With so many sequels, reboots, and adaptations running through Hollywood, it is always nice to see a science fiction film that isn’t based on anything else, unfortunately Passengers, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, isn’t a worthwhile addition to the genre. The film follows Jim(Pratt), and Aurora(Lawrence), as they are awoken too early on a spaceship heading to a far off planet to start their individual lives anew. Given that they are the only two people on a massive ship, they form a friendship, and then a relationship, as they live their day-to-day lives, knowing that they will not make it to the planet before they die of old age. The conflict comes when the ship starts having further malfunctions, which works well, as it is just smaller things at first, and escalates to larger issues over the course of the film. It is the little touches during this time that really draw you in, and make for a promising start that carries through most of the film. The story itself is pretty good, and the relationship that forms between Pratt and Lawrence is very fun to watch, as you really get a sense that these two people are forming a genuine relationship. Where the film falters though, is in the final quarter or so of the movie, as additional conflict is introduced that brings about some questionable decision-making, by both the filmmakers, and that characters. The film suffers from not really knowing what it wants to be, it ends up being a romance-sci-fi-space-action-survival-thriller, and you can’t help but wonder if it cut a few genres out, it may have made for a better overall film. There was a lot to enjoy throughout most of the movie, but it is a shame how much the ending of the film can detract to the overall experience, as moments that were fun or enjoyable before, become borderline unbearable in the last 30 minutes.
The highlight of this film is certainly the leads, as Pratt and Lawrence have wonderful chemistry, and their scenes together shine. Both actors play so well together in the early parts of the film as they learn to adapt to their predicament, and Pratt does an exceptional job, and really stands out in his solo scenes. Lawrence is good as well, but her performance really disappoints in the third act, because her emotions are a little too over the top, and the character choices do not feel earned. While the film is mostly about Jim and Aurora, they do have one other companion in the form of Michael Sheen’s robot bartender Arthur, who has a few fun moments, and adds some light humor to the film, but only stands as an occasional aside to the main characters. The introduction of a new character towards the end, played by Laurence Fishburne, while being plot necessary, doesn’t really provide anything worthwhile to the proceedings. It is a real shame that the movie takes such a sharp left turn towards the end, because it takes so much away from how good the first ¾ of the film really is, mostly because if the plot had not gone as far askew as it had, there is a real chance that the performances from both actors could have pushed the film over the top, but with only Pratt’s character remaining consistent, his acting is the only one that holds up throughout.
With any sci-fi story you need to have quality visual effects, and Passengers has that, with a look and design aesthetic the makes for some stunning shots. The scenes that showcase the areas outside the ship, such as a few spacewalks, and a particular cool scene as they pass a star, are beautiful to see, and showcase the wonder of space. There are also several scenes with loss of gravity, including one where Aurora, is trapped in a weightless swimming pool, that look good as well. The different areas of the ship are also well crafted, and each room and area, looks like it belongs on a futuristic space ship; as does the technology the ship utilizes, with high-tech touch screens, advanced holographic maps, and the aforementioned android bartender, all feeling right at home aboard the ship.
With two great actors and a worthwhile story to tell, it really is a letdown that Passengers fails in the third act. With each of the closing moments of the film, more and more things do a disservice to the moments that have come before, and ruin what should have been a much better film. The runtime is not overly long, so there is much more good than bad, but once the bad kicks in, you quickly start to forget the good, and maybe a longer film would have allowed for a better ending. Pratt and Lawrence are great, but they cannot save the film, they try, and hopefully they can act opposite each other in another project soon; but in the end the third act is too much to overcome, making Passengers only an ok film, instead of something much better.