Susan Granger’s review of “Passengers” (Columbia Pictures/Sony)
It’s a terrific sci-fi premise: Two passengers on a 120-year journey on the immense, ultra-luxurious spaceship Avalon emerge from their hibernation pods 90 years too early.
Along with 5000 paying passengers and 258 crew, they’re headed for a distant colony on a planet called Homestead II, which offers a ‘promised land’ alternative to “overpopulated, overpriced and overrated Earth.”
After a damaging asteroid strike, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) emerges from cryogenic sleep. Roaming around, he realizes that he’s the only one awake – with just a genial bartender, an android named Arthur (Michael Sheen), for company.
Jim is a mechanical engineer, so he spends a full year trying to remedy the situation – to no avail.
When he’s almost suicidal with loneliness and desperation, Jim finds another awakened passenger, a beautiful New York writer, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence). Naturally, a romantic relationship develops but it’s built on a deception which, inevitably, must be revealed.
To tell you the subsequent turns and twists would spoil the suspense.
Existentially written by Jon Spaihts (“Prometheus,” “Dr. Strange” and the upcoming “Mummy”) and helmed by Norwegian director Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game”), it’s filled with profound moral and philosophical dilemmas. Indeed, this provocative, character-driven screenplay was featured in the 2007 Blacklist of the “most liked” unmade scripts of the year.
In addition, it’s well-cast with remarkably innovative visual and production design, including an automat-style cafeteria, excellent CGI, and Aurora has a sleek travel wardrobe to-die-for. It’s obviously no coincidence that Aurora is also the name of the title character in Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty.”
Unfortunately, disappointment settles in during the concluding act, which seems to have been adjusted by a focus group that demanded some spectacular action/thriller sequences.
FYI: Years ago, when Weinstein owned the project, Keanu Reeves was slated to star with Reese Witherspoon, then Rachel McAdams. But that didn’t pan out. So Sony’s Joe Rothman cast likeable, bankable Pratt and Lawrence.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Passengers” is an absorbing 6 that, sadly, squanders its compelling castaway concept.