Passengers (2016)

Genres - Action, Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Sci-Fi, Romantic Drama  |   Release Date - Dec 21, 2016 (USA)  |   Run Time - 116 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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The trailer for Passengers promises a sexy, interstellar romance between stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, and hints at possible sabotage aboard the starship they are traveling on; some nefarious deed apparently causes them to wake up from their hibernation pods 90 years too soon during a 120-year intergalactic journey to Homestead II, a privatized colony that is -- unlike "overpopulated, overpriced, overrated" Earth -- a veritable paradise. And they, of course, will have to unravel this conspiracy and discover who is behind it, all while falling madly in love and trying to save their doomed vessel. That would be a movie worth seeing. But that's not what happens.

Passengers begins with the Avalon, a sleek spaceship with more than 5000 hibernating passengers and crew members, hurtling through a meteor shower that damages the spacecraft and pops open the pod of mechanical engineer Jim Preston (Pratt) only 30 years into the trip. He awakens, confused and disoriented, and soon realizes that something has gone horribly wrong as he's the only person awake. He tries to contact Avalon support on Earth, but is told via a computerized voice that it will take 19 years to deliver the message -- and 36 more to get a reply. Over the next year, Jim desperately tries to find a solution to his predicament while slowly going bonkers. His only companion is Arthur (an amusing Michael Sheen), an android bartender whose cheery disposition isn't enough to keep Jim from contemplating suicide. (Up to this point, Passengers is virtually Cast Away in outer space.) But then something wonderful happens a quarter of the way into the film: Aurora Lane (Lawrence), a gorgeous fellow passenger, wakes up and gives the plodding story some spark. Unfortunately, something horrible also occurs, something so off-putting that it sours the remainder of the movie -- especially the budding romance that quickly develops between Jim and Aurora. It's a revelation that would have worked better had it been kept secret at first, and only revealed to the audience much later when another passenger awakens and accidentally uncovers the ugly truth. In that case, it would have been an intriguing "aha!" moment that could have stunned viewers, and led the characters to honestly confront the thorny moral predicament at the heart of the film.

This fatal flaw could, perhaps, have been overcome if Passengers weren't so boring and didn't unfold at a somnambulant pace, or if Pratt and Lawrence had any onscreen chemistry, or if there were a clever mystery to figure out. Lawrence is, as always, radiant, but her character is nothing more than a clich├ęd damsel in distress waiting for a white knight to rescue her. What drew the Oscar winner to this wimpy role, apart from a 20-million-dollar payday, is anyone's guess. As for Pratt, he's flat and shows little of the derring-do of Jurassic World or the charm he displayed in Guardians of the Galaxy. And it doesn't help that Jon Spaihts' misguided script makes Jim into a first-class creep and gives us zero insight into his past.

Passengers is full of promise and toys with some lofty concerns -- the dangerous pitfalls of technology, man's endless search for meaning in a seemingly indifferent cosmos, and the aforementioned sticky ethical dilemma -- but none of these are ever adequately addressed. It's a major disappointment, especially considering that it was directed by Morten Tyldum, white-hot off of his Oscar nomination for The Imitation Game.

In short, Passengers is a distasteful, mind-numbing journey that is simply not worth taking.