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  • Jared Huizenga

'Passengers' is an unbalanced disappointment

There are generally two types of movies that get released in December: the ones that are expected to generate serious awards season buzz and big budget blockbuster types that want to cash in on the holiday season and moviegoers having spare time.


Given its cast and promise of sci-fi action, I had high hopes that “Passengers” would fall into the former. Unfortunately, after a promising start, it turned into much more of the latter.

Red alert on the Avalon for Jim (Chris Pratt) and Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) in Columbia Pictures’ “Passengers.” (Photo by Jaimie Trueblood. © Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved. **ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED)

In “Passengers,” 5,000 earthlings and 200+ crew members aboard the Avalon – a state-of-the-art spaceship that will transport them to their new home on the planet of Homestead II. Due to the length of their journey – 120 years – the cast and crew have been placed into hibernation, scheduled to wake up only four months prior to arriving at their new home.


Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), a mechanic from Colorado, is the first of the colonizers to wake up. The problem? A mechanical malfunction caused his hibernation pod to wake him early … 90 years early.


With no other living being awake on board the ship, Jim befriends Arthur (Michael Sheen) the ship's robot bartender.


Over the course of a year, Jim tries to put himself back into hibernation – to no avail – and ends up learning as much as he can about the Avalon, partakes in every social event at his disposal and starts verses himself on his fellow passengers – namely Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence). With crippling loneliness threatening to destroy him, Jim makes the difficult decision to wake Aurora up to join him on his journey.


While things start out hunky dory, it doesn't last as Jim's decisions come back to haunt the pair, while nature and technology threaten to destroy them.

Chris Pratt stars in Columbia Pictures’ “Passengers.” (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures © Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved. **ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED)

Here's the thing about “Passengers”: it's simply not a very good movie. For some reason, however, I enjoyed it a whole lot more than I should have.


The film's 110 minutes are actually split pretty equally. The first half (approximately) is actually quite intriguing and the film shows a whole lot of promise. The characters are interesting, the idea of being trapped in space alone for the rest of your life terrifying, the tension palpable.


Then all of a sudden it was like a switch got flipped and everything went downhill. The already semi-preposterous story gets even more far-fetched; the effects, while cool to look at, were pretty ridiculous; and the characters went from interesting and engaging to boring and stale.


I think the only reason I enjoyed the movie even a little bit is because of Pratt and Lawrence. These are two of my favorite actors and they had a bit of on-screen chemistry. They were funny, they were endearing and they were likable … until that midway point.


The visuals are also nothing to sneeze at. The Avalon is an impressive structure and some of the “exterior” shots of (digitally-created) outer space are glorious. But after the midpoint, they seem to be making up for the lack of story and it simply gets to be too much.


If you're a fan of Pratt and/or Lawrence, or sci-fi(ish) films, “Passengers” is probably worth a watch, although it might be best to wait for home release.


★★1/2 of ★★★★★