By Esosa Omo-Usoh
Typically, the premise of Hollywood sci-fi movies takes the form of one of two possibilities; it’s either aliens have lost their home planet on account of some naturally occurring catastrophic event and are now looking to take over earth, or earth has been decimated by some man-made catastrophic event and man is now looking to populate another planet.
Although the movie did not state that earth had been decimated by man but in Passengers, the latter is the premise of the movie as a colony of 5000 men and women sets out to inhabit a distant planet called Homestead II.
These space voyagers are in a state of induced hibernation aboard a massive spaceship automatically set on course on a 120-year journey to Homestead II. Thirty years into the journey, the spaceship runs into a meteor shower that causes a glitch aboard the ship which in turn awakens one of the would-be colonists, Jim Preston (played by Chris Pratt ), prematurely from his hibernation pod.
He soon realises he has woken up almost a century too early, a reality that is further exacerbated by the fact of certain death that awaits him before the ship reaches its final destination.
Left to his own devices with only the company of an android robot bartender whilst the ship hurtles through space, he chances upon a female would-be colonist still in hibernation and is smitten instantly by her sleeping beauty visage and her back story from a recorded video interview he finds on board the ship.
Conflicted by a moral dilemma, he spends a year mulling over thoughts of whether or not to wake her up from hibernation. In the end, it’s the devil with the forked tongue and arrow-tail on his left shoulder and not the haloed angel in white soutane on the right that wins the moral battle.
It is at this point that the movie, for me, loses the trajectory of its journey and free-falls into the contrived self-indulgent mushiness that Hollywood deploys when it is too lazy to think.
Up until this point, Passengers promised a grand voyage into the uncharted vastness of space aboard a magnificent spaceship. Then, from the point Jim Preston awakened Aurora Lane (played by Jennifer Lawrence) from her hibernation, the grand journey promised quickly became a boring and predictable albeit improbable love story that would have been best suited for the saccharine-fuelled rom-com genre rather than the sci-fi genre of movies.
The plot/story lines were as conveniently contrived as some of of the happenstances were improbable and a cop out. Granted the movie is a sci-fi which allows certain latitudes and liberties but the idea that people will wake up from a 30-year hibernation without muscular atrophy and clothes and make-up all intact just pushes the bounds of believability to utterly ridiculous. And who goes into a 120-year hibernation (or any hibernation at all) wearing lipstick as Jennifer Lawrence’s Aurora Lane apparently did).
And it just beggars belief that Chris Pratt’s character wakes up from a 30-year hibernation with barely a 5 O’clock stubble whilst Lawrence Fishburne’s character wakes up from virtually the same length of hibernation with full-grown beard neatly groomed.
And if, as the movie explains, the 5000 colonists were expected to be awakened from hibernation four months before they arrive their destination, why did it seem like the android robot bartender had already been tending the bar long before Chris Pratt’ character was awakened by a glitch?
The movie makers expect us to swallow without question the fact that the brilliant minds who built such an elaborate piece of machinery as the spaceship conveying 5000 colonists on a 120-year journey through space didn’t envisage the possibility of those in hibernation being prematurely awakened and make adequate preparations for such eventuality.
Passengers declares that it is on a journey to conquer a new world and invites the viewer to climb aboard its impressive spaceship and be prepared for a mind-blowing adventure into space.
Unfortunately, no sooner is the viewer strapped in as a virtual passenger than it becomes clear that whilst the journey promised a big bang, what was delivered was a predictable and underwhelming whimper.