Here’s the premise of Passengers: The Avalon is a spaceship travelling to Homestead II, a colony of humans from Earth, who are heading there for all kinds of reasons. The ship is a bit like a luxury cruise liner, but the journey lasts ~150 years. The passengers spend all but the last 4 months of this asleep in your classic sci-fi style stasis pods.
Until it all goes a bit wrong. The ship takes a bit of a beating from a collection of asteroids and, in the resulting malfunctions (which the ship starts to repair as they occur) Chris Pratt’s character, Jim, wakes up. No one else does. He still has 90 years of the journey to go. As lovely as a luxury cruise liner must be, Jim isn’t exactly a first class passenger, and quickly tires of what’s available to him, and breaks in to some things that are not, including a luxury apartment. Not before telling the android barman, Arthur, played by Michael Sheen, that he’s an engineer. I mean, he’s a mechanic. He’s also referred to as a mechanic later. In this movie, it’s the same thing.
Anyway, he puts his engineering/mechanic skills to use, trying to fix his cryopod, trying to get access to the crews quarters to wake them up for help, trying to find out what’s going on and, one year on he’s still there. At this point, Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Aurora is also woken up early. Jim “falls in love” with her in a very creepy, stalkerish way that is somehow depicted as being romantic. some of the issues with his approach are discussed, but eventually that theme is abandoned because, after all, she’s not about to meet anyone else anytime soon, and besides, her best friend on Earth left her a message saying she hopes that Aurora can allow herself to love someone so it’s, like, a sign. Obviously.
That’s about as far as I can go in the story without spoiling stuff that doesn’t show up in the trailers, so that’s where I’ll stop. Needless to say, plenty more things go wrong, and some of the cinematography is totally beautiful. In particular, there are space walk scenes that reminded me why space is simultaneously so beautiful and so terrifying, and there’s a scene with a zero gravity swimming pool that’s gorgeous, if scientifically unsound. I also found it interesting that for the first third of the movie you have only two characters, Jim and Arthur, and one of these is a robot. Placing a robot barman in the movie prevents long weird dialogue-less stretches. I’m not 100% sure it wouldn’t have been better with these quiet scenes, but Sheen’s character does add some gentle humour, which I enjoyed.
That’s a pretty good summary for the movie in general. It’s not half bad if you don’t think about it too much. The sci-fi stuff is cool if you don’t think about how science actually works (at all. Please, don’t talk to me about the reactor. Or, like, anything else). The romantic stuff is fine if you don’t remind yourself that Jim is a creepy stalker who committed an act tantamount to murder because one of the women in the pods was pretty. There’s a piece of the story that is this close to being a deus ex machina. It’s as if the makers were aiming for something like The Martian but unfortunately, Passengers just isn’t quite so well thought-out.
That’s not to say it isn’t fun. Sometimes you just want to watch a movie without analysing it and I get that – that was my approach in watching it and I enjoyed it at the time. It’s only later, now that I’m thinking about it again, that I’m a little less convinced. Maybe watch red Dwarf instead.