Passengers is hard to categorize: it happens in space – on a space ship – but it’s not exactly a space opera or a space western; there is action, but not enough to be labeled an action flick; there’s romance, but it’s not overwhelming (though it is occasionally sentimental). I can get down with that mix.
Set in the near future, Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, as Jim Preston and Aurora Lane respectively, are passengers on their way to Homestead II, a colony 120 light years away from Earth. Much too soon, there’s a malfunction and they find themselves outside of their hibernation pods.
The small cast allows for character depth and development and, most importantly, moral peril. First, the movie invites us to understand these characters and even though I didn’t want to, I found myself caring what happened to them – hand-gripping-the-armrest type of caring. Even in the movie’s more predictable moments, my investment overrode my I-know-this-movie-trick cynicism which was surprising to me-the-cynic, and really nice for me-the-audience-member.
Because we end up knowing the characters well, the choices that they are forced to make and the questions they ask themselves take on extra import. They launch those kind of post-movie conversations that mindless action movies don’t. Which is to say this is actually a good romantic or platonic date movie: there’s a few sexy moments (if you’re into that kind of thing) and a lot of thought provoking ones so see this movie with a nerd, go out to dinner after, and discuss.
All in all, I liked it. It’s not Oscar material (Chris Pratt was really good and manages to make sadness charming), but worth the watch…
… that said I was intermittently distracted while I watching it. I couldn’t shake the image of the Jenifer Lawrence describing in great detail how she used sacred rocks in Hawaii to scratch her ass.
Maybe that’s petty, but even if it is, it’s still true. In the moments where her character accesses that White (Woman) Privilege, I was jolted out of the movie to that video.
Overall the movie is decidedly not awful, which is obviously more than I can say about at least one of its stars. Also in the not awful category is the design. I really enjoyed the ship itself. The exterior design managed to convey the feeling of immenseness needed for me to suspend my disbelief and buy into the idea that this vehicle was transporting over 5,000 people. It was a departure from the Star Wars/ Star Trek aesthetic that is so ever-present. The interior was futuristic without feeling like the lovechild of The Sixth Element and The Jetsons.
The ship, the plight, the choices the characters make all feel possible, even likely. That alone makes it worth the watch. I’ll definitely watch it again when it hits streaming or cable. Hell, I’d see it twice if Jenifer Lawrence would do some volunteer work in Hawaii.