The Avalon II is on a 120 year course to a second Earth: Homestead II. 5,000 passengers sleep in hibernation pods until four months of the voyage remain. Except, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) wakes up 90 years too soon.
Passengers wants to be a lot of things. A Castaway story. A Titanic story. A 2001: A Space Odyssey story. What it fails to be is a more compelling version of any of these stories. The script reaches for themes that only amount to tired platitudes. The majority of the narrative is made up of bulky lead-ups to foregone conclusions or plot points that stop short of being something exciting.
The acting doesn’t help the course any. Pratt does a fine job on his own, although all that is required of him is a sad face held within a comical beard. Once he meets Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), the only other human he has contact with, the wooden lack of chemistry is hard to swallow. This is probably the lowest point of Lawrence’s post-Winter’s Bone stardom. The saving grace of the film is Michael Sheen’s comic relief android bartender.
Passengers markets itself as a Kubrickian psychological thriller. The nods to Kubrick, direct as they are, are interesting. But the film itself does not come close to Kubrick levels of narrative and visual complexity.
Instead of complexity, effectively everything that happens on the Avalon II happens for plot convenience’s sake. Plot points are predicated on “chance,” making the entire film feel all the more fabricated. The existence of an entire character is based on the need for the screenwriter to further the plot. With every obvious logical pitfall of the plot, Passengers slips further and further away from an engaging experience.
Is it inappropriate to call Passengers farcically incompetent?
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)