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If you've watched The Martian and Gravity, give Passengers a miss

Durga M Sengupta | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 5:46 IST

A film disappoints only when one expects much out of it. Passengers, therefore, doesn't have the capability to entirely disappoint.

Morten Tyldum's sci-fi space adventure lacks the energy required to identify with absolutely any one of those descriptors. But there's a lulling comfort to its lack of expression, much like the comfort Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) finds in a hibernating woman, aptly named Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) after the name of Disney's Sleeping Beauty, of course.

The entire film's weight rests on these two characters, initially passengers, later lovers. Barring an android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen), and a painfully short cameo by Laurence Fishburne, the lead pair are completely alone. In space.

If one were to examine the film's objective, it must be this - companionship. The duo are on a 120-year journey from Earth to Homestead II, an ideal planet, heaven itself. Their mode of travel is a spaceship called Avalon which is supposed to keep them in a state of hibernation in order to suspend time and ageing. Except, unlike the 4,998 other passengers on the ship, Jim and Aurora wake up... 88 years before they were supposed to.

Lost worlds

Imagine willingly giving up your family, friends, your entire life on Earth, your entire existence, for a different world. Remember, that even if you were to return the second you landed on the other planet, 240 years would've passed before you made it back home.

It's hard to imagine, but take a moment.

Now imagine waking up 30 years into this journey, unable to get back to sleep. Now imagine realising you're destined to die on this ship - of old age, loneliness, or madness.

That's the premise of this film, the huge burden its protagonists have to carry. And Chris Pratt, despite his acting chops, entirely fails to portray this harrowing realisation. Lawrence, though marginally more emotive, is also failed by a script that doesn't understand a moment of such utter finality.

Spoilers Ahead

Instead, much like the faulty spaceship in the film, the lead pair's moments of introspection, despite extreme turbulence, is almost too quickly fixed.

Yes, Jim grows a beard, and goes a little mad in the lonely setting in which the plot unfolds. And yes, Aurora's interactions with Jim do veer to the point of realistic confrontation, however briefly. But these moments of reality in the film are few and far between.

The resolution, as well, leaves a lot to be desired. The dissonance between what we learn about Aurora's reasons for being on the ship and her final choice seems more convenient than consistent. In an age where movie goers no longer expect the simplest, least conflict-ridden ending, director Tyldum has afforded himself less creative freedom than he could have.

Loss of Gravity

The film reminds one of Gravity, another sci-fi adventure where two people trapped in space have to save each other. Though Passengers can never match up to the visual appeal of Gravity, it is still a rather beautiful film to watch.

In one scene, the spaceship slingshots past a star which gloriously lights up the screen. In another, Jim and Aurora end the perfect date by flying out into space. Which, unsurprisingly, ends in some heavy making out and great sex.

Passengers borrows from films we've seen before quite extensively. In one scene, as in Gravity, Aurora must rescue Jim from getting lost in space after he gets untethered from the ship. In another, Jim plants a tree - again, all too quickly - inside the spaceship, instantly reminding one of The Martian.

Jim's loneliness can also be retraced to the subtly humorous The Martian. But unlike the other two films, when it comes to human emotions, Passengers falls flat.

Rating: 2/5

First published: 6 January 2017, 5:07 IST
Durga M Sengupta @the_bongrel

Feminist and culturally displaced, Durga tries her best to live up to her overpowering name. She speaks four languages, by default, and has an unhealthy love for cheesy foods. Assistant Editor at Catch, Durga hopes to bring in a focus on gender politics and the role in plays in all our interactions.