Note: I suppose one could argue this review contains a significant plot spoiler, so proceed with caution. Before I published, out of curiosity I looked through several other reviews to see how it was handled, and more often than not critics DO mention the particular plot point in question. But I wanted to give a heads-up, just the same. It’s how I roll.
A space age love story. A race-against-time action flick. A morality play. A sci-fi drama. A Cast Away-esque solitary tale. Had screenwriter Jon Spaihts chosen any one of the above, we might have had something. Instead he chose to mash everything together, giving none of them the attention (or resolution) required to keep Passengers from being a half-baked attempt to tackle as many genres as possible over the course of two hours.
More than that, though, Passengers actually winds up being an off-putting, cringe-inducing story…despite what the trailers would have you believe.
Chris Pratt stars as Jim Preston, one of 5,000 hibernating passengers on the Avalon, a spaceship headed toward an inhabitable planet that takes 120 years to reach. Thirty years into the trip, however, a malfunction causes Jim to wake up prematurely, and he spends more than a year wandering the ship Robinson Crusoe-style. After unsuccessfully trying to fix the problem (of certain death decades before the ship reaches its destination), he realizes there’s nothing to be done. With only a robot bartender (the scene-stealing Michael Sheen) as a companion, he gives up, grows a beard, shuffles around in an un-cinched robe, and tries to enjoy having the ship to himself.
[And now here’s that potential spoiler I mentioned.]
Finally, moments after briefly contemplating suicide, Jim considers waking one of his fellow passengers for company, meaning he goes from suicidal to would-be murderer (in essence) in a matter of minutes. He weighs the thought for weeks but eventually caves, waking Jennifer Lawrence’s Aurora (none-too-nuanced Sleeping Beauty reference!) If he’s drowning, he may as well take someone else down with him, right?
From the minute it happens, and even more so as Jim and Aurora’s co-existence turns into a romance (built on a heinous lie), we know the big confrontation is coming, and it’s a distraction of the highest order. So yes, she finally discovers Jim’s selfish decision, and fury ensues, as well it should. Great. Now what?
Just as Passengers seems to be gearing to become a thought-provoking study on morality (or maybe even a top-notch suspense/horror flick about being trapped alone in space with your killer), the plot veers yet again, and we regress; the ship starts malfunctioning, and Jim and Aurora have to put aside their differences to try to save the other 4,998 people (plus crew) onboard. Wait, what? Spaihts, who co-wrote Doctor Strange and Prometheus, should be ashamed of himself, along with the folks at Sony who decided to let this cop-out script see the light of day.
The one saving grace in this mess is Lawrence herself, who turns in yet another powerhouse performance despite being hampered by the awful story (though she clearly knew what she was getting into, so she’s not blameless).
With the glaring abandonment of moral questions in the second half of the film, Passengers becomes an unbridled, easy-way-out, cheat of a movie. Perhaps no other film this year can boast such wasted potential (and high hopes), as it crumbles under the weight of its lousy (and icky) script. Barely an hour into it the watch-ability and intrigue crashes to a halt. Plot holes abound, coincidences pile up, and see-them-coming-from-a-mile-away moments take away any hope of Passengers redeeming itself and becoming a worthwhile trip.
Worth the 3D glasses?
If it can distract you from the skeevy story being presented on screen, go for it. Otherwise there’s not much terribly 3D-worthy—save for one nifty scene when the on-board gravity fails. Pass on the plastic glasses.