Pretty visuals don’t distract from the creepy “love” story at the center of this film.
I should preface this review with my history with Passengers. I heard about the spec script a couple years ago and was really intrigued at the premise and heard good things. Naturally, when Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt sign on (the biggest movie stars in the world currently), my attention is piqued further. Then, they get Morton Tyldum to direct as a follow up to his Oscar-nominated work on “The Imitation Game.” This sounds like brilliance in the making!
Then there is nothing but silence from the studio months before it opens. The critics aren’t even given screenings for Critic’s Choice Award consideration. The marketing strategy is strangely off for a movie of this caliber. Then the reviews started coming in… and I have to admit, they scared me away from seeing it.
Not only were the critics harsh on the film itself, serious allegations of misogyny and sexism were thrown at it. I decided to wait on a viewing… but not for long.
** I will now state here, that it is impossible for me to talk about this movie further without giving away plot points. SPOILERS AHEAD***
The movie starts with a ship in space encountering a large crisis leading to one of the ship’s habitants (Chris Pratt) waking from his hibernation 90 years short of when he’s supposed to. He’s stranded on this ship and we are then treated to the first of maaaaannnnyyy long montages suggesting the passage of time and what our characters do with themselves on this spaceship.
Here lies my first problem with the script. The story depends on these long passages of time and by using these montages, there’s very little room for actual character development. We see them exercising, having drinks, going to breakfast, working on random space crap… but we’re given basically a sentence or two of backstory for each character and that’s all they have to go on.
After about a year of being alone, Jim (Chris Pratt) stumbles upon a beautiful woman still in her hibernation – Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence). Now, the fact that her name is Aurora, as in Sleeping Beauty, is enough to gag me already. But we have to get past that fact immediately because Jim suddenly (and creepily) becomes obsessed with Aurora. Watching her old interviews, sitting by her sleeping body, laughing at her jokes… it’s gross. Not endearing, just plain creepy.
Now.. the worst part of the movie. Jim discovers how to wake somebody from their sleep and struggles with the moral dilemma of WAKING HER UP TO KEEP HIM COMPANY!!! Essentially wake her up 90 years too early, so she dies isolated as well. And when he ultimately does wake her and she suddenly falls in love with him (through another montage!), we’re supposed to just be okay with it?!?!?
I digress… But just when you think that’s the whole plot- BAM! She finds out and hates him. And we’re given another beautiful montage of her hating him and Jennifer Lawrence ugly crying a lot.
You think that will be the whole story but then Lawrence Fishburn shows up for about 10 minutes and the ship is about to be destroyed!! Fishburn dies as fast as he enters and they find the problem and figure a solution in about 10 minutes… no joke, this is the ridiculous pacing of this movie. (You can understand why they were forced to not give a shit about characters or dialogue..)
The movie pretty much ends as you would expect… oh wait, NOT! Because Chris Pratt miraculously is brought back from the dead and Jennifer Lawrence realizes (in the face of disaster) that she loves him and wants to spend the rest of her life with him… That’s right. He selfishly wakes her up (essentially dooming her) and woos her over a year (maximum creeper status) and she decides to not go back to sleep but live with him her whole life on this ship. This is the part where I was literally screaming at my TV. I’m not a woman, but this film pissed me off more than I can say- so I can only imagine a feminine perspective.
The movie tried to be “Titanic in Space” – a beautiful love story set against an epic disaster. But ended up being a creepy Stockholm Syndrome Story set in space. Which is a shame because if they had originally just set out to make the Stockholm Syndrome movie, that could be quite a fascinating film. Instead it just ended up laughable and offensive.
On a brighter note, the visuals are beautiful and Thomas Newman is my favorite film composer- but not even he could save this train wreck.
Awards Potential: Best Visual Effects