Review / ‘Passengers’ (M) ** and a half

IN 2011, Sandra Bullock was Oscar-nominated for her role in “Gravity” as a medical engineer, alone aboard a space-craft dying of malfunctions. I doubt that Jennifer Lawrence will match that for her role in ”Passengers”. 

Starship Avalon is carrying 5000 fare-paying passengers and 250 crew to the distant planet Homestead 2. Each is lying deeply comatose in personal custom-built, fail-safe capsules on a voyage that will take 120 years. Why? They are colonists. What motivated them? Our little planet has become over-priced, over-populated and over-rated. And while nobody explicitly says so, over-weening in its notion of self-importance.

When a small heavenly object collides with Avalon, it wakes engineer Jim (Chris Pratt) in economy class. For several earth-years, Jim is the only mobile object on the ship. Fortunately, bar-keeper Arthur (Michael Sheen) has an endless stock of whisky. How come Arthur is mobile? He’s an android with bags of style and a limited vocabulary.

Boredom eventually depresses Jim so he wakes gold-class passenger Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) for company. They take several earth years to consummate the inevitable bonk. And we learn why Arthur is there. It is not to wreck Jim’s kidneys with all that whisky; it is to keep Aurora from learning that Jim woke her because he was lonely.

To that point, “Passengers” is pleasantly dopey, mildly comical and uncomplicated by any perceptible dramatic purpose. A crew member Gus (Lawrence Fishburne) wakes early. And I start thinking about the corny old joke that goes ”This is your captain speaking, welcoming you aboard the maiden flight of this new model airliner. We have the latest systems to ensure your safety and guarantee that on our journey, nothing can go wrong… can go wrong… can go wrong…”

Written by John Spaihts and directed by Morten Tildum, “Passengers” becomes a reprise of the hairy old space-craft disaster plot. As fictional entertainment, “Gravity” did that better. As a recreation of a real-life near-disaster, so did “Apollo 13”.

At Palace Electric, Dendy, Capitol 6

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