‘Passengers‘, based on a screenplay by Jon Spaihts, and starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, is out in theaters everywhere today. It ultimately was a let down of sorts. The original screenplay, at least at the time of reading it, seemed highly captivating and intense enough to where you felt it could really make a home-run of a feature film.
This is a story that puts two main characters up against some pretty remarkable odds and when reading the screenplay three years ago, I could feel the tension, edginess and overall emotion that was packed into this story. It seemed destined to make a hell of a film, let alone a great sci-fi flick. But, it really fell flat from the get-go for several key reasons. In the meantime, consider this your spoiler alert……………………………………….
In the beginning of the film, the Starship Avalon, is heading towards a new Earth for its passengers called “Homestead II.” However, the ship incurs quite a bit of damage thanks to having to travel through a pretty granular asteroid field. The end result is the character Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) ends up having his cryo-tube woken up far too soon on the 120 year journey. As he connects the dots and realizes he was the only passenger of 5,000 people that was woken up early, this is really where the film stumbled for me. You see, this is right when you should feel the sheer tragedy of this character recognizing he’s got 90 years to go and will be unable to jump back into his cryo-tube in order to stave off the aging process. When reading the screenplay it was easy to visualize the horror this guy was going through, but in the context of the movie we see a collage of scenes that come off as hokey and a little too “cute” given the gravity of his situation. On top of having Pratt’s character look like he had the same beard Tom Hanks had in Castaway, that plus the fact it almost seems as if the director wanted this segment to have some humor to it, took me right out of the believability that Jim was in deep, deep shit at this point in his journey.
Once Jim decides that due to sheer loneliness he needed to awaken another passenger named Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), what originally read in the screenplay as this deep bond forming between the two people, really just came off as a run of the mill love story that simply wasn’t executed as good as it could have been on the big screen. That isn’t a discredit to Lawrence or Pratt’s acting ability as much as it’s a fault of the director not crafting a different intensity from scene to scene. Perhaps this film needed to have some of that Danny Boyle, David Fincher or Christopher Nolan gravitas to it. Regardless, something was indeed missing from these proceedings and it was a major pisser for me (and probably many others who read the original screenplay) because I felt the foundation was there to make a great movie.
Additionally, I’ve read that some people were really turned off by the character motivations of Jim to wake up Aurora against her will. Well, then perhaps this aspect should have been explored a little more. Maybe Jim’s character should have been made a little darker and less “Chris Pratty” happy go lucky which could have lent itself to more tension throughout the picture. Who knows? Maybe? Maybe not? Either way, by the final act of the movie, any of that momentum I felt building while reading the screenplay was shot out of the airlock– No pun intended:)
Bottom line, wait until it hits the home video market or streaming services. It pains me to say that but this film was the prime example of how important it is to have the right director and “vision” to make the written words on paper properly come to life on the silver screen. Nuff said.
2 out of 4 stars