Dan's Review: Lawrence and Pratt's charm can't save "Passengers"
Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence in Passengers - © 2016 Sony Pictures.
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, nudity and action/peril.
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Andy García, Aurora Perrineau.
Written by Jon Spaihts.
Directed by Morten Tyldum.
Years ago, comedian Janeane Garafolo quipped that every movie should star Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, because doggone it, they were just so adorable. Well, Tom and Meg have aged beyond the adorable stage, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t new congenial idols ready to take up the mantle of “most likeable” celebrities. The frontrunners could be Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, currently enjoying a plethora of adoration at the box office and in the hearts of audiences. They both star in Passengers, a movie about two people stranded on a spaceship bound for a distant planet.
Pratt stars as Jim, a mechanic who opts to go into hibernation for 130 years aboard the Starship Avalon, where he and 5,000 others will stay until arrival at Homestead II, a habitable planet on the far reaches of the galaxy. Things go awry when the ship encounters a major asteroid shower, causing a glitch in the ship’s computer that awakens Jim with 90 years to go. Jim discovers that he is alone, except for a robot bartender named Arthur (Michael Sheen). He spends a year wandering through the ship trying for break into the ship’s command deck, playing games, eating, drinking and doing just about anything to kill time. Using his mechanical skills, he discovers that he can rig certain systems to make life a little more interesting. He also bumps into the hibernation pod of Aurora (Lawrence), and immediately falls in love (he also accesses the ship’s computer files on her, discovering that she’s an accomplished writer and daughter of a Pulitzer Prize winner, increasing his affection for her). After a short ethical struggle, Jim decides to use his mechanical expertise to wake Aurora up. When she comes out of hibernation, Aurora goes through the same frustrations Jim did, thinking her pod went through the same glitch. Jim and Aurora form a relationship and eventually fall in love. Jim’s ruse backfires when Arthur spills the beans about how she was awakened, and Aurora ostracizes the only other human on the ship, slipping into a deep depression. At about the same time, the ship’s glitches increase, awakening Gus (Laurence Fishburne), a senior crewmember. As the ship begins to fall apart, Gus leads Jim and Aurora to discover the heart of the problem: a hole carved through the Avalon’s reactor. Gus’s health takes a sharp turn for the worst due to some of the glitches messing up his hibernation. Before dying, he instructs Jim and Aurora on how to fix the problem. Jim and Aurora must put their differences aside if they are to survive. Could their love survive, too?
Passengers starts out strong, leading the audience to ponder the ethics of taking away the free will of someone in order to avoid dying alone. Once that dilemma is tossed aside, the movie strays into a rather boring love affair set on a ship that looks and feels like an intergalactic shopping mall, as the conclusion devolves into a simple survival story, with a predictable outcome. All the talent and charm of Lawrence and Pratt can save Passengers from this boring fate, even with some spectacular special effects.