Jon Spaihts
Written by

Movie Review


Written by: Jon Spaihts

Directed by: Morten Tyldum




Think Gravity slamming headfirst into When Harry Met Sally. Throw in some Interstellar and The Last Man on Earth, and you’ve got yourself a sappy space romance brimming with potential. Except, of course, all potential is obliterated when one realises that Passengers is rooted in a sloppily written screenplay.


Written by Jon Spaihts, Passengers unfolds onboard the Avalon: a passenger starship that is on its 120-year journey to Homestead II, a utopian colony on another planet. With over 5,000 colonists and crew sleeping soundly in hibernation pods, the ultramodern vessel is on autopilot when disaster strikes. As the result of a malfunction, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) scrambles out of his pod, only to realise that he has awoken 90 years too soon.


Jim is depicted as a salt-of-the-earth mechanic whose solitary situation slowly pushes him over the edge. Alone on the ship, Jim befriends Arthur (Michael Sheen): a likable android bartender. Arthur provides some light comic relief, keeping the pace from slipping into a dull lull as the protagonist struggles to find some semblance of normality. Eventually, Jim meets journalist Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) – a lively addition to the ship’s despondent atmosphere.


Chris Pratt is surprisingly good, portraying Jim’s sincere sorrow and tangled affection with reasonable charm. Not for the first time, Jennifer Lawrence alternates between underwhelming and overplayed – a performance that will likely make one unwilling to sympathise with her plight. Nevertheless, Lawrence and Pratt share a passable onscreen chemistry that grants their romance some appeal.


While the two passengers struggle to come to terms with their situation, audiences are introduced to some stunning production design (Guy Hendrix Dyas) and a haunting, evocative musical score (Thomas Newman). Set decoration (Gene Serdena) and special effects (Ironhead Studio) further enhance this experience, creating a mixed atmosphere of both desolation and extravagance. Costume (Jany Temime) and makeup (Vivian Baker) are apt, if not unoriginal. Of course, one would expect that these elements come together to create a terrific film. Unfortunately, Passengers is anything but.


The crux of the plot hinges on a decision that one character must make without the other’s consent. Jim Preston makes a disturbing choice that will forever alter Aurora Lane’s life. This action is then justified and over-explained in an attempt to quickly placate outraged viewers. For director Morten Tyldum, Passengers is a strange departure from 2014’s The Imitation Game, and, while the third act positively shines with his keen direction, the film falls flat as a whole.  


Not much can be said of Passengers’ purpose. It is not a deeply philosophical story, nor is it a science-fiction narrative. There is no lesson to be learned; no mystery to unravel; no real character development. It isn’t necessarily boring, but it is a terribly shallow journey that centers on a lazy, deficient storyline. Morally questionable choices and forlorn, alcohol-heavy spirals into depression, then love, and depression again, lend the film a rather gloomy pace.


While it is certainly a great-looking film whose visual effects deserve recognition, Passengers is a misguided attempt at weaving romance into sci-fi action, making it an average endeavour and an overblown marketing venture. Considering Spaihts’ work on Prometheus, it isn’t much of a surprise that this heavily promoted film is about as interesting as oatmeal. Passengers is, simply put, a lovers’ spat in outer space. There is no depth, no core, and certainly no journey to embark upon the Avalon.

   Tina Mohandas

Tina Mohandas is a songwriter, musician, tattoo artist, vintage motorcycle collector, and animal rights activist. Having conducted several successful events in London, she is the founder of Inferno Events in India, and co-founder of Bikerhood India. Currently writing her debut fantasy/sci-fi novel, she hopes one day to free every caged animal in the world..

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