Star-Lord and Mystique made a sci-fi film. There, I got my snarky, asinine, comment out of the way and feel happy with myself. In fact, I’m giggling to myself. Yes, “Passengers” is a sci-fi film, and it does star Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt who have previously roamed in the Marvel Universe, but it’s more than that.
It’s an enjoyable story about Jim Preston (Pratt), who climbed aboard the Starship Avalon looking for a second chance on a new planet. Well, Preston and about 5,000 other souls do, but they’re not the important part. The Avalon is a top of the line space craft that is carrying its passengers from Earth to Homestead 2, but something goes wrong mid-flight. Preston wakes up around 90 years early due to a system malfunction and he is all alone in outer space. There are plenty of stories that start with a similar set-up: “The Demon With A Glass Hand,” is the classic
“Outer Limits” episode that leaps to mind. If you’ve never seen it and call yourself a fan of sci-fi, you need to find it now. Seriously, stop reading this drivel and find it; we’re talking first-class writing. I digress.
Not wanting to be alone, Preston finds company in the lovely and talented Aurora Lane (Lawrence) to keep him company. The pair have a solid on-screen chemistry and spend time with Arthur (Michael Sheen) a robot bartender. Something about Preston’s interaction with Arthur reminded me of Jack Nicholson in “The Shining,” chatting with Joe Turkel in the snow-drenched lodge bar. Not exactly sure why I did, but it seemed very similar to me. Pratt and Sheen have a rapport that is not easy to describe. Suffice to say it is amusing viewing. Back to “Passengers” though,
again, I digress. The couple explore the ship, which is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to dining options and nifty things to do and see.
Preston and Lane spend time in the bar, exercise, shoot hoops, watch movies and even have a Dance-Dance Revolution game to pass the time. Preston works on the ship when things break down, Lane writes about life. There is even a moment when Preston sends a robot to ask Lane out. Depending on how cynical you are, you will either find the sequence adorable and charming, or saccharine sweet and pointless.
The script by Jon Spaihts is strong and has comedic and romantic moments that justify viewing. There is an amusing moment when Preston sends an email to customer service that will take 18 years to arrive. Gus (Laurence Fishburne, good as always) shows up in the second half of the film with a brief, important, role. Director Morten Tyldum captures the vast beauty of space and the intimate relationship of two people alone in the middle of nowhere. The pool sequence with Lane swimming are practically worth the price of admission by themselves.
No spoilers, no more plot points, no more talking about “Passengers.” Just go see it, enjoy the movie for what it is: A sci-fi film with twists, a handsome couple figuring out a new reality as it unfolds in front of them.