A valid criticism of modern Hollywood is that the trailers often reveal too much or feature the only good parts of a movie. The previews for “Passengers” are one of the biggest problems with the movie, not because of what they show but rather because they lead one to believe this is a different type of film than what it truly is.
From the previews, audiences are led to believe this movie is a science fiction mystery/suspense film. True, there are moments of peril, including one truly spectacular sequence involving a swimming pool and a loss of gravity, but to call “Passengers” anything other than a romantic drama with some comedy would be misleading.
Despite its marketing flaws, the film is entertaining enough. While “The Arrival” was more of a thinking man’s science fiction, “Passengers” is more of an ‘enjoy the ride’ type of film with a simple, sometimes predictable story enhanced by fine acting and great visuals. The actual story, despite what the previews may lead one to believe, concerns a man named Jim (Chris Pratt) who is one of 5,000 people aboard The Avalon, a spaceship on a century-long trip to another planet. When his sleeping pod malfunctions and he is awakened 80 years too early, he must do what he can to both survive and overcome various challenges presented when technology malfunctions. And while the story does feature some impressive tech, at its core is a simple question: How far would you go and how much would you sacrifice to not be alone?
The first act of the film belongs almost entirely to Pratt’s character, with the female lead, Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) not appearing until over thirty minutes into the film. From that point forward, despite winning turns by Laurence Fishburne as one of the ship’s crew and Michael Sheen as the android bartender, this film belongs to Pratt and Lawrence. Their chemistry and believably elevate an otherwise bland script into something enjoyable, if a bit rushed during the final sequences. The experience is also heightened by the ship itself, which like Pratt’s character Jim, the audience gets to explore for the first time. The film also boasts an ethereal score by Thomas Newman that serves it well.
One more qualm with the movie and its marketing – in most trailers, Chris Pratt is heard saying, “There’s a reason why we woke up early.” This line does not appear in the film and while scenes sometimes end up cut from the final print, these words do not fit the story presented in the finished product and without spoiling the story or its ending, they actually contradict key plot points. There is no reason why this enjoyable film could not have been honestly marketed.
This film no doubt intended audiences to leave the theater questioning if they would have made the same decisions as the characters portrayed. Instead, many viewers are likely leaving wondering if they saw the right movie.
***1/2 out of *****
Written by Jon Spaihts
Directed by Morten Tyldum
Now playing in cinemas nationwide
Photo: Chris Pratt as Jim Preston and Jennifer Lawrence as Aurora Lane in “Passengers”