The sci-fi genre is unique in that it is a genre on its own, but it can also be used as a backdrop or template of sorts for any of the other more traditional genres that we know like Romance, Drama or Action. Morten Tyldum has followed up his widely acclaimed ‘Imitation Game’ with ‘Passengers’ a sci-fi vehicle for Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence that tries to be several things at once while hurtling through future space.
I see no reason to bury the lead on this one. ‘Passengers’ does not work as a complete movie. This is an example of lack of focus derailing several good components that could have been fitted together to make something cohesive. This isn’t to say that there are no positive elements on display here and I will gladly elaborate on those.
Pratt and Lawrence are fantastic and this should come as no surprise. Lawrence, while a proven commodity, has sometimes been called out for phoning in performances but this thankfully isn’t the case here as her costar is at the top of his game. The chemistry between Lawrence and Pratt is surprisingly refreshing and necessary as their romantic plotline is possible the only one that works. Scratch that. It is the only thing that works. Tyldum clearly had a different idea of what elements should propel ‘Passengers’ forward than the marketing material. Perhaps I should give a brief synopsis to help explain my thoughts.
‘Passengers’ follows a spaceship travelling to an Earth-like planet with 5000 passengers on board, all of whom paid for a trip to live on a new planet, to make a fresh start. Something happens and Chris Pratt’s character Jim Preston is woken up early. About 90 years too early to be more specific. This brings up the unique dilemma of him living a full life and dying before reaching his destination. Other events occur and Lawrence’s character Aurora Lane is woken up as well and eventually things start falling apart on the ship and action ensues for the rest of the movie.
Tyldum stumbles right out of the gate with pacing and fluidity but quickly gains his balance and starts some rather impressive world-building as all sci-fi flicks need. This part of ‘Passengers’ feels a little like ‘Castaway’ in space while Preston tries to figure out how to get along on his own. Then Lane wakes up and we pivot into a rather impressive romantic film as we watch two gorgeous people falling in love. This then slides into an almost action-thriller in space which doesn’t work nearly as well.
These transitions in tone don’t only affect the story itself but the overall mood including the score. These jarring transitions left me with the feeling that the director and writer and producers all had different ideas of what ‘Passengers’ should be which resulted in a flawed and uneven movie with no chance of being marketed appropriately. Sections of this movie will please different people but that leaves no one satisfied with the end product. This is truly a shame as such great performances are wasted and a talented director bow has a blemish on their resume.