Half male fantasy, half space actioner, all catastrophic.
Bro, imagine you have your own giant resort space ship and you can do whatever you want, right!? Now imagine you get this hot chick with you and then you both get to do whatever you want. WHATEVER. YOU. WANT! How sweet would that be?! Okay, so this stupid male fantasy is the basic premise for the blundering sci-fi actioner, Passengers. It’s all visuals and little substance, complete with mega plot holes and one silly occurrence after another. Passengers isn’t without its thought-provoking moments however (not to be confused with head-scratching moments), it just decides to pass them by and not look back, wasting the charisma of its two talented leads.
Chris Pratt stars as Jim Preston, a passenger aboard the gigantic (and poorly-constructed, it turns out) spacecraft, the Starship Avalon, which is on a 120 year journey to Homestead II, a far away habitable planet that humans are slowly colonizing. When a large asteroid within an asteroid field slams into the ship, Preston’s hypersleep pod malfunctions and props him awake 90 years too soon. It’s hard to decide whether my next sentence is a spoiler or not, considering it’s not a surprise within the film and was a large part of the production log line and film summaries. I’ll just say it because I want to discuss it: Preston decides to wake up Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) 90 years too soon as well to be together with her, and then feign it was another pod malfunction. Surprisingly, Preston’s psychological and moral dilemma on whether or not to wake Aurora is explored a bit further than I thought the film would, though that isn’t saying much and it still doesn’t save Passengers from portraying a creepy male fantasy and sidestepping any intriguing promises of existential motifs.
Even putting the weird male fantasy aspect aside, the rest of Passengers is just idiotic. At about the three quarters point, the story devolves into a mindless action flick with stereotypical loopholes like 1) there being only one automatic-medical pod on a ship carrying 5300+ passengers 2) the ignorant passengers finding a way to fix the ship faster than the useless crew chief 3) why was the ship on a collision course with an asteroid field when it had a detailed 120 year journey laid out ahead of it, including a slingshot maneuver around a red dwarf? 4) was Aurora really so dumb as to not suspect she was improperly woken? 5) the pool area is 100% susceptible to things going wrong, I guess because 6) every character keeps claiming that nothing could ever go wrong on the Avalon, as if the audience should be expecting there to be some purposeful sabotage-related discovery near the end of the film — nope, it’s just that something went wrong 7) why the heck would the only available robots to help out in case of emergency be a bunch of futuristic Roombas and one bartender robot? Is there not an auto-wake if there’s a critical emergency? 8) Not one way to return to hypersleep? Must not have been even a .0001% necessity, according to the ships designers and pod engineers and theoretical physicists 8) The characters wouldn’t survive at least 4 or 5 of the films action sequences 9) this film just sucked. On the flip side, the inside of the Avalon does look an awful lot like the Axiom from Wall-E, from the control panels to the construction aesthetics to the cleaner robots. At least there’s that. The music is similar too. Thanks Thomas Newman!
In conclusion, Passengers is an odd and frustrating concoction seemingly grown out of laziness. The male fantasy element could’ve made for an interesting story if focused on and written out right, as could the philosophical question of waking Aurora and dealing with the ramifications of their fateful actions, and as could the ship falling apart due to an actual act of sabotage or obscured fatalism. All of these would have made for an interesting film if done right, and maybe even a great film when combined with Passengers’ stellar visuals. Instead we’re forced to be passengers aboard a ship that was going down before it even got off the ground.
Passengers opens in theaters Wednesday, 12/21.