There’s a certain irony to the fact that a film about unexpected failures falls prey to unexpected failures itself. I suppose I should’ve realized, given the studio’s relentless marketing push in the weeks leading up to the release of Passengers, that somebody knew they had a turkey on their hands. But, all foresight aside, I’m a sucker for high-concept sci-fi and find Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt relatively unobjectionable, so I went into this one with reasonably high hopes. Those hopes were unequivocally dashed almost immediately. It may be true that, in space, nobody can hear you scream. But, in a sparsely populated space movie, everyone can see just how bad you suck.
A great deal can be said about the psychological implications of Passengers’ stripped-down setup — none of it good. When a meteor strike disrupts the functions of what amounts to an intergalactic cruise liner, Pratt is awakened from suspended animation 90 years too soon, meaning he’ll die long before the ship ever reaches its destination. Rather than endure his isolation or take his own life, he decides to awaken a companion, settling on Lawrence after some extensive stalking of his slumbering shipmates.
The moral implications of his act — forcing an innocent woman to share his fate without her consent — are indeed addressed in the script. Unfortunately, the film comes down on the side of the “I couldn’t help it” rationalization, almost as if Fritz Lang’s M had decided Peter Lorre’s child murderer wasn’t such a bad guy, he just couldn’t control his creepier impulses. This is a logical fallacy that is almost impossible to overlook, and the ways in which the film makes excuses for its purported protagonist are staggeringly tone deaf.
Pratt wakes up Lawrence and proceeds to seduce her — a “Reverse Cosby,” if you will — while the two try to figure out how to re-enter hibernation or wake up the ship’s crew since the technical systems keeping everyone alive are starting to fail. Even if you were to overlook the incomprehensibly odious actions taken by Pratt’s character, you’re left with two glaring logistical problems. First of all, the plot doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense. Secondly, Pratt and Lawrence are essentially tasked with carrying a two-hour movie on their own, a challenge they’re not quite up to pulling off.
Weak performances aside, director Morten Tyldum has delivered a particularly tepid and derivative piece of work. It’s as though he was trying to rip off both 2001 and Alien, but only managed to steal from 2010 and Alien: Resurrection. When Laurence Fishburne shows up near the end of the second act, I found myself thinking the only way this movie might still prove enjoyable would be if it turned into an unofficial Event Horizon sequel and Sam Neal was hiding around the corner waiting to drag Pratt and Lawrence to astronaut hell. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Audiences in the market for a intelligent space-related sci-fi would be better-served catching the exemplary Arrival, which should still be hanging around theaters at this point. All others would be well-advised to pass on Passengers. Rated PG-13 for sexuality, nudity and action/peril.
Now Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemark, Regal Biltmore Grande, Epic of Hendersonville.