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If you told me that two of Hollywood’s hottest actors and largest box office draws were making a space movie together, I’d probably probably tell the studio to make sure that they have enough armored car vehicles available to help haul out the sizable influx of cash that the movie would surely generate. Funny thing about sure things, are they ever really that sure? During one of the more prestigious timeslots of the year Sony has decided to go all in on Passengers. Less than one week removed from the massive release of another major sci-fi competitor, is the movie Milky Way large enough to accommodate two movies with their aspirations in the stars?

A spaceship called the Starship Avalon is heading from Earth to a far away colony to make a new permanent home for 5,000+ souls on this vessel. The ship’s inhabitants are safely tucked away enjoying a little 120 year snooze in a state of hibernation as the ship sails towards its final destination. Everything has been planned out to the finest detail and yet, there’s always seemingly something that goes awry. When Avalon experiences issues due to its treacherous long distance travels, the plot dominos begin to fall.

A malfunction causes one of the hibernation pods to prematurely awaken its occupant. Jim (Chris Pratt) is an engineer and all around handy guy. When he comes to he’s greeted by Avalon’s artificial intelligence system which welcomes him and also gives him a brief overview of how much time has passed and what to expect. He’s told that they’re in the final leg of their 120 year trip and he’ll have about four month to relax before reaching their final destination. Jim soon learns that something’s not quite right and becomes completely disheveled upon discovering that he has only been hibernating for a fraction of the time it takes to make it to the new colony. Even worse yet, he soon finds that he’s the only person that is awake. Unfortunately for Jim, being awake early isn’t the biggest problem he’ll face by far. If you’re starting to feel terrible for Jim for being all alone, don’t fret too much because eventually he’ll be in the company of fellow passenger, Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence). And that’s a whole different problem.

Depending on which previews/trailers you’ve seen for Passengers, your expectations of what type of film you’re seeing may vary. We can all agree on the fact that it is a sci-fi movie. Knowing this (and seeing the tv spots), one can easily assume that there’s also action. Where things start to branch off is when we get to the relationship part. In addition to everything else, this is also a romance movie. Director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game (2014)) has his hands full orchestrating a cohesive work with all of these different factors. Working with less than a handful of actors makes things even more challenging. Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)) has the skillset to entertain audiences on his own. His co-star, Jennifer Lawrence (Joy (2015)) is pretty the same way. Just to break up the monotony a bit, there is a third character that’s around pretty much from the onset of things. Michael Sheen (Showtime’s Masters of Sex) is the insightful, talkative bartender that serves as a friendly ear and confidant throughout. Oh yes, his character Arthur just so happens to be an android.

Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt do most of the heavy lifting throughout in Passengers but only seeing those two for a couple of hours would get old quick. Despite both being at the tops of their game, they cannot do everything. With that being said Michael Sheen adds a little variety to the mix. None of the actors are outstanding but each bring some pleasantries to the screen. Jennifer Lawrence is bursting with emotion throughout and gives a very nice change of pace to Chris Pratt offers. It should come as no surprise that he’s the funny smart ass that he’s been in just about everything. It’s really the acting that brings any sort of enjoyment to the movie. Everything else from the effects to the plot are just kinda there. While the story is deep and engrossing, it’s also kind of bland and boring during its “downtime” for lack of a better term.

The combined star power of Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt is not enough to keep this “event-less horizon” from feeling like it’s just lost in space. There’s no nice way spin the fact that Passengers just isn’t THAT good. With what each individual has accomplished in their separate works, you’d expect much more here. The overall feel is about as empty as the sprawling hallways seen in the movie itself. There’s not enough of a love story to satisfy the hopeless romantic and there’s nowhere near enough sci-fi action and intrigue to keep fans of that genre engaged. Skipping this journey, at least in its opening run, might be the wisest choice for potential viewers.

Passengers is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Carl Wheeler

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