Passengers is a science fiction romantic drama about two passengers on a starship who are woken up too early on a journey to a new planet. It stars Chris Pratt as Jim Preston a mechanical engineer who wakes up when his hibernation pod malfunctions, and Jennifer Lawrence as a journalist who is woken up a year later.
Getting such talented cast members for the film is certainly the best thing about Passengers. Pratt and Lawrence are both incredible talented, popular, and charming actors, and you can see why. Pratt has to carry a lot of the film on his own, and actually does this exceptionally well. He’s an extremely charismatic screen presence and he needs to be to keep the film from becoming unbearable. Through their performances both Pratt and Lawrence are exceptionally likeable in the film, and have great chemistry with one another.
Now I say that the characters are likeable through the actor’s performances, because the film actually makes it quite difficult to like and support Pratt’s character for the second half. Now this is a spoiler for a major plot point in the middle of the film, but it has to be directly addressed. There is a story decision to have Pratt’s character wake up Lawrence’s against her will, meaning that she will be forced to spend the rest of her life on this ship, and won’t make it to their destination, something she accurately says is akin to murder. This just means that it’s too difficult to sympathise with Pratt’s character, but the film keeps trying to make you. It reaches a point where the film just decides to brush this act under the carpet, and that’s far too problematic.
If you are able to get past this problem, and I wasn’t really, then what you are faced with is a fairly predictable and clichéd mix of romance and spaceship disaster films. Screenwriter Jon Spates actually falls back on very typical elements of both stories. But one of the biggest problems came in transitioning the film into the final act. I can only assume Spates was unsure how to get the finale, because the film just introduces another character out of nowhere to interrupt the romantic drama and push the focus onto the disaster element, that apparently the engineer That we had been following had completely failed to notice.
And that final act just isn’t particularly interesting. The film basically boils down to fixing an engine. Something that, despite the best efforts of director Morten Tyldum, is just not that engaging. Particularly when, as an audience member, I was finding it hard to care about the major character.
It’s a real shame that a film with a premise that had a lot of potential as a science fiction romance was really let down by the direction the story was taken. Despite the good performances, some impressive special effects and a few really nice moments, it absolutely kills the film as an effective romance, and completely undermines what the filmmakers wanted to achieve with it.