It is hard to think of a pair of celebrities who more perfectly embody the roles of ‘internet darlings’ than Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, a charismatic duo whose popularity extends far beyond their filmography. By this logic, a sci-fi adventure film with heavy romantic overtones seems like the perfect vehicle, pun intended, to elevate their careers to new heights. Unfortunately, ‘Passengers’ never quite achieves lift-off, resulting in one of the most forgettable cinematic experiences of the year.
The story of ‘Passengers’ is simple, yet intriguing; a spacecraft carrying thousands of people in suspended animation is on a journey to a distant colony planet. Unfortunately, a malfunction causes two of the passengers to wake up 90 years early. What follows is an exploration of isolation and loneliness, highlighting their desperate need for human interaction. To their credit, Pratt and Lawrence play their roles adequately. Both have turned in better, more textured performances in previous roles, but both exude an undeniable charisma that helps carry the story.
Unfortunately, the film shifts into uncomfortable territory as more and more of the plot develops. We’ll spare you the details and speak only in generalities here, as this is a spoiler-free review. Besides, some of the more problematic reveals have already been the subject of countless think-pieces littering the world wide web. The filmmakers are not unaware of the ethical dilemmas they set up within this film, and do an admirable job attempting to address these issues through dialogue and character exchanges. However, these measures fall short of their intended mark, and the more troublesome elements of the film never feel truly resolved.
At least the visual effects are interesting. ‘Passengers’ exists completely in and around a singular spacecraft hurtling through space, and it takes care to make this ship interesting. Luxurious passenger rooms, a scene-stealing robot bartender (perfectly played by Michael Sheen), and the most impressive negative edge pool ever help breathe life into the spacecraft.
We wish we could be more passionate about this review. For every positive step this movie makes, from its charismatic leads to its creative visuals, the film backslides through troublesome plot development and unresolved story elements. We don’t love this movie; we don’t hate this movie, either. Truth told, we probably won’t remember this movie a month from now. And, unfortunately, when it comes to selecting a movie to watch during the crowded year-end movie season, being ‘forgettable’ is perhaps the most damning sin.