Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) are passengers on a spacecraft that’s set to colonize a new world. The trip takes 120 years, so everyone aboard the spacecraft are placed in suspended animation until they’re close to arriving. But Jim and Aurora are woken up early – 90 years early – with no way to go back to sleep. But when other issues start arising on the ship, they may be the only hope for their fellow passengers.
This is the basic setup being pushed by the studio in describing the film, and while it’s largely accurate, it fails to note a few key, related notes that definitely have an impact on the story. Spoilers: I’m going into them, because it’s impossible to discuss the film without doing so. First: Jim wakes up by himself, and spends over a year with an android bartender as his only company. It isn’t until he spots Aurora that he stops feeling depressed.
Oh, and Aurora’s not awake. Not yet.
No, Aurora’s awakening is, unlike Jim’s, very much deliberate. Jim makes the decision to wake Aurora up so that he won’t be lonely, condemning her to the same fate he faces. Now, to be fair to the film, he does wrestle with this decision, but his ultimate choice gives the film an unease that isn’t being promoted in trailers. It makes their romance less romantic, and when it comes out (because of course it comes out), Aurora’s reaction is completely understandable. Jim, however, largely doesn’t seem to get it at first.
Still, I think the film largely works, because while it doesn’t handle everything in exactly the right way, most of the reactions make some sense. Where the film falters, for me at least, is the ending. It feels a bit predictable, and if this film had been released a decade ago, it would make sense. I think today, though, we’re a bit more aware socially of problematic behaviors in men than we were a decade ago, and it makes the final moments frustrating.
Beyond that, there’s little to fault with Passengers. Lawrence and Pratt are both extremely likable performers, and they make the film watchable – a noteworthy accomplishment in a film that mostly rests on their two performances. The visuals are solid, and the premise is interesting. Honestly, the ending is what knocks it down in the ratings for me more than anything, and that’s unfortunate. We don’t get original stories like this, on this scale, often, and while there are some issues beforehand, to see it fumble its ending is a problem the film can’t overcome.