If I had to spend the rest of my life on a super-luxurious starship with the only human company being Jennifer Lawrence, I guess that I can think of worse fates — even if recent interviews rather suggest that she may not be the brightest bulb in the box.
The Starship is the Avalon and it has 5,000 passengers in suspended animation for the 120 year voyage to the colony planet of Homestead II.
In captions reminiscent of the opening to Ridley Scott’s Alien this information is given to us in bites, but just when I was settling back to enjoy I realised that the guy waking early was Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), indicating that we were in for a less-than-serious science-fiction outing.
Well, what harm? I enjoyed my serious S-F offering last month with Arrival and don’t expect to see it bettered any time soon.
But at that point I didn’t know that I was about to be held underwater and drowned in charm. Preston knows that he’ll be dead long before the ship ever reaches its destination, but there is never a real sense of despair about him. Try though he might, Pratt still comes across as his character from Guardians of the Galaxy.
We skim rather quickly over the iffy ethical question of him waking up a beautiful fellow passenger with whom he has fallen in love. This is Aurora Lane (Lawrence) and he watches over her as she lies unconscious – Sleeping Beauty-like — for months on end. Finally, he decides to wake her in order to share his loneliness. Without telling her, of course.
Needless to say, they fall in love, although just as I never forgot I was watching Chris Pratt the actor I likewise never believed in Aurora as a real character.
The star of Passengers is without doubt the Starship Avalon itself. The designs and images of this astonishing vessel deserve to be reproduced in a huge coffee-table book. It is simply magnificent and is surely the most beautiful space vehicle ever shown in a film.
And amongst its many, many delights it contains what is certainly the ultimate ‘infinity pool’, which also features in the film’s most breathtaking sequence.
Michael Sheen plays an android barman, reminiscent of Floyd in The Shining, with whom Preston shares his thoughts during his first solitary year; and Laurence Fishburne appears as a ship’s captain in one of the most shameless examples of a deux ex machina I can recall in a modern film. He literally turns up to perform one function and that’s it.
The writer should be hanging his head – and that worthy is John Spaihts of Prometheus and Doctor Strange. Not unfamiliar with dodgy plot elements, so.
Passengers is directed by Morten Tyldum who gave us the superb The Imitation Game a couple of years ago.
And what the hell happened to Andy Garcia? Did I blink and miss him? I hope he wasn’t shunted aside for an extended cut, although I doubt that there will ever be one – whilst admitting that I would watch if there were another ten minutes purely of the Avalon.
This wonderful and elegant creation alone made seeing the movie worthwhile for me. If only such astonishing work had been in the service of a better story.