Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence are lost in space in this flawed sci-fi drama.
Is it worth $10? No
It makes sense that “Passengers” would be a tedious bore. Consider: It’s about two passengers on a gigantic space ship who wake up 90 years before they’re scheduled to arrive at their destination. Not much for them to do besides hang out, and with so-so visual effects like what’s seen here, there’s not much for us to watch either. Surely director Morten Tyldum, who made creating a computer engaging in “The Imitation Game” (2014), will find a way to keep us interested, right?
Wrong. Part of the problem is the structure of the story. At the start an asteroid hits the space ship, causing a malfunction that wakens Jim Preston (Chris Pratt). With 258 crewmembers and 4,999 other passengers still dormant, Jim tries to go back to sleep, fails, and resigns himself to a life of isolation, with only an android bartender (Michael Sheen) to chat with. With Pratt in this role it’s natural to think Jim would find a way to make this fun for a while, but Pratt’s charming energy is oddly missing here, replaced by an uncomfortable seriousness that doesn’t give the audience much to smile at.
In fairness to Pratt, Jon Spaiht’s (“Doctor Strange”) script is so dire, with so little levity, that it’s both heavy and dull. Little things, like Jim not being a “gold class” passenger and therefore unable to get a cappuccino, are a nice, creative flourish that the film desperately needs more of.
After a half hour of screen time of Jim alone, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) wakes and things pick up a bit, but only in predictable ways. They flirt, spend time together, fall in love, and then the story oddly takes on a romantic comedy structure without being funny at all. Sure it’s a tough situation, but more comic relief is sorely needed (and rightfully expected) with these two leads. As the story progresses it hardly improves until the end, which is a bit better than the rest of the film deserves.
Visually we expect more from a film with a $110 million budget. Shots of the space ship, and the passengers outside the space ship, are standard fare. The production design by Guy Hendrix Dyas (“Inception”) is appropriately futuristic and impressive, but the only visual effects sequence that impresses is the one in which the ship’s gravity fails while Aurora is swimming. It’s a sequence that feels wholly unique, and as a result is one of the film’s few highlights.
Not helping matters is a musical score by Thomas Newman (“Spectre”) that’s profoundly dull. It never registers in terms of stimulating audience members’ emotions or providing structural rhythm, but it is there, you do notice it, and it adds nothing.
“Passengers” is slow, thoroughly mediocre, and noticeably lacking a dynamic sense of vibrancy that’s essential to a movie of this type. Why spend money to see this when there’s so much other great stuff in theaters now?
Did you know?
Andy Garcia only appears once and has no dialog. Whatever his rate was for this movie, the production companies got ripped off.