Did you know that Passengers is still in theaters, as of this post? I didn’t until earlier today. And, with that in mind, a friend and I went to see Passengers to find out if it’s any good. In short: it’s decent. Not amazing, but not awful. However, it’s not quite the movie that I expected after seeing the trailers months ago. That said, expect some big spoilers ahead.
Passengers tells the story of a spaceship bound for a planet that takes 120 years to reach from Earth. Unfortunately, something goes wrong, and Jim (played by Chris Pratt) is awoken from stasis ninety years too early. He is later joined by Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), and the two begin their isolated life together aboard the ship. It seems simple enough, and mostly follows what viewers saw in the previews leading up to the film’s release.
The movie is split into three parts. The first part follows Jim after waking up from hibernation and how he has to cope with solitude and find a way to deal with everything alone. I’d argue that this is the best part of the film, as it does a good job of portraying Jim’s loneliness, boredom, and desperation over the course of an entire year. He tries to make the best of the situation at the recommendation of Arthur – an android bartender portrayed by Michael Sheen – but gradually falls further and further into depression. Then he discovers Aurora’s hibernation pod, and, after a lot of moral struggling, sabotages her pod to wake her up so that he’ll have some kind of human companionship.
And so, we move into the second act, which is what I kind of expected from Passengers. Over another year, it sort of replays the same cycle of actions that Jim took, but with Aurora trying to figure things out with his guidance. It follows a trail that leads into the expected romance plotline, but knowing that Jim woke Aurora up on his own (rather than another malfunction) gives a sort of creepy vibe to the whole thing. Jim knows he screwed up and tries to keep it a secret, but Arthur inevitably spills the beans and Aurora understandably turns against Jim. This goes on for a while before the third portion of the movie.
Third act: suddenly, Laurence Fishburne! I wasn’t expecting more than two human characters in this film, so the introduction of Gus (Fishburne) caught me by surprise. It turns out that the ship’s condition has been getting worse and worse since the incident that woke up Jim, and Gus’s pod malfunctioned, as well. From here, things start getting really bad for our heroes, and Passengers almost becomes a different film entirely. Everything built up in the first two acts is still there, but now there is a lot more tension and panic. I won’t spoil anything else from there, but that’s the gist of it.
As a whole, Passengers is okay. I kind of liked it, but there are some flaws that are hard to ignore after giving it some extra thought. The reasoning for Jim sabotaging Aurora’s pod makes sense for a person desperate to not be alone, but that doesn’t really justify dooming her to the same fate as him. The sudden change of pace in the third act was foreshadowed, but still a little jarring, and didn’t fit as well with the tone of the rest of the movie as well as I’d hoped. Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded an entire story of Jim facing the isolation of being the only one awake, depending on how it was handled. All in all, Passengers is a decent sci-fi flick, but I’d recommend middling your expectations a little before seeing it.