Director: Morton Tyldum
Writer: Jon Spaihts
Starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Lawrence Fishburn, Andy Garcia, and more
Runtime: 1h 56min
Passengers got marketed as this big deal, romance novel, type story featuring the combined star-power of currently hot properties Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence aboard an interstellar generational colony spaceship. In fact, Passengers is a film with a dual personality, while its true it tells the story of an on-again-off-again awkward romance aboard that ship which ends up being a distraction from a much better, although trope filled story of high adventure onboard that ship while crossing the vast reaches of outer space.
It’s a story that serves as a warning about becoming too comfortable with technology. As anyone can tell you that owns a computer, technology can be a real pain in the ass. It arbitrarily breaks down for no apparent reason or refuses to work right whenever it suits it to do so.
The ship, the Avalon is worthy of note, its beautiful spiral design is reminiscent of a modern art style sculpture as it revolves ceaselessly on its journey through the stars It a vast, enormous vessel full of technological marvels and stylishly slick. The film’s creators were smart enough to borrow a page from Star Wars and added some cute little janitor robots that scurry around cleaning up anything that lands on the ship’s decks. The Avalon is in many ways the real star of this movie.
That’s what happens onboard the starship Avalon. It encounters some asteroids, and that results in one passenger out of the five thousand on the ship in technologically induced slumber to wake up. He’s Jim Preston (Pratt) and he is the sort of fellow that requires the company of his fellow human beings or he goes crazy. After a year alone onboard the immense ship that exactly what happens. He’s not entirely alone though he has the company of an android bartender named Arthur (Sheen) that nearly always seems to say the right thing. Arthur is an enjoyable part of the film and adds to its appeal.
Jim goes through all the stages usually assigned to someone in mourning and does his best to keep himself amused and active. This part of the film makes an interesting statement about human nature and how we are subject to certain anthropological needs. This anthropological aspect of our makeup is what drives us to do things and make decisions that might not, on the surface, always seem reasonable.
Jim finally hits rock bottom, drinking too much and crazy with loneliness he notices one female passenger in her sleep pod and resolves to wake her for companionship. She is Aurora (Lawrence), a journalist. When she gets the news, they are the only ones awake she freaks out and goes through the same stages that Jim did, denial, anger, etc. After she finally accepts the truth, they get along famously and are both very happy in their growing friendship which naturally, eventually becomes a romance.
Everything is fine until Arthur spills the beans and she discovers that Jim woke her up. She goes insane with anger and keeps accusing him of stealing her life and even describes what he did as murder. What he did was wrong, but her histrionics are uncalled for under the circumstances and seriously overly melodramatic. He does not steal her life, he merely changed its course and who knows? Maybe for the better. I consider this entire aspect of the film somewhat done in a half-assed manner, so enough about that for now.
Meanwhile, the ship is more damaged from the asteroids than suspected, and things are breaking down ship-wide, and Jim notices but shrugs it off. Jim plants a tree in the otherwise sterile environment of the ship and not long after that a new player joins the game in the form of a crew member named Gus Mancuso (Fishburn), and his arrival signals the film changing into more of an adventure movie. Gus takes charge and helps them understand more about what needs to be done to get the ship back on course and functioning correctly. Jim has proven he’s handy with his hands and studying the ship’s systems throughout the film and his skills become increasingly important. Aurora is still angry as hell at him and reports what he did to Gus, but her complaints get swept aside by the urgency of the situation.
Things go from bad to worse including one instance when the ship’s gravity fails, and Aurora nearly drowns because she’s swimming when it happens. Gus, as it turns out, is gravely ill and has a sudden downturn for the worse and eventually dies soon after leaving the pair alone to fix things and save the ship and the thousands of passengers onboard.
Things continue to escalate when the pair discovers a hull breach that threatens to suck her out into space, and one thing after another needs attention. The ship’s repairs include one last major operation that requires Jim to go outside the ship because a hatch won’t open unless he does it manually (of course) and his bravery ends up killing him, but Aurora recovers his body and using the high tech medical bay she resuscitates him and saves his life. Aurora forgives Jim in the end, and they live out their lives on the ship they rescued which eventually reaches its goal. When the crew wakes up, they find a surprising development in on the ship in the form of a lot of plants and even some chickens and such in one part of the ship. This patch of a rural earth-like area is the final legacy of the star-crossed lovers.
As I said, a lot of tropes but enjoyable enough with a very cool spaceship and some beautiful visuals Passengers is more enjoyable than you might remember.