Don’t you hate it when the movie trailer practically gives away most of the movie? That is exactly what happened with Passengers, the latest science-fiction opus that Hollywood somehow managed to produce and unquestionably reviewed demographics in advance to feel confident that this would be a cinematic blockbuster. What director Morten Tyldum and screenwriter Jon Spaihts seemed to have forgotten is good science-fiction requires wisdom fiction. There is no thought-provoking lesson to be learned from a movie canvas consisting primarily of CGI, even with the talents of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. For a younger generation that believes science-fiction is defined by the Star Wars franchise, such celebrity eye candy is worth two hours of diversion from a world heavily populated by social networking and iPhones. But in this movie the real world is devastated and only the wealthy can pay to be transported to a new colony and live their remaining years in a self-made Shangri-La. But when Chris Pratt, a mechanic, is accidentally woken prematurely and discovers he will die before the ship reaches his destination, he must make the most of it. And if the movie trailer intrigued you enough to want to see the movie, beware… you saw 90 percent of the film wrapped up in two minutes.
Chris Pratt plays the lead role taking up 70 to 80 percent of the screen time, sharing co-starring duties with Jennifer Lawrence in half. The story unfolds through the view of Pratt’s character, not the four-time Oscar-Nominated actress who certainly deserved more — if not equal — time as the actor. Pratt was Pratt but Lawrence made the best of what she had to work with and for a short time, I felt sorry when her character discovered the truth about her situation (no spoilers here). But then again, the talents of Lawrence Fishburne and Andy Garcia are completely wasted in Passengers, consisting of less than six minutes of total screen time through the entire picture. Michael Sheen plays Arthur, the robotic bartender, who delivers every word of dialogue with perfection as only a robotic bartender would be programmed. Sheen proves that with Tron: Legacy (2010) and the Twilight Saga that he performs best with colorful characters that require more than makeup and personality. He really should get more roles like these. When his robotics start to break down, I found myself feeling more sympathetic towards his character than humans Pratt and Lawrence.
But talent cannot save a movie where the premise, summed up in one sentence, takes two hours to tell and towards the end you have to question first grade physics. So Jennifer Lawrence requires taking a shirt off in a room heating up from a reactor, to be able to pull down a handle too hot to the touch without getting burned, but she can lean against the metal control panel in the same room without feeling burnt?
Basically, Passengers is a love story but the motif is clearly drawn out on the first day of Screenwriting 101. Passengers leaves me as empty as the space ship that remained crew-less for two hours.