet in Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. But Passengers is proof that there’s an elusive magic to movies that can’t always be captured – although in this case a starved script and thin character building that criminally under uses the comedic skills of its top talent are mostly to blame for failure.
Awoken 90 years too early on a space voyage to the new world of Homestead II, engineer Jim Preston (Pratt) realises he’s the only one up. The other 5,000 of his fellow long-term commuters – including the crew – are still konked out in cryo sleep. Jim might have left a densely populated Earth to find purpose in his stock and trade as an engineer who dreams of building his own home in open lands, but even for him this is a problem that’s too big to solve at first. He spends the early third of the film wandering about, getting progressively hairier (despite having an en-suite) and increasingly more bored with his Groundhog Day existence.
Jim’s only relief comes in the form of “android” bar-tender Arthur (Michael Sheen) who is limited to offering trite platitudes and chirpy consolations and can’t ever leave the bar area. But he also takes comfort in staring at the spectacularly named Aurora Lane (Lawrence) and grows ever more intoxicated with her Sleeping Beauty routine. Before long, he’s putting his skills to work to wake her up and become the Eve to his Adam.
But, there’s trouble in paradise when the ship starts malfunctioning and the pair, later joined by crew member Gus Mancuso (Lawrence Fishburne providing a much needed change of pace), must get to the bottom of the problem or face the prospect of dying as the ship breaks up.
The only thing that stops Passengers being a cosmic flop is the fact that Lawrence and Pratt have “entertaining” written on their bones. Press for this movie was the two of them basically telling reporters how they hit it off instantly as friends and then had a laugh the whole way through making the film. And while they are fun to watch, sadly a dry script means that not much of this chemistry has actually translated onto the screen. A few more jokes really wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Final word: We expected Passengers to be a hoot with Pratt and Lawrence being allowed to show off and just have fun together on screen, but there’s not enough of that by far. There’s too much focus on spectacle and not enough on characters to make this space rom com shine. That said, it’s a pleasant enough viewing experience if you’re a fan of either star.
If you liked Passengers you should also watch:
- Silver Linings Playbook
- Jurassic World