The Bock’s Office: ‘Passengers’ a sci-fi feature fueled by star power |

The Bock’s Office: ‘Passengers’ a sci-fi feature fueled by star power

Jim and Aurora (Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence) must make a difficult decision in "Passengers." The movie is about a spaceship carrying thousands of humans for colonization of a new world, in which two people wake up decades before arrival.
Courtesy Photo

If you go...

“Passengers,” rated PG-13

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 116 minutes

Starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen and Laurence Fishburne

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

A first date that involves a spacewalk, swimming in zero gravity, a robot in a red blazer — the science-fiction romance “Passengers” truly has it all in its telling of lovers who are literally star-crossed. Or rather, crossing stars.

If you go…

“Passengers,” rated PG-13

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 116 minutes

Starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen and Laurence Fishburne

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

In the near future, Earth is a thing of the past. The home planet to billions still exists, but anyone who’s anyone is making their way to other options in the universe, colonized worlds ready for habitation.

The move is a big commitment with a voyage of 120 years in store for anyone onboard, though nearly all that time is spent in hibernation pods. With 5,000 civilians slumbering peacefully, one of them gets an unexpected early wake-up call only 30 years into the journey.

Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) finds himself alone on the starship Avalon with the ship’s artificial intelligence unable to recognize that a malfunction has occurred and a man has been doomed to spend his entire life roaming a huge, empty vessel.

Try as he might to make the best of his situation, Jim’s months of solitude amount to crippling loneliness as he longs for someone, anyone to be with him.

His wish eventually comes true when a female passenger named Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) is awakened early, but even as the two grow close through their shared circumstances, recurring mechanical issues aren’t the only things that pose a threat to their happiness, as well as all the souls onboard.

Big as he’s been as an action hero lately, Pratt still has a knack for playing an average Joe — in this case, average Jim — an unassuming, blue-collar guy whose hopes of starting anew in a place called Homestead II are wiped out thanks to space debris that makes its way through the Avalon’s shield and sets a whole chain of events in motion.

Well, even Titanic couldn’t stand against an iceberg.

His technical know-how at least comes in handy as he adjusts to the prospect of being by himself by helping himself to the accommodations reserved for elite passengers. Still, any morning brew other than plain coffee is reserved for Gold Class folks.

Lawrence is impeccable as ever as Aurora, a writer who also gets more than she bargained for with her sudden awakening, her plans to put together a book about her new world and then hop the first flight back home no longer in the cards.

But, hey, designated soul mate could be worse.

Though they may have plenty of food and entertainment at hand, Jim and Aurora are basically castaways, and while Tom Hanks may have had to craft his own companion, an android bartender named Arthur (Michael Sheen) provides more conversation than Wilson the volleyball ever did.

Just don’t ask him to keep a secret. Or present him with a paradox.

Sci-fi tends to get a bad reputation for being an unapproachable genre in which emotion takes a backseat, and it’s a relief to see something that explores the human condition without betraying the tenets or resorting to cheap drama.

Well, at least not as cheap as it could be.

Any romance that’s based on necessity is a hard sell, but Pratt and Lawrence truly make you believe their characters might have ended up together if not for, well, you know.

Screenwriter Jon Spaihts could have structured this story several ways, and though the end result is far from groundbreaking, its straightforward approach works far better than the ridiculous climax that might have been.

Even so, with no shortage of movies and TV shows about men who are alone against the elements, it’d be worth it to see this from Aurora’s perspective more than Jim’s.

Director Morten Tyldum follows up “The Imitation Game” with a safe crowd-pleaser, designed to throw a few flashy-but-not-too-futuristic visual effects in our faces while allowing autopilot to do most of the work.

“Passengers” benefits from two leads who have proved repeatedly they can make weak movies better, and the combination of such talents is just good sense. How did nobody put together Star-Lord and Katniss Everdeen until now?

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

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