There’s a single moment in Passengers where a paradox causes a slight, pained twitch on the face of Android barman Arthur, played by Michael Sheen doing his best to cap every scene off with an almighty wink to Joe Turkel in the Shining. Sadly, ends up being cast to the side, as anything beyond rote misadventure is more than writer and director Jon Spaihts and Morten Tyldum are willing to risk in this soporific SciFi.
The premise is simple: Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence wake up 30 years into their 120 year voyage. Alone on the automated colony ship Avalon, built to cater to 5000 odd passengers, they are doomed to die before they even reach their destination. The reason for their waking up was a pivotal point in the marketing, and it’s really not all that interesting. The narrative beat alluded to could perhaps have been a better explanation for the cascade of failures that beset the ship instead of the mundane one that we get. A sly nudge in the direction of harder more cerebral SciFi instead of a vapid reskin of The Poseidon Adventure.
Instead, glossiness of setting, and the framing of the two leads as paragons of aspirational lifestyle (you can live the yuppie life even when your house is tearing itself to pieces) wins out over anything of substance. Pratt is the rough and ready handy man to Lawrence’s manic pixie writer, and so they fall in love because she’s brilliant and he’s practical, and not even the slight whiff of chemistry between the actors can save this textbook romance.
Even worse, the whole affair falls apart due to a narrative thread that when unpicked, means these two should never, ever get back together, but thanks to the dull conventions of romance in cinema… I won’t spell it out. Passengers is passable but following hot on the heels from Arrival its lack of substances is alarming. It floats listlessly forward, and we don’t even get a window seat to enjoy the view.
[Luke Shaw – @fulloffeathers]