Waking up from a cryogenic sleep to the sight of Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt doesn’t seem like the worst thing to happen in the universe — or at least, that’s what the misleading marketing for Passengers would like for you to believe.
In the trailer for this year’s outer-space adventure, audiences are fooled into believing two passengers — a lucky-to-be-there mechanic named Jim Preston (Pratt) and a high-class journalist named Aurora Lane (Lawrence) — are waking up from an induced hibernation 90 years too early while aboard a spaceship bound for a new planet. After the lovebirds accept their fate of growing old as they hurtle through the vastness of space, a shift in tone leads us to believe something has gone horribly wrong and perhaps there’s a greater reason why they awoke early: to save the remaining 5,000 passengers from grave danger.
Hardly a terrifying premise, this trailer got us excited about two of Hollywood’s biggest, most charming stars playing lovers in a sci-fi romance. However, what the trailer doesn’t tell you — and this could be considered a spoiler, but shouldn’t as it is essential to the film’s plot and happens within the first act — initially, only Pratt’s character awakens early.
Flying solo through space over the course of a year, Jim takes it upon himself to wake up the prettiest female passenger and rummages through her personal information to find out more about her, later to decide he’s in love with her. Thus leads Jim to awaken Aurora from her slumber to keep him company until the end of their days.
This secret kept from the film’s marketing makes this movie something else entirely. While it brings up fascinating questions on paper about fear of dying alone, never does Passengers explore that further or try to make Jim’s plight sympathetic. We see the playful couple’s romance take on a more ominous tone, especially when you consider Aurora is falling for a man who literally decided on her behalf that she would die with him in space after giving into a months-long obsession with her while she was asleep.
It’s unshakably creepy, and the movie makes a point to justify Jim’s actions. However, those of you with a brain to know you’re being manipulated by the filmmakers — Oh, it’s Chris Pratt. Swoon! — will label Passengers as a detestable, immoral movie.
Though Passengers is admittedly entertaining, it's hard not to walk away from this film feeling unclean. Striking production sets, charismatic talent and the potential for a juicy horror movie may keep our attention, but rather than diving into the deeper, darker conversation at hand, the film instead distracts us with a Titanic-esque action tale that deserves to be lost in space.
PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work on FreshFiction.tv. Follow him on Twitter at @PrestonBarta.
Rated PG-13, 116 minutes.