Passengers – Waking Up Ninety Years Too Soon

Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) is a writer after a great story. More than 5,000 people will ride the Avalon Starship into deep space where they will take up residence on a colony planet called Homestead II. There’s a hitch. Because that trip will take120 years, the passengers will avoid aging by hibernating in pods. Aurora has signed on for the journey so she can write a book about her adventure. After she reaches Homestead II, she plans to return to earth, ostensibly to have her book published. Talk about a long-range publishing plan!

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Aurora’s strategy may not make much sense (who can imagine how much earth will have changed in 240 years? Books? What are they?), but Lawrence can somehow make even that zany premise intriguing. Of course, the best laid plans…One of the pods malfunctions, and Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), wakes up ahead of schedule. His only companion is the bartender, a charming droid named Arthur played by Michael Sheen. (Sheen has recently announced that he will put his acting on hold to focus on political activism. Hopefully, he won’t be gone for too long because his performance here is delightful.)

The Avalon is a luxurious vessel, similar to one of those huge cruise ships. Besides a large comfortable cabin, Preston is able to enjoy the gym, a swimming pool with an awe-inspiring view of space, a wide range of electronic games and entertainment, dining facilities, and, of course, the bar maintained by Arthur. But nothing can replace human companionship. Like Adam, Preston needs an Eve. Having come upon the pod occupied by Aurora (in a wink-wink, to the fairy tale, Aurora was the name of Sleeping Beauty), he wrestles with whether he should wake her up.

Passengers

He spends some time debating the issue with Arthur, but doesn’t need much push to make up his mind. An engineer (his trip was paid for by the Homestead people because the planet needs settlers with technical skills), he quickly figures out how to program Aurora’s pod so that she will wake up. She’s devastated to learn that she won’t reach Homestead and, like Preston, will spend the rest of her life on the ship getting old.

Trying to make the best of a bad situation, the two spend their days enjoying what the ship has to offer – playing basketball in the gym, watching films, swimming, even donning space suits and enjoying a gravity-free walk among the stars. Nights are spent enjoying cocktails at Arthur’s bar and then dining in the cavernous restaurant. Aurora believes that her pod malfunctioned like Preston’s did. Now that she’s fallen for him, will the truth doom the relationship? If so, it will be a long, long trip.

Chris Pratt; Jennifer Lawrence

A second pod does malfunction, one carrying a crew member, Gus Mancuso, played by Laurence Fishburne. His arrival is well-timed since mechanical problems threaten to destroy the ship. What exactly has gone wrong is hard to discern, but the special effects are impressive. Aurora and Jim must work together to save themselves and everyone else on board.

Jon Spaihts, whose credits include Dr. Strange and Prometheus, first wrote the script for Passengers in 2007. The trade press described the film as being in “development hell,” for years with Keanu Reeves and Emily Blunt lined up to star at one point. Morten Tyldum, nominated for an Oscar for The Imitation Game, signed on to direct the film in 2015.

The film falls into the sci-fi category, but Tyldum reportedly wanted the film to be character-driven. Having  two very popular and likable young stars playing the leads is a plus. There’s a story behind that casting. Lawrence, who learned she was paid less than her male co-stars in the Oscar-nominated American Hustle, has been outspoken about pay inequality in Hollywood. When approached to star in Passengers, she held firm. As a result, Pratt was paid $12 million for the film, while Lawrence was paid $20 million.

Photos by Jamie Trueblood courtesy of Columbia Pictures

About Charlene Giannetti (698 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. The film is now available to view on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other services. Charlene and her husband live in Manhattan.