It’s one thing to have a great, original concept, particularly when under the umbrella of the science-fiction genre where anything is possible – but the hard part is ensuring the idea behind the narrative is multi-layered, complete with a beginning, middle and end, and a satisfying sense of closure. In Morten Tyldum’s Passengers it’s the latter where the feature suffers, with an underwhelming final act that leaves this film as an undoubtedly great concept, but nothing more.
Aboard the Starship Avalon are five thousand people, embarking on an 120 year voyage to a new planet to colonise, as Earth is over-populated. With each passenger deeply asleep in a hibernation pod, set to open four months before they reach their destination – there’s a malfunction following a meteor collision, and Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) are woken up prematurely, with 90 years to go. With only the droid barman Arthur (Michael Sheen) for company, the pair must find a way to escape this ship, or fix their pods, otherwise they’ll die on this aircraft, years before they arrive at their new home. But as the only two humans around, it’s safe to assume that love is in the air.
The opening act to this feature makes for compelling viewing, particularly in how flawed a lead role Jim is, with certain acts reprehensible to say the least. Still, isn’t it lucky for Hollywood that the first pod to malfunction out of thousands just happened to belong to an attractive, thirty-something, charismatic white dude? What are the odds! Though here’s a film that when pedantically examining, there are many flaws and plot-holes, so it’s worth just sitting back and lapping up the experience as a film that has an unwavering commitment to its entertainment value, which comes as little surprise where Tyldum is concerned. He even made maths sexy and thrilling in The Imitation Game, so a film set in space with two stranded individuals is a walk in the park on the suspense front. However the design of the ship, though realistic in terms of the world being depicted, is almost too lavish and spacious, to a point where we don’t truly get a sense for the claustrophobia, and in a film where tedium should be rife, it all seems rather pleasant and homely.
Nonetheless, Passengers is perfectly enjoyable blockbuster fodder, with accomplished lead turns and a great simplistic set-up, albeit one that is let down by the needlessly convoluted pay-off. So while the more cynical filmgoer would attribute this film’s release being so close to Rogue One as an early excuse mechanism if box office figures disappoint – the film isn’t actually too bad, and worth going to see too. As well as Rogue One, I should add, probably not instead of.