The starship Avalon cruises through space on a 120-year journey to Homestead II, a habitable planet where its 5,000 passengers will spend a new life after they wake up from a century of suspended animation. When a hurtling space rock collides with the spacecraft’s front shield, it results in unseen yet serious technical consequences. One of the immediate repercussions is the malfunction of engineer Jim Preston’s (Chris Pratt) hibernation pod, waking him up 90 years too early. With everyone onboard in deep sleep including the crew and no way to go back and join them, he lasts one year on his own before deciding to take his own life. In the end, he hesitates. Taunted by solitude, he sets his sights on the sleeping Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), a journalist who is booked for a return trip with the intention of getting back to Earth after 240 years and sharing a story that has never been told ever. Figuring out how to disable a pod, he now faces a dilemma. Should he confront his impending doom all by himself or should he wake her up, in effect signing her death sentence?
Space dramas have always been visually stunning. The very concept of the universe and how comparable we are to tiny specks of dust in the entirety of it all is not easy to grasp. For many, it remains an unfathomable idea that our minds just can’t comprehend. It is for this reason that this film subgenre is always well-received, in terms of the rich and perplex imagery it offers that is.
Of course, scientists will always rebuff the inaccuracies and movie critics will forever be dissatisfied with the plot, but just one look at that marvelous picture of the great abyss that is outer space is sometimes already enough to mystify an audience. Somehow, that’s cheating. Razzle dazzle them, right. But there’s no denying its beauty, and we can only be so grateful to these filmmakers for imagining all of it on our behalf. In the end, all we have to do is watch. Isn’t that convenient?
The first two thirds of the movie are interesting enough to hold your attention. Just like Jim, we are left in the dark. What the heck is happening? His gradual discovery of facts can very well be our own because he is our anchor to the story in the first place. When Aurora wakes up, though, we also feel his guilt and try to justify his actions theorizing on what we would have done if we were in his shoes. Come on, you prematurely wake up and face the truth which is your mortality.
You will long be dead when that ship lands on that planet. You know you have the power to choose any of those 5,000 individuals to share your fate. And you are telling me you won’t do it? Human beings are selfish by nature. That decision is a no brainer, but it does involve some complex moral dilemmas. Playing God much? It feels similar to abducting someone and keeping them with you against their will, which is illegal. But then again, this is a spaceship where every other soul is fast asleep. Does international law even cover this? Is there an intergalactic version currently in place?
The last third or so is a bit of a stretch even with the suspension of disbelief already at play. The screenwriters must be some legit suckers for romance to force such a contrived ending. Given the circumstances and the urgency, as well as the profiles of these lead characters, believing that they could afford such an ending is just implausible. Yes, in spite of Pratt and Lawrence’s palpable onscreen chemistry.
What you will like most about Passengers is the premise itself. Wow, a luxury spacecraft ferrying interplanetary migrants to a whole new world. Looking back at how fucked up 2016 was, this film is perhaps the best escapist vehicle Hollywood could have produced to start the new year. We don’t want to live on this planet anymore, get us out of here! The producers toy with that notion and come up with something literally out of this world. For that alone, you are bound to enjoy this ride. Don’t expect it to be Interstellar, though. Lower your expectation to that of a Titanic-meets-Gravity storyline and you are good to go.