Reduced to butt-baring eye candy, Passengers feels like Chris Pratt was made to do a Game of Thrones-esque “Walk of Shame.” What’s that, Chris? You want to be a super-duper, dimple-chinned movie hunk? Bend over and bore us while your once-charismatic baby blues go fully dead inside. Now you’re a star! Passengers is space trash encircled with a misogynistic take-home message that requires spoilers to discuss. As a rule, I don’t do spoilers… but I am for this one (later) because screw Passengers and the “love your abuser” horse it rode to death and then repeatedly beat.
Pratt plays Jim Preston, who is the goddamn worst. He’s on a spaceship bound for a new colony and is accidentally woken up from hibernation 90 years early. This sucks for Jim, who is seriously the goddamn worst. The first hour is Castaway in space. Except director Morten Tyldum — which is a real name and not a penname designed to protect whoever perpetrated this hacky suckfest — doesn’t allow Pratt to deploy any of his profound likeability. So you get to watch a boring dick grow a beard for the first half of the movie.
Then Lawrence shows up. Her character is Aurora Lane, which is a precisely perfect name for a character who exists as a figment of the straight male gaze. The number of times Aurora is preposterously placed into situations where her clothes must come off would be appalling but quasi-impressive if it didn’t read like barfy “Red Pill” fanfic. This is gonna sound crazy, but the two fall in love, then have a problem, then work together and reconcile. Also, Michael Sheen is forced to watch all this shit as a legless robot chained to a bar. Presumably this is punishment for Sheen’s agreeing to star in the Twilight series.
Nothing works in Passengers. The premise is shut-yo-damn-mouth preposterous, the visuals are “Yeah, I’ve seen 2001 and every other sci-fi movie since, too” uninspired and the two leads are bound and gagged by the sadist caricatures they’re trapped inside. It is never charming. It is never clever. It is never sexy. And that last one is particularly important to reiterate. Why? Here come spoilers.
A little less than halfway through, Jim makes the decision to wake up Aurora from hibernation. He confines her to die on a spaceship with him because he thinks she’s cute. The naked message in the film then is “ladies, even if a man does literally the worst thing possible to you, forgive him. Forgive him or die alone like the sad spinster you fear becoming.” Nothing Jim could say or do could forgive this sociopathic action, but it’s only that much more insulting to women that he’s a boring nothing-person who is, for real here, the supreme goddamn worst.
Passengers is morally reprehensible and functionally inert. It is anti-entertaining and potent nightmare fuel for anyone who dares think women have agency outside of finding a nice man. A nuclear reactor failure factors into the climax of the film. I rooted so hard for that reactor failure. So hard.
This review previously appeared in The Reader of Omaha, Nebraska.
Half a star.