Published Dec 21, 2016In a calendar year that has already given us American Pastoral and Collateral Beauty, it's amazing to think that there are still other films vying to be the very worst of 2016. Enter Passengers, a hokey sci-fi rom-com with a premise so stupid that one can practically hear the uninspired studio execs pitching "Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence fuck in space" over a quick lunch meeting.
The pair of overrated A-listers star as two underwritten characters with first draft-worthy names. Pratt is Jim Preston, a muscly mechanic whose blue-collar skills inexplicably translate into a working knowledge of multi-quadrillion dollar spacecrafts. Meanwhile, Lawrence appears as the equally uninspired and horribly named Aurora Lane, a journalist whose cringe-worthy prose will make you wish illiteracy upon yourself.
Jim and Aurora are among the 5,000 passengers on the Starship Avalon, a massive (and poorly rendered) spaceship that's taking them on a 120-year journey to a new planet. Unfortunately, a malfunction leads Jim to wake up from his hibernation pod some 90 years too soon.
He spends a year of his life sipping whisky with a The Jetsons-like robo-bartender named Arthur (Michael Sheen, wasting his talents) and exploring the futuristic shopping mall of a spaceship (its interior has all of the creative depth and realism of a Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare DLC level). Eventually, he grows so bored, bearded and horny that he starts to obsess over a sleeping beauty.
Yes, you'll do a spit take from your Rogue One-themed Coca-Cola when you find out the film's central premise. Despite the trailers suggesting a romantic coincidence, things are far more sinister. Aurora didn't wake up early because of fate — Jim decided to tamper with her pod so she was forced to hang out with him. The two hit it off and, as promised, wind up boning all over the spaceship but, as is inevitable, Aurora eventually finds out about Jim's sinister meddling.
From there, the film is at a storytelling crossroads, where director Morten Tyldum makes all the wrong decisions. While it could have turned into a fascinating case study about consent, male entitlement and revenge, it instead turns into a disaster movie. Something has damaged the ship's central something or another, and it's going to blow if they don't do something about it.
Conveniently, Laurence Fishburne wakes up and happens to know exactly all of the missing information that Jim couldn't figure out with his mechanic skills (though again — it's truly shocking how much he knows about interplanetary space travel equipment). Before his 15-minute segment is over, Fishburne tells the two what they need to do to fix the ship in a moment with much the same cheeseball melodrama as a MacGruber bit (the SNL sketch, not the movie). Lest you forget you're being pandered to, there's even a scene where Aurora must remove her top in order to pull a giant lever, which has become hot to the touch.
Passengers looks like a third-rate Kubrick rip-off and combines dubious morality with the romantic dramedy of a straight-to-VOD Katherine Heigl movie. It's so audaciously bad that you almost have to respect it. At the very least, you'll be in awe of its terrible existence. (Sony)