I think it was about two years ago that I first discovered a script online for a would-be film called Passengers. I didn’t think the film was actually ever going to be made, as I had read that the script had been on the shelf for quite some time, unproduced. I thought the script would, at least, need to be changed quite a bit before actually being made into a movie, because it had a lot of storytelling problems that would have benefited from substantial adjustments. The script just felt generic and, frankly, rather boring. But, here we are in December of 2016, and the film has actually been produced and released. How does it fare?
Passengers stars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence and is about two passengers on-board a spaceship heading toward a new planet called Homestead II. The trip takes too long for a human to survive while awake, so all the passengers have been placed in stasis pods to make the journey. The problem is that Pratt’s character, Jim, and Lawrence’s character, Aurora, have awoken ninety years too early.
Now, I’m not about to go digging for the script again to try to compare the film to the original script, but I do remember the basic beats of the original screenplay. They play out about the same in the finished movie, and I’m actually shocked by this. The story for this movie is boring and generic, at its best, and downright stupid at its worst. In fact, a lot of this film I can’t even discuss without it being a spoiler, because the marketing for this movie seems to want to hide a lot of the plot elements that you actually discover in the first act of the movie. Simply grazing the overall quality of the story, this movie meanders so much that the runtime feels like ninety years. It is so unbelievably boring. Until about the last 15 minutes of the film, in fact, the movie doesn’t even feel like it has a real path. For most of the runtime, the movie just tries to burn through every science fiction, romance, and thriller trope that you’ve seen one thousand times over. The most egregious aspect of the narrative would have to be the “love story” between Jim and Aurora. The dialogue between these two is absolutely atrocious and it feels like a bad Titanic remake. They don’t feel like real people in a real deadly situation, and because of this there is no tension or suspense. While I was watching it, I couldn’t help but think about the sappy love dialogue in Attack of the Clones. There’s no chemistry between our leads, and the viewer can’t connect with their struggle let alone their romance. So, when the film does reach the climax of the story and everything starts to go awry, the emotion doesn’t hit at all. Therefore, the last act of this movie feels passionless and overwrought.
All this being considered, the acting in this movie is pretty flat. Chris Pratt is a charismatic actor and can deliver good performances when put in the right role. The same can be said for Jennifer Lawrence, who arguably may even be a stronger actor than Pratt, though you’d never know just watching this film where Lawrence’s character is completely sidelined for Pratt’s to be the lead. I think what this movie suffers from the most is weak characterization, in that Jim and Aurora are really the only two people we see in the film and they are both uninteresting. Aurora is even more affected than Jim, being relegated to the “female protagonist” and nothing more. What I mean by this is that Jim is painted to be the more competent one for this situation while Aurora is really just there to help serve Jim’s character arc. Because Jim is also pretty boring and, at times, even unlikeable, one can quickly assess where the problem lies.
Diving into the actual filmmaking elements, they are all very okay. They aren’t bad, but they certainly don’t leave an impression. The score is generic, the cinematography is flat and doesn’t really try to help tell the story, the directing isn’t very engaging, and the visual effects are nice but not nearly as impressive as so many other films with similar elements like characters floating in space and holographic displays. The filmmaking feels very by-the-numbers with no real personality of its own.
Overall, Passengers offers nothing new, exciting, or original. The narrative is bad and every other element is just passable. It is not engaging, and it lacks passion and personality. The movie feels like a pretty packaged product and nothing more. It is yet another Sony Pictures release attempting to make money first and tell a story second. Looking at the box office numbers right now, I don’t know how well this will work out for them, this time, but I certainly don’t see them learning from their mistake. I don’t think this film is worth anyone’s time, so I say Snub It.