Movie ReviewsEmotional Baggage (Passengers Review)

Keith NoakesDecember 23, 2016

On a routine journey through space to a new home, two passengers, sleeping in suspended animation, are awakened 90 years too early when their ship malfunctions. As Jim (Chris Pratt) and Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) face living the rest of their lives on board, with every luxury they could ever ask for, they begin to fall for each other, unable to deny their intense attraction, until they discover the ship is in grave danger. With the lives of 5000 sleeping passengers at stake, only Jim and Aurora can save them all.

Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, that will be enough for some people. At least that was what the studio was counting on but it should be more than just that. I called this out in a post about the first trailer here and I was right. It got me anyway (but I see everything). This is quite the departure for the director of one of my favorite films of 2014, The Imitation Game, Morten Tyldum. So I saw it for this as much as for its two stars.

There was definitely a lot going on here, making it feel like multiple films with varying results. Jim and Aurora did not wake up at the same time as Jim was the first to wake up, leading to the first film. This works solely due to the likeability of Chris Pratt. Jim is mysteriously woken up and then roams the ship, trying to find other people but as he learns about and then comes to terms with his fate, he begins to have fun and take advantage of being the only person awake on the ship. This gave Jim the opportunity to let loose and created some fun moments.

This was almost like Cast Away but in space. Almost because Jim at least had an android bartender named Arthur (Michael Sheen) to keep him company. The two had some fun banter as he was the only one Jim could talk to. Their relationship could only go so far because although human-like, Arthur was not human and lacked any real feelings. Lacking human interaction, Jim became lonely as he faced the possibility of living on a ship for ninety years alone.

It would be hard to explain Aurora’s arrival without mentioning the twist hinted at by the trailers. One day he saw her in her hibernation chamber and immediately fell in love with her. It wasn’t much of a twist anyway since most could have probably figured it out without watching the film. Jim was faced with an inner conflict as he debated with himself and Arthur whether or not to wake Aurora up because he was feeling lonely. He didn’t want to as it would mean taking her life but he ended up doing it anyway.

Once Aurora came along, she and Jim really hit it off, leading to the second film. Maybe it was due to them being the only two people awake in the whole ship. They spent a lot of time together, having similar moments to when Jim was alone but this time they were doing things together. This was okay because of their decent chemistry but wasn’t particularly exciting as this slowed the film down, making it boring at times, and did not offer anything new in that regard. This all ended when she finally learned the truth.

It would have been better if the film had kept the twist until the end as the reveal hurt the film as it made evident how much of an inferior character Aurora was. She just came off as annoying, even more so, here. There have been many who have claimed this film to be misogynistic from Aurora’s submissiveness and seemingly over-dependence of Jim. This may have been a slight exaggeration but her dependence made her appear weak.

After being a Cast Away type film and a romance, it also was an action film for good measure. The signs were there but they had no idea their ship was slowly falling apart. It wasn’t until another character named Gus Mancuso (Laurence Fishburne) is rushed in to tell them just as much. This was his only purpose seeing that as quickly as he showed up, he’s gone again, leaving it up to Jim and Aurora to save the ship and the 5000+ people on board. This was probably the second best film within the film. The action was standard fare but was still exciting to watch. The film pretty much ended predictably from there.

Despite everything else, the acting was okay with the chemistry between Pratt and Lawrence elevating the unoriginal story. Subpar story or not, it probably would not have worked as well or better if it were any other two actors. Pratt was great here as Jim, showing a fun side and a vulnerable side in portraying Jim’s loneliness. He was fun to watch at the beginning because he’s so likable and that likability may allow some to forgive Jim for what he later does. Passenger would be a perfect way to describe Lawrence as Aurora since she mostly followed Jim around. This wasn’t her fault, however, as her character was badly written, acting as more of a damsel in distress. Sheen was great as well, having chemistry with Pratt and Lawrence while stealing most of the scenes.

Overall, this was a beautiful romantic sci-fi film that didn’t quite know what it wanted to be. Pratt and Lawrence were good but they didn’t quite make up for the uninspired romance and the shoehorned action.

Score: 6/10

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