Release date: 21st December 2016/Watch the trailer here
The following review contains minor spoilers.
Recently, there seems to have been a trend for releasing a big blockbuster set in space towards the end of the year. There’s been Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian; all of them intelligent as well as being genuinely good sci-fi films.
And then there’s Passengers. It was inevitable that not every end-of-the-year-space-movie would be a great one, or even a good one, but who could have possibly anticipated something as awful as this? The most frustrating thing about it is that it has an intriguing concept that could have gone in at least five different directions better than the one that director Morten Tyldum and writer Jon Spaihts decided on.
Set in a future where the people of Earth have the opportunity to emigrate to a new planet, Homestead II, Passengers begins when mechanic Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is awoken from one hundred and twenty years of hibernation ninety years too soon. It’s not long before Jim realises that none of the other five thousand passengers or the couple of hundred crew members are awake, and he has no way of getting back to sleep. The first half an hour passes by entertainingly enough, as Jim spends a year on the Avalon spacecraft with no one but an android bartender named Arthur (Michael Sheen) for company. As time passes (signified by the growth of Chris Pratt’s beard), the loneliness and the inevitably of dying alone starts to get to him. Then, one day, he passes Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) in her hibernation pod, and everything begins to go steadily downhill.
Passengers could have been a much better – or at least a more interesting – film had it just been Jim on his own. Instead, he instantly decides that Aurora is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, finds out everything he possibly can about her, and then he wakes her up, fully aware that doing so will be as good as murdering her. Another way in which Passengers could have been a better, more interesting film: if they had kept up the idea that Jim is a complete and utter creep, and gone down the psychological thriller route, rather than trying to make a romantic comedy set in space.
Instead, however, Aurora adapts surprisingly quickly to the idea that she’s doomed to die of old age with no one but a literal stalker for company, and falls head over heels in love with Jim. Obviously.
The sheer disgust of the notion that stalking a girl and essentially sentencing her to death because you thought she was pretty aside, Passengers quickly becomes a terrible movie, riddled with ridiculous plot holes that seem completely implausible, even for a sci-fi film that takes place in the future.
It feels as though director Tyldum was content to coast by on the charm and attractiveness of his A-list stars, forgetting to make a good film on the basis that people will go and see it anyway because hey, it’s Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, Hollywood’s sweethearts! And they are undeniably charming, doing the best that they can to salvage the mess of a movie that they’ve found themselves in. But the charm and chemistry that would have been ideal in an actual romcom, rather than what is more or less a warning for all women to never get on a strange spaceship with Chris Pratt, isn’t enough to save Passengers. Even a small handful of promising moments are totally discarded, as the entire plot builds to a finale that is frustratingly, eye-rollingly awful – as well as being entirely forgettable and meaningless in a film that has done absolutely nothing to earn the emotional investment of its audience.