WARNING: The following review contains spoilers, I’m telling you now so you don’t pretend to be outraged later.
Hey, I got an idea! Let’s take the two most popular actors in Hollywood, Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence (For some reason) and put them in a movie with little or nothing to do. They are so popular; the film will sell itself. What’s that? You are giving me a budget of $100 million dollars? 110 Million And that’s your final offer? Sure, but now that we paid Jennifer Lawrence, we need money to pay everyone else and actually make the movie. I’m about 59% sure what’s actually happened when I watched the trailer for Passengers. It really felt like they were hoping they could sell a movie on the popularity of their two leads and nothing else. The film looked like an interesting idea but there wasn’t much else to sell you. I do like Chris Pratt and I am genuinely annoyed by Jennifer Lawrence so it will be interesting if I can find some middle ground of entertainment with this film.
The film begins with a colony of passengers (roll credits) aboard the Starship Avalon who are en route to a Homestead II, a new planet that takes 120 years to reach. After the ship goes through a rough meter shower, a passenger named Jim Preston (Pratt) is awaken 90 years ahead of schedule. Trapped on a ship by himself, Jim spends over a year alone and is on the verge of suicide. He finds the pod of Aurora (Lawrence) who is one of the other 5,000 passengers aboard the ship. He decides to wake her up early causing her to suffer the same fate as him, trapped on a ship for the next 90 years by themselves.
Passengers come across as a billion dollar bottle film. You can’t help but think that this idea was thought up not to long after the film Gravity became a hit. Chris Pratt carried the load in the first half hour being the only character on-screen outside of a bartender android played by Martin Sheen. Focusing on his descent into madness, the film mirrors Castaway in space as Jim struggle with the realization that he is doomed to die alone as no one will be able to help him. The film is actually at its strongest when it’s only Chris Pratt and that’s not bias talking. When Lawrence’s character is introduced, the film shifts to from a survival film to a romance. Being the only two good-looking people awake, they naturally fall in love after being trapped for a year but of course, everything goes to shit when she realizes that their love is built on a lie and Jim as condemned her to death. As much as you want to hate Jim for what he did, he clearly wasn’t in his right state of mind when he did it which reserves some sympathy for his selfish decision.
A major plot point involves the ship they are is slowly falling apart as the film progresses. Laurence Fishburne makes a brief appearance as a Chief Deck Officer Gus, who shows up when the ship begins to fail. Turns out there is major damage on the ship which is causing it to shut down but they don’t have access to the area where it is located. The biggest problem with the film is that it feels like you are watching three different films put into one, a lot like a film I reviewed earlier The Accountant. This causes the narrative to be distorted because, by the third act, this has become a full on action/drama where Jim and Aurora are not only trying to save themselves but everyone else on board. The ending is a bit dry like it wasn’t fully thought out, however, rumors of the original ending according to Vulture are likely to blame. There were many rewrites with the film and it looks like the end product was only a fraction of what the original vision was, but the original ending may have actually been worse making this one the ‘patch up job’ ending.
Part of me thinks this movie would have much better with a creative change or if the plot was more similar to something like Dead Space and focused more on the Sci-fi aspect of the film. Of course seeing how bad video game movies are it’s probably a good thing they didn’t go down that route. The few actors in the film simply can’t overcome the writing shortfalls. Passengers isn’t a bad film but it isn’t a good one either. Missed opportunities keep it from it’s potential. Don’t let the marquee names fool you; you are better off renting this film at home.
OFFICIAL RATING: **
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