Studio: Columbia Pictures (116 min.)
Plot: Two passengers on a 120-year journey to another planet are stuck in space when their hibernation pods wake them 90 years too early.
Cast: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne
Bottom Line: **
By Samantha Ofole-Prince
There’s been a lot of films released in the last decade about space travel and the only thing that sets “Passengers” apart is its romantic element. This space saga about a couple of passengers who travel to a new colony has great visuals and a claustrophobic feel, but sadly, that’s all it has.
The film opens with an ad for travel to a new space colony called Homestead II, which promises a marvelous life away from earth. It then throws in some promotional material from Homestead Industries, the company that owns and runs the spaceship Avalon, and then we meet Jim (Chris Pratt), one of the 5,000 passengers making the journey via the Avalon. His hibernation pod, as he soon discovers, has malfunctioned and he’s awake and on his lonesome (except for an empathetic android) and is horrified to learn there’s still 90 years left of the 120-year journey to the new colony.
It isn’t long before he’s joined by Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), another passenger who is roused from her slumber. Together, they enjoy the perks and pleasures of the luxurious Avalon until they discover the ship is on the verge of destruction and their mission becomes to save the rest of the sleeping passengers.
Directed by Morten Tyldum, Pratt and Lawrence look great screen for the 116-minute running time playing fractured characters who could be stuck on a spaceship for life, but with a paper thin plot, this slow-burning tale of a space expedition gone wrong simply isn’t that engaging. As a mechanical engineer who trades in life on earth for one in space, where he can be a pioneer, Jim’s pretty resourceful, but certainly not skilled enough to repair a malfunctioned pod. Aurora’s reason for bidding farewell to friends, family and a perfectly lush life in New York, just doesn’t seem strong enough to leave her earth life behind for a 240 year round trip to space. Joining them, ever so briefly, is Laurence Fishburne’s character Gus Mancuso, a crew chief who wakes up to offer advice (blame another malfunctioned pod) and then quickly disappears. The idea of 4,997 passengers staying soundly asleep as a ship titters on the brink of collapse is one of the many head-scratching questions this film raises.
The plot of “Passengers” is so predictable that you can see its twists coming a mile off, but where this film truly shines is in creating a truly remarkable spaceship. There’s an observation deck, a movie theater and every amenity imaginable, including an android bartender called Arthur (Michael Sheen) who responds to passengers’ worries and mixes a marvelous martini. What it lacks in plot it makes up in visuals and wonder. Nope, there are no flying saucers or evil aliens lurking around here, just the idea of a disaster in orbit and incredible action set-pieces. It’s heavy on spectacle with some mind-blowing effects and a spaceship that contains robots, holograms, exercise facilities, a basketball court, a dance machine, swimming pool, a communication center and a universe of restaurants including Japanese, Mexican, French eateries.
If you’re looking for a glimpse to what an ideal future flight to space could look like “Passengers” is worth a peek.
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This article was printed in the January 22, 2017 - February 4, 2017 edition.