‘Passengers’ is a rare breed of a film, and in an era dominated by comic book films, remakes, reboots, prequels, and sequels, it comes along as an original sci-fi. Lately, we have been crying out for more original sci-fi films, and yet even when we get one, we get films like 2015’s much maligned ‘Jupiter Ascending’. This year, however, has been different – early in the year we had the excellent, underseen ‘Midnight Special’, and more recently we had the superb, possibly Oscar contender ‘Arrival’. Unfortunately, we also have ‘Passengers’, putting somewhat of a dent into that upswing.
‘Passengers’ is a strange film. On the drive home from the cinema, I was thinking how on earth I was going to write about it. Finally, I think I came up with a solution.
Film 1: ‘Passengers: The Survival Drama’ – ‘Passengers: The Survival Drama’ is the story of Jim Preston (Pratt). An enormous conglomerate, Homestead, has built an Earth, Homestead II, that needs populating and one of its starships, the Avalon, is transporting 5,000 passengers to Homestead II to start a new life. The Avalon’s 120 year voyage is interrupted and causes a malfunction, waking Jim from his cryo-sleep 90 years too soon. He is alone on a giant, cruise ship-style spaceship with only an android bartender (Sheen) to keep him company.
Pratt holds his own in this survival story akin to ‘Castaway’. He occupies his time using the ship’s many distractions, drinking with the Android, and trying to find out why he was woken up. The film follows Jim as he begins to lose his way and his mind, driven to breaking point when the crushing reality of his situation hits.
‘Passengers: The Survival Drama’ showcases Pratt’s under-utilised acting ability beyond the wise-cracker we have been used to thanks to ‘Jurassic World’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. He manages to subtly portray a man losing hope. A man out of options, out of ideas, with no escape. It’s a genuinely interesting drama set in a sci-fi world that I fully recommend.
Film 2: ‘Passengers: The Romance’ – I won’t get into the controversy surrounding this film as it delves into spoiler territory, but enter Jennifer Lawrence. ‘Passengers: The Romance’ sees two seemingly random people woken up from cryo-sleep on their 120 year voyage 89 years early, forced together to find a solution to their complicated situation. They problem solve, they enjoy themselves, they lose hope, they find hope, they fall in love. It’s a fairly stereotypical, clichéd love story about two people thrust together in a unique situation.
Chris Pratt portrays Jim, a man smitten with his new partner, Aurora, and yet so evidently hiding something, a hidden secret he entrusts the Android Bartender with. Aurora Lane (Lawrence) is a journalist, who is attractive. I only know this because Aurora says she is a journalist, and she is played by Jennifer Lawrence, an attractive actress. The character is empty, devoid of personality or depth, something which is equally the fault of the writer, and of Lawrence herself. When Lawrence is on screen, she would stand there, deliver her lines, and move on to the next scene. Where Pratt managed to show a potentially dark undercurrent to his normally charming, playful demeanour, Lawrence showed nothing of note that extended beyond her surface-level character, something of a missed opportunity for an Oscar-winning actress.
‘Passengers: The Romance’ has its moments, but it is largely aimless, and struggles to overcome Lawrence’s lacklustre performance.
Film 3: ‘Passengers: The Disaster Movie’ – ‘Passengers: The Disaster Movie’ stars Jim and Aurora as they wake up from their cryo-sleep to find they have woken up 88 years too soon, and must find a way to survive the slowly disintegrating and malfunctioning starship. ‘Passengers: The Disaster Movie’ delves into sci-fi jargon that involves finding lost data, nuclear reactors, meteorites, and trying to fix a hole.
‘Passengers: The Disaster Movie’ suffers from a lack of tension or genuine care for what’s going on. The stakes are never truly realised, the characters don’t seem to ever react appropriately to the situation (it’s life or death but it’s treated very casually, especially from Pratt), and it all descends into dumb moment after dumb moment that culminates in the dumbest of moments, that does that unforgivable thing of directly contradicting certain rules the film has previously established.
‘Passengers: The Disaster Movie‘ is visually impressive, but lacks the substance the best disaster movies require in order to truly engage its audience.
In summary, as previously mentioned, ‘Passengers’ is a strange film. Hopefully I managed to convey the problems I have with it, and indeed the problems the film has. It tries to be too many things at once, and in one of the weirdest traits I can remember seeing in a film, its lead characters are all the physical embodiment of the film’s 3 acts. Pratt does well with what he is given, despite his lacklustre final act, but Lawrence lets the film down with a real phoning-it-in performance. It is visually impressive and it has some interesting moments and scenes, but it leaves a lot to be desired.