Imagine being trapped on a spaceship with only your lover and a robot bartender for nearly a century — there isn’t a spaceship big enough or a bar that well-stocked to make that sound appealing. This is the issue at the center of the sci-fi drama “Passengers,” directed by Morten Tyldum.
While romance is the intended effect, the film’s premise is imbued with creepy undercurrents about autonomy, consent and stalking. Yet these issues are breezily glossed over with the sex appeal of the stars, Louisville native Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt.
The spaceship is the Avalon, 30 years into a 120-year autopilot journey to a planet colony with 5,000 passengers on board, encased in pods that keep them in suspended animation. The pod of Jim Preston (Pratt) malfunctions after a meteor hits, and he wakes up 90 years early. The ship remains frustratingly on autopilot, and no amount of helpful robots can put Jim back into suspended animation.
So Jim partakes of the lavish accommodations the ship has to offer, which grow tiresome after a year. He descends into a suicidal depression until he spots the lithe figure of Aurora Lane (Lawrence) in her pod, and develops a crush.
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He checks out her profile, reads her writing (she’s a journalist), eats cereal next to her. Though he wrestles with the decision, he ultimately decides to wake up his dream girl, effectively dooming her to a life and death aboard this spaceship. Since he’s the only available guy around, they fall in love. Then Aurora finds out what Jim did and is enraged.
The quandary of being stuck on a spaceship with only your ex and a robot bartender (Michael Sheen) is tossed aside for high-stakes action as the ship starts to malfunction. As they troubleshoot the ship, the film takes on the tenor of a high-stakes version of trying to bypass an automated phone menu.
Ultimately, what could have been an intriguing premise, with meaty themes to chew on — time as a prison, class, colonialism, artificial intelligence — gets abandoned to focus on sexy space fun times, turning Jim’s morally reprehensible choice into a love story for the ages.
The film could have been something far darker and more complex. What if Aurora were the subject, not the object? Or if the story were told from her perspective?
Instead, it’s all French robot waiters and champagne cocktails and sex in the cafeteria. “Hell of a life,” Aurora admits, conceding that the space pool is pretty awesome if she has to be trapped here.
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, nudity and action/peril. 1:56.