Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are the huge Hollywood stars you’d most want to get drunk and do karaoke with. They also have proven track records of injecting personality into big-budget blockbusters: she shone in X-Men and The Hunger Games; he brought warmth to Guardians Of The Galaxy and Jurassic World. Putting them together in space for a sci-fi romance-cum-disaster movie should be a masterstroke, but Passengers never really takes off.
They play two of 5,000 humans travelling in hibernation pods on a 120-year spaceship voyage to an idyllic new colony. When the pod protecting mechanical engineer Jim Preston (Pratt) wakes him up 90 years too early, he slowly goes stir crazy with only a robot bartender (wittily played by Michael Sheen) for company. Bored and lonely, he knows he’ll die before the spaceship reaches its destination. After spotting beautiful journalist Aurora Lane (Lawrence) sleeping in her pod, he looks her up on the ship’s log and becomes infatuated by her video messages and articles. Jim wrestles with his conscience for a few scenes before deciding to wake Aurora too so he can have some company, dooming her to the same lonely fate that awaits him.
This oddly problematic premise – man becomes obsessed with woman he’s never met, then essentially murders her – is an obstacle Passengers never really overcomes. A darker and smarter film could have explored Jim’s ethical dilemma more fully, but Passengers is happy to have him wring his hands for a bit before offering an eleventh hour shot at redemption. It doesn’t help that both lead characters are thinly-drawn: Aurora is an idealistic cliché of a journalist; Jim is a handsome blank slate whose reasons for being on the ship are never convincingly explained. What’s left is a glossy-looking sci-fi film that’s actually pretty dull until director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) chucks in some entertaining action sequences towards the end.
Despite their disappointing roles, Lawrence and Pratt are typically watchable here, but even they can’t save this botched blockbuster. In fact, Passengers‘ title ends up being pretty ironic. It’s the sort of passable popcorn movie best watched between naps on a long-haul plane journey.