“Passengers” should have been a slam dunk. John Spaihts, the writer of “Dr. Strange” (2016). Morten Tyldum, the director of “The Imitation Game” (2014). Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, two of the biggest, if not the biggest, stars in the world. But “Passengers” is a flop on pretty much every level.
The film follows Jim Preston (Pratt), a passenger on a spaceship accidentally woken up from cryosleep 90 years too early. Unable to go back to sleep, Preston grows lonely on the giant ship all by himself, his only confidant a bartender robot named Arthur (Michael Sheen). He is doomed to die before reaching the new world. In a fit of despair, he wakes up another passenger, Aurora Lane (Lawrence), and lies to her, telling her that an accident has woken both of them up. Stranded together, they fall in love, but will Jim’s deception cost them everything?
Jim’s decision to wake up Aurora immediately sets the audience against him. How could someone do that to another person without their permission? For our protagonist, we lose empathy. Such a loss is irredeemable.
Perhaps if they knew each other beforehand, it would alleviate some of the problem. But the best move would have been if Jim’s decision were just taken out of the film. Two random people awaken on a spaceship and face a lifetime together with no hope of reaching their destination. Now what? Such a premise has such promise and could have delved into deep themes of life’s purpose, isolation and romance.
Or, what if the entire ship had woken up? You would have different responses to the situation spread over a socioeconomic situation. How do people cope as a society trapped on a spaceship? Some may decide to kill themselves, others learn how adapt to this new life. You would have real social dynamics.
Instead, we get a horrible man taking away the life of a random woman. And (spoiler alert) she somehow takes him back at the film’s conclusion, an idiotic, anti-feminist finale. She should have kicked his lonely ass into Venus the moment she found out what he did.
The film is trying to be a “Titanic” romance in space. Instead, it’s just an unfeeling iceberg. The protagonist is unsympathetic, Lawrence and Pratt are miscast and have no chemistry together and the space set ending is unoriginal and contrived.
Danger. Danger Will Robinson.
Oops, Will Robinson is dead on arrival.