In Theatres: 
Dec 21, 2016
Running Time: 
116 minutes

On paper, Passengers sounds like a home run; 30 years into a 120 year space voyage to new home planet two passengers experience malfunctions in their sleep pods causing them to awaken 90 years too early. Casting Hollywood mega stars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence in the two leading roles, and puting Oscar-nominated director Morten Tyldum at the helm is a recipe for success, right? Apparently not. Despite the script being on Hollywood’s infamous “Black List” since 2007, Passengers struggles to be anything more that a galactic mess.


All the trailers show Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) as the only two people who are awake aboard the Starship Avalon. Something has gone wrong with the ship’s computers and it caused them to awaken prematurely. What the trailers don’t show is that Jim is the first to be accidentally woken up and that he spends over an entire year alone on the ship before he makes the difficult decision of waking up Aurora so that he’s no longer by himself. This little detail omitted from the trailers drastically changes the dynamic of the film. Or at least it should.


Passengers retains all of its sci-fi romantic elements between Jim and Aurora and doesn’t fully commit to how stalkerish his actions are. It treats what he did like you’re typical romance beat in which the main couple break up over something in the second act only to be reunited again in the third. It feels off. Sure, he feels bad about what he’s done, but apparently that quickly wears off once the two basically become a couple doing activities together. Given the context, it’s entirely creepy.


The first quarter of the film in which Chris Pratt is alone on the ship is great as it shows him slowly descending into madness as he comes to the conclusion that he’s going live and die alone without ever reaching the new planet he had hoped to start anew on. Once he wakes up Jennifer Lawrence, however, it’s all downhill from there. Their acting is fine, and they have great chemistry together, but the film just continues to build and build without reaching a satisfying conclusion. Eventually Laurence Fishburne shows up and a major malfunction happens with the ship, putting the lives of all 5,000 passengers still in hypersleep at risk. With 30 minutes left, the film is still introducing new ideas as it becomes a mindless action flick. When things do finally start wrapping up, it can’t help but feel rushed.


Passengers could have done well by exploring the mentality of being alone on a ship for years or even worked as a thriller when Jim wakes up Aurora against her will and tries to woo her when she has nowhere to run. Instead it tries to be a romantic drama in space that feels absolutely weird given the context. Passengers is a prime example of how it doesn’t matter how good the cast is when the material they have to work with is bad.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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