Passengers is by no means a cinematic feat. It doesn’t have the strongest story line nor does it a great deal if any science behind much of it. But what it does have is a mesmerising cast with Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt who ooze chemistry, so much so you’d struggle to think who else could play those characters. And not only that, you also have this amazing and wonderful space ship that you find yourself ogling in its wonder. It isn’t a ground-breaking sci-fi film and it doesn’t hold up to any sci-fi film made in the last 10 years. But what you do have is a beautiful romantic drama with a space twist on it. Think of it as James Cameron’s Titanic but in space.
The film opens with the Starship Avalon spiralling through space when it encounters an asteroid shower. This shower happens to create a malfunction within the ship and out of the 5000 passengers in an induced hibernation, Jim Preston played by Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World, Parks and Recreation) is woken up. He spends the first months after discovering he’s the only one awake on board to try and find a way to go back into hibernation. His efforts are fruitless and will inevitably live alone until the rest of the passengers are woken in 90 years, should he be alive. Luckily he stumbles upon Aurora Lane played by Jennifer Lawrence (Hunger Games, X-Men, Silver Linings Playbook) who joins him on the journey to Homestead II. But the malfunction, which woke Jim Preston up, continues to worsen and they both have to push themselves to the limits of the ship and space to save the other 5000 sleeping passengers.
The story itself isn’t the strongest to come from Jon Spaihts who is most famous for Dr Strange and Prometheus. Man meets woman, woman finds out man did something wrong, they break up, woman needs man’s help, woman and man get back together. It’s your ultimate love story arc that has been told many times before, just in space. But the love story is interwoven with this amazing journey you can’t imagine because it’s never happened before. Part of the attraction of this film is living the life with these characters stranded in their spaceship travelling through space. You get to go for a swim in the indoor pool with Aurora, have a drink at a nice bar with the android bartender. You forget at some points that this is a movie and they need to tell a story because it is so grand and wonderful travelling with these characters.
Chris Pratt leads the cast in a performance that is easily out of his comfort zone as a comedic actor. This is a trickier role to play because for a large part of the film he is the only person in the ship, in the scene and in front of the camera. Pratt manages to capture his emotion and thoughts with his face, which seemed to be rather easy for him; Pratt has very expressive eyes. But Pratt still managed to slip out of his character and go into his old ways for some of his funnier lines.
Jennifer Lawrence dazzles as she parades around the ship wearing glamorous dresses and almost skimpy swimwear. She is an Author and plans to be the first writer to go to the new settlement and return to share her stories with Earth some 300 years later. Not a breakout roll for Lawrence but she still managed to deliver some powerful scenes, in particular through their break up. Her character seems to be a little underdeveloped in that she doesn’t act like a journalist or writer. She doesn’t ask a lot of questions or have a lot of general knowledge about a lot of things. Nor does she seem to have any obvious interest in literature or the art of the written word. Perhaps this is a thing of the future. Notably the script calls for a glamorous female lead, which begs the question if Lawrence was hired for her looks or her acting.
The only other actor who graced the screen is Michael Sheen (The Twilight Saga, Masters of Sex, Frost Nixon) who played the Android bartender Arthur. Despite there being a great deal of CGI at work and the help of a motion control rig, Sheen absolutely nailed the essence of what a great bartender should provide. But he also managed to portray what could really be described as innocence. His facial expressions held strong when any human would have scrunched their face up with confusion. He played a lifelike character, which made you forget he is an android, but also added a weird robotic artistry to it as well. Arthur is the kind of android you’d want to take home to meet your family.
Visually the film was stunning both inside the ship and outside. There were large extravagant rooms and viewing decks, glorious pools and the stunning endless space. While the science maybe doesn’t add up to the way things might happen in space, you can look past that and appreciate the glorious sets and visual splendour.
Overall this film is something you can enjoy exploring the spaceship. Find pleasure in the technology of the future and meet the lifelike android bartender. When you leave the cinema you’ll want to explore it more and see what else is available. And because of those features, you don’t mind the questionable science behind some of the things they do. It also stops you thinking about the basic story line. It is a story if two people can love each other that’s all they need. Everything else will come.
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