Passengers has a solid science-fiction premise and two attractive, appealing stars. What could possibly go wrong? That’s the same question the movie asks when one passenger out of 5,000 accidentally wakes up 90 years before he’s supposed to on a long-range trip to a new planet. Unfortunately screenwriter Jon Spaihts doesn’t have a good answer.
There are worse fates than being stuck watching Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt for a couple or hours. He plays an ordinary guy who finds himself in an extraordinary situation. Forced to fill every day all alone, he takes advantage of every amenity his spacecraft has to offer and engages in awkward conversations with a robotic bartender (Michael Sheen).
Then through means I won’t divulge, he acquires a companion on his lonely journey: a smart, beautiful young woman. She is as horrified as he is at their fate, with no resort but to merely exist in a modern but barren environment. Then things happen.
Years ago this would have been a Twilight Zone episode. It would have lasted a half-hour and had a great punchline. This movie runs just under two hours and its resolution, which comes with surprising abruptness, leaves us wanting.
In many ways, production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas (whose credits include Inception) is the movie’s other star. Passengers looks great, and Norwegian director Morten Tyldum (who came to international attention with The Imitation Game) makes the most of the spectacular sets and orchestrates his visual effects with confidence.
Pratt is a perfect everyman character, while Lawrence is charismatic and beautiful. But star power and cool sets cannot support a movie without a good third act.