Hollywood hasn’t always had the best track record in its depictions of romance. Beyond the obvious ageism and sexism, its most prevailing misdemeanour is romanticising the kind of behaviour that, in real life, would get you thrown in jail. Stalking, lying, gaslighting, strapping on a trench coat and blasting a song from a boombox outside a girl’s house in the early hours of the morning – all is completely fine, even admirable, according to the romcom-maker’s handbook. Which is why it’s saying a lot that Passengers – the film that finally unites goofy superstars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence – takes the cake as the weirdest, most uncomfortable depiction of romance in years. It is almost awe-inspiring in its poor judgement, a car crash shot with the benign indifference of a perfume advert.
Pratt plays Jim Preston, one passenger out of five thousand on board a spaceship destined for a distant Earth-like colony. Due to a technical malfunction, he’s brought out of hibernation 90 years too early; with the prospect of spending the rest of his life on a ship with only robot bartender Michael Sheen for company, he predictably goes insane. Then Jim makes a decision. This may be considered a spoiler, but it is rather a dutiful correction to an advertising campaign as deceitful as Jim himself. After considering suicide, he sees beautiful passenger Aurora Lane, and gets to know her through video logs; after much fretting, he decides to bring her, too, out of hibernation.
Quite frankly, this is an unforgivable move, as he makes the decision to sacrifice Aurora’s life in order to augment his own happiness. In a different world, the moral implications of this would be dissected, and Jim would be treated as the villain that he so clearly is. Yet Passengers is a multi-million dollar studio project, so has to have its cake and eat it too. While the sanitised, dull cinematography makes the feature often resemble its own porn parody, Pratt and Lawrence do have quite nice chemistry – it’s a wonder they haven’t been together in a movie before. But they are so completely, utterly wrong for this material. Pratt is too likeable and puppyish to make his actions seem plausible, whereas Lawrence would never sell out her gender in the way she’s asked to do here. There are shrugging attempts to deal with, to justify, to redeem Pratt’s creep of intergalactic proportions, but it’s hopeless, it’s all hopeless. The audience is simply left to wonder how a film with this script ever got made.
Passengers is released nationwide on 21st December 2016.
Watch the trailer for Passengers here: