I’ve seen pictures of those pretty planes with the first class cabins and fully reclinable seats. Imagine: showering at 39,000 ft. and not because you’re a seagull in a hurricane. Marvelous. Now imagine showering at a height of twenty lightyears. If you feel like it, there’s also the infinity pool, or the basketball court, or if you’re particularly whimsical (or a 14-year-old girl) the Dance, Dance Revolution room is pretty fetch. Entertainment is endless. The only catch is that the walls are unbreakable, the outside will kill you, and the only conversation you’ll have for the rest of your life is with an android bartender. At least he remembers your name and your order. That’s a plus.
The super fancy spaceship, the Avalon, is due to arrive at the planet colony, Homestead II, in 120 years. To avoid 5,000 passengers dying of old age along the way, the Homestead company has put the entire population in stasis. The Avalon flies itself, cleans itself, maintains its own systems, and will automatically wake its 5,000 passengers four months before landing. Thirty years into the voyage, however, the Avalon hits a meteor field. By diverting power to the main shield, the ship barrels through unscathed – save for a minor jostle that causes Jim’s (Chris Pratt) stasis pod to malfunction. Jim wakes up totally confused with 90 years left on his journey. If he were to wake another passenger or crew member, he would be sentencing them to life aboard a ship they’ll never live to see land. Jim is completely alone. Or is he…?
Spoilers: yes, he is. Jim just can’t take it, and after a full year and a full, mean-looking wilderness beard, Jim jolts the circuits on Aurora’s (Jennifer Lawrence) pod just to have someone pretty to talk to. Aurora believes she woke because of the same malfunction Jim experienced, and that Jim is completely blameless. With minimal social options it’s not long before the last man and the last woman alive get together… and play basketball. Among other things.
Passengers is really about space travel from the perspective of two people that know nothing about space travel. They’re on a mighty cruise ship, like Wall-E or Titanic, but with much fewer people bumping into each other. It’s hard for Jim and Aurora to build a routine with no job, no family, no places to go or errands to run. To make it worse, this is their life – for the rest of their lives. The only thing that ever changes is how Jim and Aurora feel towards each other. Oh and the tech that keeps malfunctioning. The occasional vacuum falling from a three-storey balcony is no issue though – right?
Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence carry the cast because they are the cast. The bartender (Michael Sheen) may glitch out every now and then, but you have to excuse his actions like you have to excuse the toaster for burning your breakfast. We see a range of emotions from Pratt and Lawrence, from friendship, to loss, to rage and desperation. They’re both likable characters you quickly feel an attachment towards, whether you agree with them in the moment or not. Couples don’t always get along, and as expansive as the ship is, the Avalon can feel rather cramped.
We get a few glances of starry space, but most of Passengers is spent aboard the futuristic Avalon. Although it may be a little glitchy, I actually felt the same concern for the ship as I would towards a weird noise in my car. Passengers hints that it’s heading in the same direction as 2001: A Space Odyssey, but like the toaster mentioned above, it’s not the ship’s fault it’s having a rough time. We want to fix the ship – we love the ship. Good ship. It’s also a beautiful ship. With a clean, futuristic vibe, the Avalon gives the impression of being infinitely vast but also a little claustrophobic. When one thing goes wrong, everything else seems to follow the wave.
Passengers goes where I expected it to go. There are one or two little surprises that shake the foundation of Jim and Aurora’s relationship, and which literally shake the Avalon. The conclusion is exciting – with flying shrapnel and everything – but I found the windup story a little predictable with an exaggeratedly high level of drama. The rest is pretty steady in terms of action, emotion, and character-building. Some of the most interesting parts are Jim’s little mechanical masterpieces he builds on the side. But too often we only see the end results, not the motivation or his quest for spare parts. Passengers is a unique look into space life from a lonely, non-astronaut, but it’s a bit too linear to really grab my attention. 6.5/10.