More noise than signal


Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

As a colony ship makes the hundred odd year journey between Earth and their new home, it batters through a large asteroid field that’s a little more than its shields can handle. Most of the damage appears to be repaired by automated systems, but one hibernation pod is beyond saving. At least the occupant Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) isn’t killed by this malfunction, just woken up too early.

Unfortunately, about eighty years too early, or something like that, which is a different kind of death sentence. After exhausting all possible avenues to either put himself back to sleep or gain any kind of external help, the time delay involved putting paid to that, he settles in to a period of mounting insanity, his only companion Michael Sheen’s robobartender Arthur.

As part of his growing mania he fixates on one fellow passenger, journalist / writer Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), and having eventually being driven to the brink of suicide he makes the fateful decision to wake her up, claiming it to be another accident. After a period of adjustment, the two actually grow close and things are going swimmingly for ol’ Death Sentence Jim, until the truth comes out, with Aurora having the appropriately furious reaction.

So it would seem to be going for eternity, or near as damnit, until another pod malfunction spits crew member Gus Mancuso (Laurence Fishburne) out, although doesn’t do too great a job of it, laving him terminally ill. He survives just long enough to grant access to areas of the ship previously off-limits, like a sentient key-card from a video game, and discovers that the ship’s actually on the verge of falling apart, and that Jim and Aurora must work together to fix the Space Cam Shaft or something to stop the ship from melting.

Another B-movie concept someone’s stuck a hundred million poker chips on, Passengers is, if not a busted flush, at best one pair. While it looks the part, the special effects teams having done very well, and Pratt and Lawrence are capable actors performing capably, the film entirely under-examines the only reason this film is interesting.

Jim’s decision to rouse Aurora ought to be the only thing this film discusses, in great and forensic detail. Instead you’re luck if it’s mentioned for five minutes totalled between the waking up and being angry about it, and then it’s back to the special effects buffet.

Not good enough, and while I can see a way in which you could properly present Jim’s decision as understandable enough to provoke some sympathy for him, this script doesn’t bother. Net effect: Jim’s just a murderer. With that as your lead character, it’s very hard to buy into his struggle.

That, and pretty much entirely that, rather does it for the film. There’s an awful lot of people that’s worked awfully hard to make this film, but overall, it’s just awful. It’s very shiny indeed, but that’s not distracting enough to hide the moral vacuum at the heart of it. Hard pass.