BY ROGER THOMAS
There have been many films about people trapped in space. Some are true stories like “Apollo 13,” a great film about our nation’s space program. Then there are fictional stories such as “Gravity,” another fine film about being trapped in space, but not as powerful as “Apollo 13” because it tells a fictional story. We have also seen an astronaut stuck on Mars in “The Martian,” which was also a fictional story. All three of these films were nominated for best picture of their respective years.
This year, 2016, brings us another stranded in space film. The film is set in the distant future when people can be placed in pods where they will sleep and but not age for one hundred and twenty years. At the end of the journey they will awaken as they near a recently discovered planet very similar to our own. I am not sure about the science, but that is not really the point of the film.
A engineer, played by Chris Pratt, is accidentally awakened and spends more than a year on the station alone. He knows that he cannot live through the journey to the new planet and even if he did, he would be well over one hundred years old. So he decides to wake up someone else, a very attractive young woman who is played by Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence plays a writer, and Pratt’s Jim Preston only chooses her for her writing skills. Sure that is how he made his choice.
“Passengers” has one great strength. It is a beautiful film. The whole story is set on the space ship except when the two leads do space walks which happens a few times throughout the film. The sets of the interior of the ship are quite impressive. Some sets are large while others are much more quaint. I especially liked the swimming pool that had glass wall looking out to space. There are scenes of endless pods that hold the five thousand people being transplanted to the new planet. There is a huge dining room and small and intimate bar which has a very polite android bartender. Over and over again, the film impresses with the visuals whether created by set directors or visual effects specialists. But that is really all the film has going for it.
After Jim awakens Aurora, it is just a matter of time before she discovers that he woke her up and stopped her from living her dream. In the beginning, Jim lies and tells Aurora that her pod malfunctioned as his did. But of course, as in almost all films when the plot is based on a lie, the truth is eventually be revealed and everything will be altered.
The second half of the film offers nothing that comes close to what was offered before. Some events happen, and as with the first hour, there are some impressive moments visually, but there is little to make one care for this couple. They are in peril. Will one of them die? Both of them? Or will there be something completely different that changes the predictable outcome. I will leave you to discover which way the plot plays out. Just know, it left me lacking.
There is one other thing at the very ending that troubled me. Earlier in the film, Jim plants a tree in the middle of the space ship. By the end of the film, there is a virtual green house growing in the ship. Now I know from where the plants came, but I also thought I saw a bird among the foliage. From where did the bird come, or did I really see a bird?
That, among many questions, is why I found the film lacking.