Outside of a few basic plot details, the ads for Morten Tyldum’s Passengers have kept the story mostly clouded in mystery. When a film stars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, though, what more do we really need to know? Unfortunately, even with two of the most likable stars on the planet, Passengers is a disappointment. This is a film with all the right tools, featuring astounding special effects, inventive production design, and a gripping setup. It ultimately falls flat due to a couple horrible narrative choices, however.
Unfortunately, even with two of the most likable stars on the planet, Passengers is a disappointment.
Pratt stars as Jim Preston, an engineer aboard the Starship Avalon. The spacecraft is on a 120-year journey to a new world. The problem is that Preston comes out of hyper sleep 90 years early. Unable to awaken any of the crewmembers, he is given no choice but to live out the rest of his life on the ship. His only companion is an android bartender named Arthur, who’s wonderfully played by Michael Sheen. After about a year of playing Cast Away in space, Preston decides that he just can’t take it anymore. He’d rather die than spend another day alone.
The first twenty minutes of Passengers would’ve made a great short film or Twilight Zone episode. Much like Moon, I Am Legend, and Silent Running, it’s essentially a one-man show with amazing atmosphere and a harrowing sense of isolation. Sadly, the film quickly destroys all the goodwill it built up. Preston develops an attraction to one of the sleeping passengers, a journalist named Aurora Lane (Lawrence). Although he has second thoughts, Preston decides to wake Aurora up. As you probably guessed, he doesn’t tell her the truth and the two start to fall in love.
The trailers for Passengers have neglected to mention this information and it’s no wonder why. The liar revealed trope has the tendency to kill almost any movie dead in its tracks. Passengers is no exception. It doesn’t matter that Pratt and Lawrence have natural chemistry together. Their relationship is entirely based on deceit and everybody in the audience knows that Preston’s secret is eventually going to come out. It’s basically every bad romantic comedy you’ve ever seen. The only difference is that this film has a budget of $110 million.
The liar revealed trope has the tendency to kill almost any movie dead in its tracks. Passengers is no exception.
The worst part is that the film actually expects us to care about this romance even after Preston does something so despicable and creepy. Granted, the filmmakers acknowledge that what Preston does is wrong and they try to make him sympathetic. At the end of the day, though, he still gets everything he wants with no real consequences. So what are the filmmakers trying to say? If you’re selfish, irresponsible, and dishonest, love will ultimately prevail? That’s a horrible lesson!
If it weren’t for the liar revealed plot, Passengers might’ve been salvageable. It would’ve been infinitely more interesting if these characters both randomly woke up on a spaceship and simply had to coexist. The film didn’t need this plot point, which ruins a perfectly good premise. Of course even if you took this storyline out of the equation, Passengers would still have problems. Without giving too much away, the film works up to a pretty underwhelming climax and a bland ending. It’s truly a shame since there are so many inspired ideas that could’ve been explored here. Ever since it appeared on the 2007 Blacklist, Jon Spaihts’ screenplay for the film has generated a ton of buzz in Hollywood. Now that his script has finally made it to be silver screen, one can’t help but wonder what the fuss was all about.