Two of the biggest stars in the Hollywood firmament, lost in space.
Those would be Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, lost aboard a humongous pinwheel of a spaceship in “Passengers,” spinning through the cosmos in suspended animation on a 120-year mission to a far distant world populated by colonists from good old Earth.
But wait! There’s a problem! Pratt’s character, Jim, is awakened 30 years into the mission, 90 years too early, due to a mechanical glitch.
Popping out of a sleep capsule seemingly imported from “Alien,” and discovering that out of the 5,000 passengers on board he’s the only one awake, he paces through long brightly lit corridors reminiscent of the Jupiter probe in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” gazes out at the vastness of the universe through enormous picture windows very similar to those found in Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine” — a most excellent, though underrated, sci-fi movie; you really ought to see it — and drops in from time to time at the ship’s impressive gleaming bar to chat with a robot bartender who looks like the twin of the mysterious barman Lloyd in “The Shining.” Oh, and the space walk gone awry? Could have sworn I saw that in “Gravity.”
The voyage through the galaxy thus turns out to be a tour through signature elements of movies far better than this one.
Under the uninspired direction of Morten Tyldum, “Passengers” feels like a void, devoid of energy and imagination.
Jim, terribly lonely and driven to desperate measures, is joined about a half-hour into the picture by Lawrence’s character, Aurora, who has been awakened in a manner not much to her liking. Romance blooms — a boy, a girl, starstruck among the stars. Until things, as invariably happens in movies like this, Go Wrong.
Next thing they know, the gravity is going haywire, the reactor is overheating, doom is impending. Hey, just like in “Star Trek”! Hey, where’s Scotty when you need him?
What “Passengers” really needs is the spark of genial snark Pratt brought to his performance as Peter Quill in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” His Jim has the personality of tapioca, utterly lacking in flavor. Lawrence’s Aurora is similarly free from fizz. As these two dullish people wander through the immense and very impressive futuristic sets, time slows to a crawl.
Those sets, though, are really something, particularly an onboard swimming pool with a view of the stars and the ship’s gleaming grand concourse, which buttresses the QE2-in-space vibe. Production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas’ work easily overshadows Pratt and Lawrence.
Overshadowing them as well is Michael Sheen, playing the robot bartender Arthur. His genial, slightly spooky smile and faultless welcoming manner dispel the dullness whenever he’s onscreen.
Under the uninspired direction of Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game”), “Passengers” feels like a void, devoid of energy and imagination. Near the start, distraught at being awakened so early in her 120-year slumber, a panicked Aurora shouts she wants to be put back to sleep. Watch this movie, dear, and your wish will be granted.
☆☆ out of 5
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne.
Director: Morten Tyldum.
Running time: 1:51.
Rated: PG-13, for sexuality, nudity and action/peril.