‘Passengers’ Hits a Dead End

‘Passengers’ takes an unconventional perspective on the future of space travel, only to leave it drifting in the wake of star-crossed lovers and dead space.

Director Morten Tyldum reaches for the stars with ‘Passengers,’ yet doesn’t exactly reach high enough.

Photo courtesy of Steven Zang.

What does it take to be lonesome? This holiday season, director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) invites audiences to stretch their boundaries of isolation with Passengers, an oddly-familiar endeavor into the mysterious unknown. Like the emptiness of the galaxy, there is an unfortunate void in this blockbusting original that feels unfulfilled by the likes of textbook charm. Creativity in a genre subjected to assembly-line franchises is given the sentiment of a Nancy Meyers rom-com. Worst of all? Such emotional ties distract us all from the sheer potential of this visionary voyage.

The Avalon is 30 years deep into its 120-year crusade towards Homestead II, a second-chance planet for roughly 5,000 yearning passengers. Nevertheless, as each stay tucked away in their designated hibernation pods, one distraught traveler is woken too early. Mechanic Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) searches for meaning among the desolation, spending a year on his own among the luxury starship.

That is, until he selfishly wakes up Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawerence), an alluring novelist that catches Jim’s eye. A love blossoms between the two, despite the weight of Jim’s definitive secret. Nonetheless, when the Avalon starts to experience bizarre technical difficulties, the two discover a fatal truth that puts the other passengers (and their relationship) at imminent risk.

The one advantage of Passengers is the genuine performances by the cast. Both Pratt and Lawrence deliver the sincere side of seclusion with such ease, that there’s a graspable human element to the monstrous size of this space flick. Not to mention, several other familiar faces make worthwhile appearances that just add another peg to the film’s steady foundation.

Still, Passengers could dig deeper. It falls into an archetypal black hole that seems to suck the originality right from under its feet. The surface level can only look so shiny before the audience really begins to want more. Even Pratt and Lawrence can’t resuscitate this malnourished tale, leaving it to pick from previous big-budget scraps.

“A decent love story that should have had more food for thought,” said Andrew Stahl, Hackensack native and local film buff. “Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence fight for their love, but I was hoping for something more. Just felt a little let down, I suppose.”

In the end, Passengers plays it safe among the stars, sparing itself from any type of shock-appeal or imaginative wit. If anything, it just goes to show: never judge a book by its cover. Or even a film by its concept.

Passengers is now playing in select movie theaters worldwide. Some local venues include AMC Clifton Commons, AMC Essex Greens and even Bow Tie Bellevue Cinemas in the heart of Upper Montclair. For a list of even more theaters and show-times, visit fandango.com and plan your next trip to the big screen today.

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