Spaced out stinker Passengers, which has been pushed hard by marketing its two big stars, is a confused and altogether empty fantasy that takes place on a huge ship careening through deep space.  Isolation, love, companionship, stalking—all enroute to a newly inhabitable planet?  Why not?

The kind of bad movie only really talented people can make, Passengers is directed by Morten Tyldum, who gave us the terrific British period spy picture The Imitation Game. Why was he the logical choice to helm a multimillion dollar Hollywood special effects picture? Go figure.

But there is plenty of blame to go around, starting with the insipidly misguided screenplay, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Picture opens with more than 5,000 colonists heading to a new planet named Homestead II (wouldn’t you know?) when the ship, in its opening sequence, encounters trouble.

How? You guessed it—the gold old asteroid belt, which causes such trauma that one of its passengers wakes up some 90 years early. Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is initially incredulous, then tries to make the best of it by befriending both the coffee machine and an android bartender (Michael Sheen—yes, really) while shooting hoops to stave off loneliness. Jim is a guy who no longer “fits” on Earth, the type of goodhearted dude who builds things with his hands and has been moved out of an ever-evolving techno workforce. Right.

A would-be ethical drama presents itself when Jim, in his loneliness, considers suicide. Instead, he awakens another passenger to keep him company. This hideous act, which essentially represents the sealing of her fate and certain death aboard the ship before it reaches its destination, is presented as romantic fantasy after Jim has reviewed her online profile ad nauseum and somehow fallen in love. It’s like Tinder, except in the void.

Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) is, at first, understandably miffed, giving Lawrence the opportunity to go for those big emotions she so loves. But eventually she settles into it and—not kidding—falls in love with Jim, an endorsement of every stalker’s playbook. Soon Aurora, a journalist, is writing a book about this extraordinary experience and making lemonade out of it, playing house with increasingly creepy Jim.

Yet another malfunction awakens the man in charge, Chief Deck Officer Gus (Laurence Fishburne), who doesn’t last long. Passengers follows with a series of attempted fixes and escapes, and a nifty pool with a view of the cosmos that features Lawrence in a swimsuit before the water loses gravity and floats. Fun.

The big climax trots out a scene that is a mainstay of every movie like this—Jim goes outside the ship to make a fix, is endangered but able to redeem his previous stalker activities and Aurora to confirm her love.

Despite decent effects, cinematography and art direction, Passengers is a seriously confused movie, and one that manages to be derivative and without a single spark of chemistry between two good-looking, talented stars.

Pratt, playing it straight, actually believes in the love story. Bless him. Lawrence is given almost nothing to do. And Andy Garcia turns up in a bizarre, final scene cameo—saying nothing—suggesting heavy edits must have removed him from the rest of the picture.

A waste of time in all regards.

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