Passengers is a tale that has been around for a good long while. The script originally appear on the Black List of best unproduced screenplays way back in 2007 and has previously has stars like Robert Downey jr, Keanu Reeves and Reese Witherspoon attached.
After most of 10 years in some form of development it’s now on the big screen as a $100 million sci-fi romance blockbuster with superhot stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt.
And it’s pretty interesting in its opening strains, with a proper sci-fi setup - what would you do if you woke up with 90 years left on an interstellar journey, with the realisation that you’ll never reach your destination alive?
Writer John Spaihts (Prometheus) and director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) tease out these elements as the characters go through their stages of shock and awe to something else beyond. That’s an interesting perspective on an impossible problem.
It’s also a rather pretty thing, thanks to some fanciful ship designs by Guy Hendrix Dyas and Rodrigo Prieto’s crisp lensing. Those leads aren’t ugly either and Thomas Newman’s twinkly score brings out the wonder and the romance but fares less well when things get high octane.
There are things to like here but Passengers is far from an unqualified success. There are fundamental elements of the storytelling logic and character actions which caused my brain to bristle and a strange lack of imagination when it comes to exploring the ramifications and possibilities of the world which has been created. I could hardly keep from shouting suggestions for better plans at the screen while things went further and further awry.
Pratt and Lawrence are fine but their chemistry is more forced than felt. With some questionable decisions it's hard to really engage with them as characters, making the strained peril of the final act feel less engaging than it might.
The main problem with the film is that it plays things so safe, even deviating from Spaihts’ original script. It wants the sci-fi, romance and drama but can’t commit to the darker and more potent elements lurking at the edges of the screenplay.