“Passengers” was projected to be a dazzling action science fiction thriller with hints of romantic drama, the movie from the director of “The Imitation Game,” Morten Tyldum. Despite its stellar protagonists, promising storyline and compelling visual effects, “Passengers” does not live up to its potential and fails to leave a lasting impression on its audience.
The movie focuses on Jim Preston, one of the 5,000 passengers aboard the spaceship Avalon headed toward the planet Homestead II. The journey is scheduled to take 120 years, but after the Avalon collides with a meteor, Jim’s hibernation pod malfunctions, waking him up 90 years too early.
Completely alone with no way of falling back asleep, Jim is forced to accept his fate of living out the rest of his life isolated on a spacecraft. Pratt, typically known for his comedic roles, captures the feelings of abandonment, terror and depression well.
After a year of being alone on the ship, and a frighteningly slow start to the movie, writer Aurora, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is introduced to the narrative. Aurora’s awakening is debatably unethical and the scene could have been a huge turning point for the movie, but it was rushed and the ethics of the situation were glossed over. So desperate to create an interstellar romance, writer Jon Spaihts neglected perhaps the most fascinating problem of the movie.
From there, the movie transitions from a science-fiction thriller to an all-out romantic comedy. The chemistry between Pratt and Lawrence is undeniable as they successfully convey the giddiness that one feels when falling in love, but due to the tenuous nature of their relationship, it is impossible to ever truly appreciate their romance.
Another problem with “Passengers” is its extremely slow pacing. The first hour and a half of the film is consumed by the start and end to Jim and Aurora’s relationship. While the obvious dramatic tension arises from Jim’s lie that is the basis of his foundation with Aurora, the film lazily adds a far less engaging subplot by occasionally interjecting the narrative with the Avalon’s increasing ship failure.
It is not until the second half of the movie that Jim and Aurora finally realize the imminent death they face if they cannot fix the Avalon. The final action scene is suspenseful enough, but there are several turns the movie could have taken that would have strengthened it overall. Instead, the ending, although somewhat entertaining, was predictable and definitely not memorable.
Another flaw the film faces is its failure to properly execute suspension of disbelief, which many science fiction movies do. The problem with “Passengers” is that it leaves too many questions unanswered and forces the characters to make too many nonsensical, ridiculous choices.
A good science fiction movie disturbs the viewer by leading them to believe that what they are witnessing could indeed happen, but no one is going to be disturbed or fascinated by “Passengers”.
Besides its lead actors — who admirably master a subpar script — the film’s redeeming moments come with its most simple shots. Scenes of Aurora swimming in the pool, Jim shooting hoops or the two of them laughing at the bar immerse the viewer and allow one to sympathize with Jim and Aurora.
Ironically, it is the most seemingly boring moments of the film that are the most captivating and evocative. If Tyldum and Spaihts had capitalized on this feeling, rather than attempting to gin up unnecessary crises for the protagonists, they might have made a winner out of “Passengers.”
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