By CYNTHIA BIDDLECOMB
“Passengers” is compelling science fiction, complete with ethical dilemmas, cool looking technology and true romance.
It stars Chris Pratt (Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy) and Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss in Hunger Games) as two of the 5,000 passengers and 278 crew on board a huge, colony-bound space ship.
We learn that Jim (Pratt), a mechanical engineer, got a discounted trip since he has a skill set needed on the planet. Aurora (Lawrence) is a journalist hoping to write a book about her experience; apparently she can afford the most luxurious amenities on board. She speaks about the importance of “story” to inspire people.
In the end, it is Jim and Aurora’s story that will inspire the colonists when they wake up.
Good science fiction needs a plausible context and this story has one. The ship is operated by a corporation in the business of ferrying people from Earth to inhabitable planets where they will help colonize and exploit resources (from which the corporation will make further profits). Believable, right?
The trip will take 120 years at half the speed of light, so all 5,000 humans are in suspended animation, in pods that support extended hibernation. They will be awakened by the crew four months before arriving at the planet—enough time to enjoy all the amenities on board the huge cruise ship. The ship itself is automated with robots and androids, programmed to keep everything running, or to diagnose technical problems and fix them. It is all supposed to work like a charm.
But, a collision with an asteroid 30 years into the flight causes enough damage to start a cascade of technical problems. Pod failure caused our heroes to be woken up early. The rest of the passengers and crew seem not to have been affected. So for 90 years, they have the run of the ship and all its luxuries, but will not live long enough to reach the planet. We know there is a systemic problem with the ship; in time they learn of it too, and nearly die saving the ship from a complete melt down.
Now that you know they survive, you can enjoy the romance that takes place, the clever android bar tender, the available activities on board, and how the two main characters survive to fix the ship. The action in the film is extremely tense at times. Add to that an apparently insurmountable difficulty in the couple’s relationship. But the threat to their survival ultimately brings them together.
Passengers is “Rated PG-13 for sexuality, nudity and action/peril,” so it is not for younger children. Action-adventure addicts may find that the story moves too slowly. But, those who like stories with both adventure and complex relationships, may find the story quite satisfying. Science-fiction fans who enjoy seeing imagined future realities will appreciate the one painted by this story.