Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is a passenger on a colony ship headed for the distant planet of Homestead II. When his hibernation pod malfunctions, waking him up 90 years too soon, he finds himself doomed to live and die alone with a bartending android providing him with something not quite like human companionship.
That is the promising beginning of “Passengers.” It’s a promise soon broken.
A paint-by-numbers script transforms an interesting idea into a generic genre flick, doing a disservice to the film’s talented cast and solid cinematic execution. There is hardly a scene in “Passengers” that hasn’t already been done better in a dozen other movies.
The worst offender is the central romantic storyline, which is taken wholesale from teen romances like “She’s All That,” “10 Things I Hate About You” and at least half a dozen others.
In a fit of desperate loneliness, Jim wakes Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) from hibernation and leads her to believe her pod, like his, malfunctioned on its own. Aurora discovers Jim’s deceit, becomes outraged, but ultimately reconciles with Jim because that’s how this plot of convenience has always worked.
The romantic storyline has worse problems than triteness, though. It seems to exist to justify Jim’s selfish and stalkerish behavior.
While Aurora is in hibernation, Jim routinely observes her without her knowledge: visiting her pod, watching videos of her and reading stories she published before embarking on the journey to Homestead II.
By the time he wakes her, Jim knows more than enough about Aurora to make himself attractive and appealing, even though Aurora describes herself and Jim as the last two people in the world who would ever be a couple. Jim seduces her while continuing to hide the fact that he’s the reason she will die in the vast emptiness of space, alone except for him.
After Aurora breaks off the relationship, Jim refuses to give her space or reflect on what he’s done to her. Instead, he sets himself up in the ship’s security room where he can watch Aurora’s every move and demands via the inescapable voice of the ship-wide loudspeakers that she listen to him.
In the hands of a more honest writer and a more honest director, “Passengers” could have been a tense thriller about a man obsessed. It could have at least been an honest exploration of the moral implications of Jim’s behavior. Instead, the screenwriter makes a hero out of Jim despite his villainous behavior, and the only option he gives Aurora is to settle down and make the best of her situation with the man who has doomed her.