While Passengers rises above the typical January fare, it seldom finds itself less than forgettable. Director Morten Tyldum deals with some heady concepts, but fails to thoroughly dissect what has the potential to be a thought provoking morality play.
Early on, the film sets up its most compelling set piece – the starship Avalon, a ship carrying a cargo of 5,000 hibernating passengers with the promise of a utopian life on the planet, Homestead 2. En route, a malfunction awakens Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) 90 years early. While Preston does his best to make do with android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen), loneliness gets the best of him and he decides to wake up Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence).
Lane, unsurprisingly, does not take too well to the news that she may have to sit through reruns of Parks & Recreation for the next 9 decades. However, after an unsuccessful attempt to re-enter stasis, she resigns herself to her fate – even going so far as to begin writing about it. Eventually Aurora discovers that her pod malfunction was less than accidental and responds to Preston how one might expect her to. But as time passes, she manages to forgive Preston and even grows to love him.
It’s at this point where Passengers fumbles. It’s clear Pratt and Lawrence have demonstrable chemistry together, playing off each other exceptionally well. Though he’s proven himself in other pulp fare, it’s clear Pratt simply doesn’t have the acting chops to carry this film on his own. Regardless, both are genuinely enjoyable to watch despite the film’s murky ethics. But even though said ethics are truly uncomfortable, Tyldum chooses to ignore rather than engage with them opting instead for a bog-standard love story.
Combined with a lacklustre third act, it’s hard to imagine what audience Passengers is aimed at. While it’s certainly targeted at both, fans of science fiction and romance films will likely find themselves disappointed in the end product. Despite some impressive visuals, there is little to recommend about a film that feels as empty as the journey to Homestead 2.