Jennifer Lawrence and Christ Pratt stranded together on a spaceship - what could go wrong?
Scathing reviews have damaged Passenger‘s performance at the box office but that shouldn’t stop you from watching this surprisingly entertaining blockbuster.
As soon as I saw the trailer showing Jennifer Lawrence struggling to escape from a gravity-free swimming pool, my curiosity was perked. The film and cast looked equally gorgeous and the concept seemed equally intriguing and terrifying. Jennifer Lawrence and Christ Pratt stranded together on a spaceship for 90 years with no viable escape? Thriller, horror and romance – my three favourite genres? What could go wrong?
Well, the film succeeds in delivering a convincing premise at least. It’s Castaway meets Gravity meets The Martian. Starship Avalon is transporting 5000 people to planet Homestead II in a journey that takes 120 years. The 5000 passengers and crew are all in hibernation during this time, set to awaken a few months prior to their arrival to enjoy the spaceship’s facilities and prepare for their new life. However, a technical malfunction causes Jim Preston’s (Christ Pratt) hibernation pod to wake up him up 90 years early.
Facing inevitable solitary for the rest of his life aboard Starship Avalon, a suicidal Preston struggles with the dilemma of waking up fellow passenger Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), who he believes may just be the love of his life. If he wakes her up, he’ll have another human being to spend the remainder of his life with, but the decision would in turn doom Lane to the same peril.
Unfortunately, Passengers isn’t as gripping as Castaway, nor as stunning as Gravity and certainly not as engaging as The Martian. Pratt is a formidable actor and Lawrence is convincing. However, their fight for survival feels somewhat shallow. Their characters’ backgrounds are too briefly discussed for the audience to invest in them wholeheartedly. Visually, Passengers excels in certain moments but its indoor focus seems like a wasted opportunity considering its setting is outer-space. The audience spends more time looking at corridors than the dazzling intergalactic realm and it’s a shame.
Many critics slam the film for being flawed from the get-go – it is argued that Preston’s love for Lane is unrealistic whilst his decisions regarding his moral dilemma shows his character as immoral, unlikeable and creepy. From this angle, Passenger‘s concept falls by the waist side and the fight for survival becomes irrelevant because the audience cannot back the protagonist.
Also, why are all appliances functioning on the ship if the passengers aren’t due to wake up for another 90 years?
However, despite its flaws, to write off Passengers completely is unfair. Yes, Preston is rather creepy at the beginning and it’s hard to understand exactly why he falls in love with Lane without even meeting her but the dilemma of sacrificing someone else’s life to avoid a life of solitary is a very moving one, irrespective of any ‘love’ aspect. It’s a terrifying moral dilemma and it’s one Passengers succeeds in delivering. Audiences will undoubtedly leave theaters discussing what they would do in that situation before questioning why Pratt’s character was so infatuated with Lawrence’s.
Yes you can argue that Preston is an immoral protagonist and you may not agree with his decision, but the dilemma itself is gripping. Whether it’s enough to pull the rest of the film through is questionable. The events that unfold thereafter are somewhat predictable, especially in their fight in fixing the damaged ship. Nonetheless, the bittersweet ending ties the film up nicely and leaves the audience unsettled.
Passengers is littered with flaws. From its unconvincing characters to its disappointing delivery at times, the film is easy to criticise. Pull at any thread hard enough and the film will reveal its numerous flaws. However, these flaws are just as easy to look past and if you do, you’ll be debating the film’s unnerving concept for a while.