Passengers (2016)

Sadly, the distasteful cliche they chose is worse than the cliches they avoided

Photo of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Passengers’ (2016)

Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Passengers’ (2016)


Great premise. Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) wakes up from a cryogenic sleep aboard a huge spaceship ship that is ferrying him and 5,000 fellow passengers to a new life on a new world. One problem. Evidently through some glitch, he’s the only one awake. Another problem. He woke up 80 years too early. Oops.

Now all this is kinda cool and a bit fresh. But you’re going to be wondering: now what? What do you do, storywise, to keep your movie-going audience from snoozing for the next couple of hours? Maybe a squirmy “He’s Not Alone” type horror thriller? A Cast Away type Robinson Crusoe yarn of survival? Or, in a flash of Hollywood Coincidence, aliens conveniently show up and it becomes a Home Alone type comedy adventure as he scuttles around the ship, setting salt-encrusted booby traps for some snail-like aliens.

No, here’s what you do: you have him become infatuated with a woman who’s slumbering soundly and wake her up, thus stealing her future and condemning her to a lonely death too. (Stop yelling ”spoiler!” Jennifer Lawrence as fellow passenger Aurora Lane is all over the trailer, so you know she shows up somehow.)

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Maybe, just maybe, this could have become something provocative; it reminds me vaguely of The World, The Flesh, and the Devil.

No such luck. The solitary pair maneuver around each other awkwardly at first, sharing conversation with android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen), watching movies, strolling around. Eventually, of course, they fall in love. Eventually, of course, she finds out what he’s done (and Lawrence gives the film’s only noteworthy performance in that moment). Eventually, of course, they have a crisis to resolve together. Eventually, sadly, she forgives him.

Darn, now I really have gone too far into spoiler territory. No harm. The filmmakers tried hard but were unable to disguise this as anything other than a distasteful example of the boy-meets-girl, boy-abuses-girl, girl-falls-in-love-with-boy-anyway genre. There’s no reason you should watch it. I’m only embarrassed that I stuck it out, rationalizing that they might at the end coax some nuanced insight from this dreck.

Great premise. Squandered.


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