(M) Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence
If you had the opportunity to start your life over, would you jump at the opportunity to sleep for 120 years and wake up to life on a new planet? What if that re-start included Chris Pratt or Jennifer Lawrence, would you be more likely to sign up for the voyage? These are some of the questions to consider from the new release, Passengers.
The travellers on board the Starship Avalon are looking to begin new lives on Homestead II, a human colony on a planet in a neighbouring galaxy. These modern-day pilgrims must remain in hibernated sleep for 120 years during this space journey and wait to be awakened in a new century, on a new planet and with the opportunity for a new life. During this extensive flight, the impregnable star cruiser surprisingly malfunctions and leads to the early awakenings of Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and Aurora Dunn (Jennifer Lawrence). Their premature arousal occurs 90 years before the rest of those aboard and they must work through the options of life on the Avalon as the soul residents. While grappling with the psychological, emotional and physical challenges of their situation, they learn why their hibernation pods malfunctioned — and what they must do to save themselves and the souls of their fellow colonists.
Bringing together two of the hottest names in Hollywood for this space-aged version of Titanic, Passengers presents as cinematic gold. Along with these bankable stars, director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) presents a fairly fresh concept to grab audience attention during the holiday season. With the combination of romantic combustion, moral juxtapositions and exceptional special effects, what could go wrong? Like a meteor shower hurts a spaceship, the holes in the plot and script make it difficult for Passengers to sail.
In the attempt to develop the psychological tension in the lives of the lead characters, the whole experience is weighed down and becomes exceptionally laborious. The beginning is reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey and this Kubrick-like manner brings little artistry to the moral tension on display. What is meant to provide dramatic tension in Jim’s life turns into a stalker-like creepiness that remains throughout most of the film. This scripting issue — coupled with the failure to invest in realistic make-up for the physical changes in Pratt and Lawrence over the journey — begins to cause the story to unravel. Maintaining believability and accessibility becomes a casualty of these issues.
Even within the sci-fi genre, a script needs to maintain a certain order but Jon Spaihts’ screenplay delivers the same result as his less-than-satisfying adventure, Prometheus. Passengers is a slow and arduous affair that tries to make up for its inaction through absurd actions in the final few minutes. Along the way, the script’s potholes are complicated by the unforgivable misuse of Laurence Fishburne (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) as a minuscule link in a storyline which leads to laughable situations. The primary saving grace of the film is the inclusion of Michael Sheen (Far from the Madding Crowd) as android Arthur. He provides the humour and conscience needed to keep the story moving forward and serves as a storyline pressure valve. Yet, this performance was not enough to keep things afloat.
Passengers promises to deliver one of the few romantic options for audiences during the holiday season. Bringing together two of the biggest cinematic stars in the two divergent genres of sci-fi and romance was a brave venture, but it fails to launch. Like the problems of the Avalon, Passengers‘ issues can be found in the circuitry which causes this project to stall and veer way off course.
What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
One of the moral conundrums in Passengers comes down to making the right decisions in life. Especially those choices that have a direct and long-lasting impact on other people’s lives. Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) has to wrestle with his loneliness, selfishness and the consequences of his life choices. Which begs the question: How do you make life decisions?
The Bible offers methods that involve God as the means of finding wisdom in all things, as discovered through the study of the Bible, prayer and getting counsel from godly men and women.
Passages on getting wisdom: Proverbs 3:13-18 & 12:15, Ephesians 5:15-17, James 1:5 and 3:17