I have always enjoyed Passengers. But now, during this ‘new normal’, not only do I believe that the 2016 movie starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence was ahead of its time, but the emotions that the characters feel throughout the narrative are more relevant than ever.
Set in a sleeper ship named ‘The Avalon’, transporting 5000 colonists and 258 crew members in hibernation pods to relocate humanity to a new planet, an asteroid collision damages the ship causing it to malfunction and unfortunately waking up one passenger – Mechanical engineer James ‘Jim’ Preston played by Chris Pratt. Jim awakens from his slumber 90 years too early. Stuck in an unprecedented situation of isolation while everyone else remains asleep, Jim experiences a dive of emotions from confusion, loneliness, depression, anxiety, to even visiting suicidal thoughts.
When Jim starts crushing on fellow passenger Jennifer Lawrence’s character Aurora Lane, his outlook on life soon changes, going through another round of emotions from unrequited love to heartbreak due to Aurora still being in hibernation and him unable to meet her.
Once Jim makes the irreversible decision to awaken Aurora, the two, as he predicted, hit it off quite quickly. It isn’t long before the they become fast lovers. Everything appears perfect, like as if their two worlds accidentally collided. But Jim and ship android Arthur played by Michael Sheen know differently.
With a small cast, the only other notable addition to the film is Lawrence Fishburne as Gus Mancuso, the ship’s chief deck office, who appears as an authoritative but neutral needed mediator between Aurora and Jim’s somewhat turbulent relationship.
Pratt and Lawrence work surprisingly well on-screen together, but their on-screen chemistry is more of a slow-burn than an instant electric connection. I believe that more time could have been spent on their relationship and exchanges, had the film taken the time to linger on the struggles on-board The Avalon. I also believe wittier humour could have been injected at opportune moments throughout the film. With a star-studded cast, I know that all of this would have been capable with their combined caliber. Passengers was hindered despite its fascinating concept, due to somehow still playing it safe.
Despite the above, I still enjoy and like this film. Sure, it may not be scientifically sound with the number of events that go wrong in space, but in regard to the emotional journey that the characters go through in this character-driven space romance, Passengers is spot on. I can completely understand why Jim woke Aurora up. I admittedly would have done the same, if not more. The film also displays humanity being too dependent on technology, with the characters not capable of human contact when things first go wrong.
We, as humans, depend on each other and although we do need our personal space and solitude at times for our mental health, we are a species that thrive better when we are together.