It’s been a hell of a long time since my local rental source offered a new release on Blu Ray (probably since Suicide Squad), and in hindsight it seems a bit of a pity that it turned out to be “Passengers”. On the face it may seem like an interesting little Sci Fi / Romantic Drama, but it hides a terrible, terrible secret. So get yourselves ready, and yes, some spoilers ahead on this one!
The starship Avalon is on a 120-year trek to a new colony in the cosmos, with crew members and citizens in stasis on board. But after being struck by a barrage of asteroids, one of the citizens named Jim (Chris Pratt) awakens with 90 years left until the Avalon reaches its destination. Facing the idea of spending the rest of his life alone on the ship, and with no way to repair his pod, Jim awakens another person named Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), but events with errors within the ship become more sinister, and more dangerous.
The idea of waking up from hibernation on a ship long before arriving at your destination, is indeed a very interesting premise for the story. There’s a real feeling of desperate finality to the situation, and seeing the character’s shift in emotions and reactions to the issue constantly changes. This was definitely where things were looking rosy fr the film, not in the fascinating style of “The Martian” perhaps, but good enough to have me on board for the ride.
The same can be said for the visuals which truth be told, has some nice aesthetic touches here and there. The Avalon may look a bit too flashy and hyper-futuristic, but the rest really does make it feel like a cruise liner in space. It reminded me a lot of the Axium in “WALL-E” without the morbid obesity. There’s even different classes for the travellers, so it certainly is a future still ruled by wealth to be sure. It all has the feel of technology that is a long way away from where we are right now, but not inconceivable.
As for the very small cast in here (the actors who remain in the pods got the cushiest pay cheque ever), it was a bit lacking in having the characters really envelop the screen. Chris Pratt is fine, but his usual energetic flair was somewhat held back. Jennifer Lawrence has good sequences where she can throw venom at Pratt’s character in a pretty convincing manner, but with two main characters taking up 80% of the running time, their dialogue choices needed to be that bit more thought out in order to really draw the audience in.
Okay, I can’t hold back on discussing this movie’s white elephant in the Control Room, because even though I have seen bad choices made in films before, the blunder here is enormous. And is the only reason why I had to give a spoiler warning – I had to describe it for you to get the point across.
So Jim spends a significant amount of time on his own, trying to find solutions, fighting with dark thought of giving up, and eventually, seeking human contact. And he does this by waking up Aurora from stasis, ultimately condemning her to his own similar fate of dying on the ship before they reach the new home world. Let that idea sink in for a moment – he doomed her to die, just so he could feel better and even worse, because he was creeping on her for months.
This decision by the film is so irreparable, so impossible to event attempt to back up with reasons, that everything after the fact couldn’t be redeemed. Jim gets marked as a gigantic asshole for the rest of the runtime, and the impending romantic arc is like a slap in the face as we sit there, with the movie trying to convince us it is love. Honestly, I was fucking pissed, I cannot believe that this was passed as acceptable after the writers threw this shit into the script.
And even if you are able to give this a pass on that mess, there are other gigantic flaws to be found. How can a ship on Autopilot steer itself into an asteroid field? How can a Hibernation Pod be designed to not foresee something going wrong? How can crucial parts of the ship not have practical manual overrides? None of this is nit-picking either – the film is building the situations and world for you, and yet so many are utterly illogical!
Okay, I feel like I’m done speaking about “Passengers”. It started off pretty well, combining a nice premise with some very cool special effects and a “Lost in Space” story that was fresh. But MAN, how one misguided idea can bring everything crumbling down so fast, and the it tries to use the romance plot to try and pass off that shit as not a big deal. Not only can’t I recommend this, but I will say to you all to actively avoid this film. Because once the credits roll, you will find next to nothing of redemption amongst this space-fart.
Thanks for reading!