Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt can do anything … or so you’d think. But Passengers – a chemistry-free, agonizingly slow sci-fi misfire – blows a hole in that theory. Star power can only go so far when the screenwriter (Jon Spaihts) and director (Morten Tyldum) snooze on the job.
Here’s the setup: Pratt plays Jim Preston, a mechanic traveling with 4999 other hibernating passengers and 255 crew members aboard an interstellar airliner hurtling toward a privatized colony called Homestead II. For those paying customers tired of dirty, overcrowded Earth, the journey will take 120 years. Then Preston wakes up about 90 years too early, alone and roaming the sleek decks. He grows a beard, runs around naked, plays basketball, dances with holograms, and kibitzes with a droid bartender (Michael Sheen) right out of The Shining. For a year goes progressively crazy – like suicide-contemplating crazy. Then he does a bad thing. He sees a hot blonde (Jennifer Lawrence) asleep in her pod and wakes her up, which means he’s killing her chance for a future with anyone but him.
That’s the premise of Passengers, which hooks you at first; with these two live-wire stars, how could it not? They’re meet-cute is fun; so is the existence of a class system in space. Aurora is a Gold Star member, which means she can access mocha cappuccinos while Jim’s been stuck swilling coffee-flavored swill. But he hasn’t told his fellow traveler what he’s done. When he does, can she ever forgive him? It’s an idea that the movie does little to nothing with. Tyldum, who won an Oscar nomination for expertly blending action and character in The Imitation Game, loses his touch here. The spectacle feels lifeless and what could have been a challenging moral provocation dissolves into sappy, feel-good pandering. Lawrence and Pratt deserve better. So do audiences.