Passengers: An unsatisfying Castaway in space

I kept wishing Passengers were a book. It’s a grand premise, a scope so expansive that necessitates the complexity of detail that can only be found in the descriptive pages of a novel. A starship, on auto-pilot mode, is on a hundred-year-journey to a new colony planet, with thousands of passengers hibernating on board. Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), however, wakes up to the horrific realisation that he’s woken up 90 years ahead of time, due to an anomaly in the ship. The hibernation pods aren’t designed for reuse. This is Castaway in science fiction universe. Jim’s prolonged period of isolation is on a starship, amid the company of thousands of people in hibernation. The best bits of the film have him and another passenger, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), courting each other on the starship. It’s the ultimate wish-fulfilling romance for a sci-fi fan. A romance that’s about swimming in an infinity pool—and the phrasing takes on new meaning, when you consider that the pool comes with a view of space. A romance that’s about wearing a space suit and hopping out of the aircraft for a brief stroll amid the stars. A romance that’s about having a drink at the starship bar and making conversation with the android humanoid waiter. The special effects are wonderful, from something as expected as Tron-like lights switching on and off automatically to the complicated design of the starship itself. So long as Passengers remains about the romance, it bursts with an ethereal quality.

Passengers
Director: Morten Tyldum
Cast: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Lawrence Fishburne
Storyline: Two passengers, sleeping in suspended animation, are awakened 90 years too early when their ship malfunctions

However, sadly, it soon gets found out. The premise of the whole romance is deeply disturbing, something akin to the fatal flaw of Dr. Mann in Interstellar. It needed an exploratory discussion over the very nature of right and wrong. But Passengers is concerned more about resolving the technological anomaly that is destroying the ship. “We’re in a sinking ship,” as Aurora dully puts it. It’s concerned more about the improbable transitioning of Jim, a mechanical engineer, into an aerospace engineer. It’s concerned more about the chief deck officer (Lawrence Fishburne) and his terminal illness. Instead, I wished Passengers had persisted with the subject matter at its heart, the romance between Jim and Aurora. I wished it had concerned itself with the discussion about how we are plagued by the need to seek companionship. I wished it had delved in detail into their romance in isolation, and whether or not, this over-exposure comes to hamper their relationship. I wished Passengers were a book.

This review was written for The New Indian Express. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to this page if you’d like to share this review.

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