So far it has been a good couple of years for science fiction. The Martian, Arrival, Interstellar, and Star Trek Beyond are great examples of new material that epitomize the essence of the genre. More often than not do we see movies that are science fiction in name only, using similar elements as an excuse for nonsense. Every once in a while there comes the genuine article that reminds me of why I love the genre so much. Was Passengers more great science fiction or should I have watched Assassin’s Creed instead?
While aboard the starship Avalon on their way to a new planet 120 years away from Earth Jim and Aurora, played by Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, wake up 90 years too early. As the try to deal with the inherent existential crisis, problems begin to arise throughout the ship that they must fix to keep everyone else alive, and stay on course.
That whole paragraph is as much a lie as the trailers. Whatever you thought Passengers was is entirely the opposite once you sit down to watch it. I cannot explain the nuances without spoiling key moments. It helps knowing nothing about what really happens going in. What I will say is Passengers takes a compelling look at human cooperation and purpose with its premise and characters.
Apart from that, the film is quite unremarkable. Its closest counterpart is Pandorum, an indie horror thriller about cryostasis. The aesthetic is also very unoriginal with bright lights and sleek metal sets pulled from A.I., I, Robot, and a lot of other science fiction from the past decade-and-a-half.
As tradition dictates, the characters are subject to logic and a set of rules. The Avalon is more of a luxury cruiser than a transport where only certain passengers are allowed privileges and access to different parts of the ship. Jim and Aurora are civilians, so they cannot go to ship personnel areas that would help their situation. A large portion of the first third is spent establishing how everything works before they are confronted with challenges.
On that note, Pratt and Lawrence were superb. They played off of each other rather nicely with their combined charisma. Pratt brought more humor and naiveté where Lawrence kept the film grounded with a measure of seriousness and cynicism. Their interactions inform each of their character’s shortcomings, making them all the more compatible.
Passengers may not be the next big thing, but it is good science fiction. It has everything one would expect and does it very well, despite being more overhyped than Destiny and Titanfall. If you want to see something besides the heartless, passionless Rogue One, look no further.