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Family Movie Review: Passengers (PG-13)

Kernel Rating (out of 5): whole-popcorn-kernalhalf-popcorn-kernal

MPAA Rating: PG-13        Length: 116 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 14+. This film’s “romance” is dangerous for teen viewers, with its male “hero” essentially stalking and then lying to the female protagonist; when she falls in love with him, it’s clearly Stockholm syndrome, and it shouldn’t be marketed as positive for impressionable young audiences. Some kissing, implied nudity, and sex scenes; Chris Pratt’s naked butt on a couple of occasions; some infrequent cursing; adults drink to drunkenness; characters die; and some violence and scary situations.

‘Passengers’ has star power in Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, but this is an irredeemable film, infuriatingly conflating obsession with love. Neither stimulating visually nor thoughtful narratively, ‘Passengers’ is a must-pass movie.

By Roxana Hadadi

Passengers ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReview“Passengers” has had a hard time marketing itself—some commercials are portraying it as a romantic comedy, others play up the space-thriller aspect—and that confusing PR strategy is because this is a movie with a fundamental flaw: It is stupid.

In the same vein as “Twilight,” “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and other movies about women falling in love with their stalkers, “Passengers” attempts to pass itself off as an exciting romance in which two of the world’s biggest movie stars, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, fall for each other. But “Passengers” is, frankly, terrible, a movie that fails to commit itself to anything other than convincing its viewers that a woman should settle for any man who is even vaguely nice to them.

It’s not an invigorating action movie or a frightening space thriller; the special effects are like cut scenes from “Gravity”; and the actually interesting subplots mentioned—like how planet colonization is big business, a sort of interstellar capitalism—are promptly dropped. “Passengers” devotes nearly all of its runtime to encouraging you to sympathize with a selfish man who makes an unethical decision regarding a woman’s life, and that misguided storytelling makes the film ultimately unbearable.

“Passengers” is set entirely on the spaceship Avalon, which is headed from Earth to the colony planet Homestead II. The journey will take 120 years, during which hundreds of crew members and thousands of passengers will be kept in hibernation while the ship is in autopilot, only to be awaken four months before they arrive at Homestead II.

But after a meteor shower, various parts of the ship begin malfunctioning—and mechanical engineer Jim Preston (Pratt, of “Jurassic World”) is woken up in his pod, the only person to do so. With 90 years to go, it’s certain that Jim will die on the ship before ever reaching Homestead II—and he’ll do it alone.

For a year, it’s just Jim on Avalon, wandering the ship, failing in his attempts to wake up the crew, and having only android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen, of “Alice Through the Looking Glass”) to talk to. But one day he sees Aurora Lane (Lawrence, of “X-Men: Apocalypse”), a writer from New York City, and he’s immediately obsessed: looking up her passenger profile, watching all her interviews, and reading all her work.

“You find the perfect woman, right in front of you, and yet she’s completely out of reach,” he tells Arthur. But in no time at all, he’s decided to wake her up, even though that is essentially sentencing her to die on the ship, too—and when he does so, he lies to Aurora, saying her pod also malfunctioned.

As soon as Jim begins to lie to Aurora, you can guess where “Passengers” is going to go, not only because the script is lackluster (“There’s no secrets between me and Jim,” Aurora says to Arthur) but because the action half of the movie is so tacked on.

“Passengers” could have been the same movie if Jim and Aurora had legitimately fallen in love, but this is a narrative that in the span of minutes has Aurora describing what Jim did to her as “murder” and then tearfully proclaiming that she can’t live without him. How she so fully transforms from someone who is rightfully horrified and disgusted by what he’s done to her to a woman who not only forgives him but loves him regardless is simultaneously superficial and offensive storytelling. Plus, the film’s constant need to undermine Aurora—to have her say things like “I’m a journalist, I know people” and then have Jim poke holes in her professional expertise—limits her to the beautiful girl who Jim willfully took advantage of, denying her of the opportunity to be anything or anyone else.

“That must have been so hard for you,” Aurora says to Jim when she learns of how long he was alone on Avalon. What’s actually challenging, though, is sitting through “Passengers” without flying into a rage. This is a garbage movie, and one that irresponsibly encourages the exact wrong kind of message about love.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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