The starship Avalon with 5000 passengers and 255 crew is headed to a new planet, Homestead II, for settlement. The journey is so far from earth — 120 years — that everyone is put in hibernation pods only to be awoke 4 months before arrival and enjoy a space cruise before landing on the new planet and reverting back to the basics of colonial life. Along the way the starship goes through an asteroid belt, and apparently the autopilot isn’t much better than self-driving Uber cars, as it crashes into one. This causes one hibernation pod to open, that of mechanical engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt). It takes Jim a minute to realize that he’s the only one up as it’s only been 30 years since they departed. He tries everything — from calling home, to breaking into the crew section, to trying to get his hibernation pod to put him back to sleep — all with no luck. With no one to talk to aside from a robotic bartender, Arthur (Michael Sheen), Jim gets lonely and the thought of dying alone weighs on him. But then he sees a sleeping beauty in her hibernation pod, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence.) He looks her up on the passenger itinerary (which is basically Facebook without any privacy settings) and finds out she’s a charming journalist (and aspiring author) with a witty sense of humor. She’s everything he could want. So does he wake her up, effectively ruining her life too? Of course he does. And after Aurora accepts the fact that her life will end on this spaceship too, Aurora clicks with Jim, as she couldn’t be more perfect. But then Arthur let’s it slip that Jim was the reason for Aurora waking up (and not a malfunction) Aurora is sickened, and doesn’t want to be anywhere near him. As the two lovers are torn apart, the ship seems to be tearing itself apart with more and more malfunctions — ranging from elevators jamming to temporary loss of gravity. Will Jim be able to win Aurora back, and will the two of them solve what’s going wrong with the ship?
Passengers starts off strong, taking a very thought-provoking “What if” scenario, and squandering the potential by becoming a sci-fi action movie. The thought of dying alone on a spaceship full of sleeping people, and doing the unthinkable — waking up a stranger so you wouldn’t be alone — seems more fitting of a horror movie than a space romance. I can see why the movie would want to play up the romance — it worked well for Titanic — plus the chemistry between Pratt and Lawerence is undeniable, but the fatal flaw is that Jim does the equivalent of murder in waking Aurora up. The moral dilemma is severely underplayed, and upon waking Aurora up it would have been far more interesting for her to wonder if he did do it — especially when he admits to being alone for over a year. And then when she does find out the movie again underplays her emotions and how she could, if ever, forgive him. (The ultimate resolution just requires Aurora to hear the wise words from the black man (Laurence Fishbourne.)) While it’s a disappointment the movie didn’t go in a more thoughtful direction, you have to judge it for what it is. The action in the latter half of the movie is okay, but seems to play it safe again. Overall Passengers is very fitting of its story — you go into it thinking and hoping for one thing, but it takes you not where you thought it would be heading — resulting in a disappointing journey.