Passengers | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


Morten Tyldum’s film is a mish-mash of genres and premised on a creepy plot point

Look lively: Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence

Passengers is not a good trip. Director Morten Tyldum’s film is a mish-mash of genres and premised on a creepy plot point. The trailer suggests Passengers is a sci-fi thriller, but alas, it is not. (Some folks at my preview screening left in a rage, delivering the not-quite-accurate-but-still-funny rant: “It’s You’ve Got Mail in space!”)

In the future, a giant spaceship is autopiloting toward a new colony. Onboard are more than 5,000 crew and passengers, safely tucked away in hibernation pods and scheduled to wake in 90 years. But a malfunction causes Jim (Chris Pratt) to wake early. In a variation on last-man-on-Earth/Robinson Crusoe, he spends a year alone, alternately staving off boredom and trying to solve problems. For company, there is only an android bartender (Michael Sheen), who dispenses cocktails and pre-programmed aphorisms.

Then he decides to wake up somebody else, and he picks a pretty young blonde, Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence). And he lets her think she was awoken accidentally, and sad, she’s gonna live out her life on the empty ship, too. Naturally, she falls in love with him, because men write movies. (Ignore the lack of chemistry between the leads.) The film’s middle third is either a fun rom-com or deeply problematic, depending how you feel about consent, agency and men re-animating women to be their companions.

Curiously left unexplored — or perhaps not; this film is rife with plot holes and inconsistencies — is why Jim never wakes anybody else, including useful crew members. (I’d wake up everybody: Turn this ship into a party, we’re all gonna die anyway.)

In the back third, Passengers finally realizes that mechanical troubles in space are very, very serious, and now everything gets ratcheted up to Space-Peril Freak-Out. Things explode, the bartender self-destructs, buttons flash red, spacesuits are donned, and so on and so forth. The problems are relatively perfunctory — though credit is due to a very bizarre mishap with the swimming pool — and mostly serve to patch up the problems in Jim and Aurora’s relationship. The final fix is an epically lazy bit of plotting; the only emotion it should generate is rage. In 3-D, in select theaters

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