Since 2007, when it first popped up on the Hollywood “Black List” of the best unproduced scripts, Passengers has been in development. At one time, Keanu Reeves and Emily Blunt were attached to the project written by Prometheus scribe Jon Spaihts but Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence were eventually cast in the main roles of Jim Preston and Aurora Lane, respectively. Now in theaters, Passengers seems like a very old fashioned movie with its problematic story and character choices.
Passengers follows the spaceship Avalon, a luxury ship making a voyage from Earth to a new colonized planet called Homestead II. The trip takes 120 years to make it from point A to point B with the ship’s 250 crew members and 5,000 colonists in hypersleep until four to five months before touchdown, so they can be acclimated to the new world and socialize with each other. However, about 30 years into the journey, a large asteroid hits The Avalon and prematurely activates Jim Preston’s hypersleep pod. With 90 years before the rest of the passengers and crew wakes up, Jim has to figure out how to spend the time without going mad!
While its premise sparks the imagination with its futuristic technology and space adventure, Passengers fails to blast off with any originality and passion. The movie also never really addresses Jim’s decisions and choices. About a third into the movie, Jim has spent a year on a spaceship by himself (although it doesn’t feel like a year on the screen) with only an android bartender named Arthur, played by Michael Sheen, to keep him company. He stumbles upon Aurora Lane in hypersleep after a failed suicide attempt. He learns more and more about the “Sleeping Beauty” (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that her name is Aurora here) and makes the decision to wake her up because he’s lonely. Although it feels like the filmmakers aren’t really making a big deal about his choice, they also never give Aurora the choice to wake up.
Jim takes her life away. Aurora had big plans to travel to Homestead II, write a story about her adventure on another planet, and then return to Earth to spread the tale. While Jim wasted a year of his life in loneliness, he also wasted Aurora’s 240-year plan and ambitions to be a world-class writer and journalist. The film doesn’t address Jim’s choice to take Aurora’s life away as something major or real, but rather as something she’ll understand as a mistake. In fact, as Jim and Aurora are arguing about what he did, the film drastically shifts into a shitty action third act.
Jim and Aurora aren’t the only ones who woke up. Chief Gus Mancuso, played by Laurence Fishburne, also wakes up early from hypersleep to give them valuable information and access to the ship’s database and resources. The ship is slowly going down, so Jim and Aurora have to fix the damage before the rest of the passengers and crew die in space. Much like most of Passengers, the third act is a huge conventional let down. Also, Andy Garcia is in this movie for some reason. He’s only in it for, like, 30 seconds.
I know what you’re thinking, Passengers is just Titanic in space. Well, you’re right! But it’s not as impressive or progressive as James Cameron’s masterpiece. Aside from its eye-popping visuals and serviceable premise, Passengers fails as a romance and space adventure. Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence can’t even save this sinking ship. This movie is a boat you should miss.