Passengers is a journey-less adventure

Passengers is one of those unspecial, bad movies in that there’s almost nothing good about it but as time moves on you can’t even remember what those things are. Everything about it is so poorly executed, but nothing so over-the-top horrible to leave an impression. It’s a sci-fi movie without any of the thrills or thought; a romance tale without any emotion; a adventure without any…adventure. It’s a stillwater effort to make a Titanic for the new age, only to end up being nothing.

The movie isn’t always that way, though. In fact the first 20 minutes is quite interesting. After waking up on a spaceship 30 years into a 120 year journey,  Jim (Chris Pratt) discovers he is the only person awake on the whole ship, doomed to spend the next 90 years alone in the cold dark of space. We see him merely trying to exist on the massive, empty spaceship Avalon (why do I think this is not the first, or last, movie spacecraft with that name?), reminding me of another one-man-space show—Moon. Much like the cinematic achievement Home Alone, Jim realizes that having such amenities like video games, basketball courts and movie theaters to yourself isn’t so great, and the reality of his plight sinks in, resulting in a Tom Hanks-in-Cast Away beard.

What this first bit proved was we could’ve had an interesting character study on our hands, and though Pratt isn’t given much material to work with he also could’ve given us a more complex performance if time had been allotted to let his character develop. Instead we just seem him wallow and look smellier and smellier, only getting brief moments to feel his loneliness. This was sold as a love-romp in space, though, so he is eventually driven to do the unthinkable and unfreeze another passenger to hang out with named Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence).

Then the first act begins to repeat itself, as we see Aurora going through what we saw Jim go through (confusion, denial, etc.),  and then the two of them do the same activities Jim did to make himself feel better about confronting death (play video games, watch movies, shoot hoops, etc.). The character study/morality tale is done, and now we’re in the bubble gum romance phase.

Teen girls will find their space love-making romantic and inspired, causing them to look at their boyfriends in disdain, but they’re the only ones who will find the proceedings slightly enjoyable. The two hot folks laugh and screw their days away while the movie drags on for too long before the severity of what Jim did sets in. The android they’ve been calling a friend, Arthur (Michael Sheen), does the thing robots do and misunderstands human emotions, spilling the beans that Jim unfroze her. She screams, they wallow, and the movie begins to act like some twisted horror story. The camera follows her around as she balls on the floor with an intensity and musical score that would normally accompany a vicious hacking scene in a slasher flick. There’s even scene where Lawrence laughably pummels Pratt in his sleep, proving the movie’s point that we eventually become the villain in our own lives. Wait? That’s not the point? Oh yeah, there’s more. Que disaster phase!

After a set amount of time of the two not talking to each other, screenwriter Jon Spaihts must have discovered he wrote himself into a corner, and the only solution was to unfreeze another person to help explain the climax of the story, only to die minutes later. This is what happened, and poor Laurence Fishburne deserves an apology. After a “technical glitch” caused his pod to unfreeze him, he immediately explains that the ship was damaged after the asteroid strike that woke Jim up two years before actually—wait for it—damaged the ship and it’s only now starting to show…two years later. Fishburne then dies one day later, his last words being to “take care of each other”. Well, if the old black man we just met said it…

The impending disaster moves through the tested-love-story tropes with one character trying to sacrifice themselves to save the many, but then everyone gets to where they need to be at just the right time in order to ensure a happy ending.  Oh, and then even poorer Andy Garcia shows up for a wordless cameo to close out the movie. These two thespians deserve a gift basket.

So, yeah, Passengers isn’t even bad enough to be memorable. But if the brunt of the movie’s downfall should be placed on anyone it’s Spaihts and his script. Lawrence and Pratt could’ve given so much more to the cause had they not been so thinly drawn, and their story not so perfectly muddled. Just like all bad movies there’s at least one or two good movies in here, but in an attempt to give the audience a bit of everything it has no idea what it wants to be; starting as an intriguing character study, then becoming a gooey romance, followed by a weepy drama, and concluded as an adventure thriller, the movie only ends up being a $120 million mess.  Nothing ever feels cohesive enough to get us through to the end with the feeling we’ve seen a complete journey. I could say more, but I just don’t care.

 

Grade: D+

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