Over the last couple of years, Jennifer Lawrence always seems to have had some film releasing around the holidays. In 2015 her film Joy released around the holidays as did American Hustle in 2013. Well, the tradition continues in 2016 with her latest film, Passengers. This time she teams up with Chris Pratt as they play passengers on Starship Avalon traveling to the brand new planet, Homestead II. However, no amount of chemistry or quirky one-liners from Pratt can save this highly contrived and trope ridden narrative.
The film centers around the story of Jim Preston (Pratt). He is among the 5,000 passengers on the Starship Avalon who are in a hibernation pod chilling out for 120 years as their ship makes the journey to Homestead II (a new planet). 30 years into their journey, this ship is smashed by a giant meteor causing one of the pods to malfunction and Preston wakes right up. At first, he thinks that they must be close to arriving at their destination then quickly realizes that he’s up about 90 years too early.
Jim immediately loses it and proceeds to try anything to not only get help but try and get back into his state of hibernation. Quickly he realizes that this is a hopeless cause and decides to live it up. He drinks to excess, chooses not to wear pants, and grows a beard that rivals Tom Hanks in Cast Away. During his most free-spirited moment, he stumbles upon another passenger named Aurora (Lawrence). He, of course, falls in love with her at first sight. Preston scurries the passenger manifest and finds out as much as he can about her. His thoughts begin to betray him, and the idea of having a companion on this journey sounds appealing (I guess loneliness will do that to you). The debate then becomes should he or shouldn’t he wake her up (I’m sure you can guess what he decided to do based on the trailers).
She, of course, freaks out and immediately develops a closeness to Preston (because what other option does she have). Then as sudden as Aurora is woken from her hibernation, they suddenly start wanting to hook up. This leads to the predictable untimely revelation that Preston woke her up which in essence dooms her to a life lived aboard a space ship and not as she had intended. Aurora melts down and immediately shuns Preston giving the initial impression they will never speak to each other again. If only a catastrophic moment could occur that would draw these two closer together once again (sigh).
Morten Tyldum directs this highly contrived film. It was shocking that he was at the helm of this mess as he did a fairly good job at the helm of the 2014 film, The Imitation Game. Perhaps he’s best suited for character driven pieces rather than ones that are “action based. Part of the issue as well was screenwriter Jon Spaihts. Not only was his narrative incredibly contrived and extremely predictable but the dialogue in the film was stilted and tiresome. They say an actor is only as good as the source material. Instead of attempting to build a connection between Preston and Aurora, we were treated to conversation starters such as Lawrence’s character being asked by Pratt “if Slogans are true?” which seemed out of place and odd at the time.
Now many will disregard reviews for this film and see the movie just based on the presents of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. This is of course what the studio is banking on, and it should still bring in a decent amount of ticket sales over the holiday season. I for one would hope that most people would rather spend their dollars on a film that’s worth your time rather than blindly pay to see something based on name recognition alone. Passengers is no better than any film currently stocked at your nearest Redbox location and should be available to rent shortly.