Update: after the second viewing the film improved vastly for me; I liked the idea of the triumph of life in dire straits.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus reads, "Passengers proves Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence work well together - and that even their chemistry isn't enough to overcome a fatally flawed story." Mick LaSalle of The San Francisco Chronicle gave the film three out of four stars. He stated "despite the confinement and the limited cast, Passengers has moments of intense drama that take the actors to places of extreme feeling." James Dyer of Empire gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, stating the film is "as surprisingly traditional as it is undeniably effective." He described the film as "Titanic amongst the stars" and "a touching, heartfelt tale of loss and love for the Gravity generation." Peter Keough of The Boston Globe gave the film two and a half out of four stars, stating "perhaps as a well-written play for a cast of three, Passengers might have been first class. Instead, it's just another mediocre thrill ride." Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian called the film an "appealing sci-fi romance" but criticized the final act as an "anticlimax". He gave the film three out of five stars. Rebecca Hawkes of The Telegraph described the film as not a romance but "a creepy ode to manipulation", describing the action as a "central act of violence" that is softened and justified. Andrew Pulver of The Guardian called it an "interstellar version of social-media stalking" with "a fantastically creepy start" that, contrary to romantic comedies that manage to "plane down" the nastiness of stalking tactics, presents them in a way where "it's gruesomely inescapable". Alissa Wilkinson of Vox called it "a fantasy of Stockholm syndrome, in which the captured eventually identifies and even loves the captor" and "a really disturbing wish fulfillment fantasy".
"Passengers" never gets exciting nor intriguing during its running time. With a story that settles for human error and failure to handle technology via common sense, everything in "Passengers" becomes a bit stupid to be honest. The longing for love and the desperation of not being lonely in a more and more isolated world is for sure a current topic on a global scale, but is it intriguing in this outer space journey adventure? No, if you can´t find a thrilling way of doing it with actors that can portray it in a convincing way. Pratt has that sad puppy look throughout the film, while Lawrence handles her role a bit better in my point of view. Non of the characters grasp your attention and win you over. We can see inspiration from Kubrick in settings and environments in "Passengers", which is fine to me and feels like a nice homage to the late Kubrick. However, the clear inspiration and parallels to insanity developed via isolation from "The Shining" is not explored properly in the film which is not understandable as that would´ve been adding so much more to the film. The film has plot holes and not logic actions from the main characters that bothers you when seeing it. This film just trips on its own legs. "Passengers" is an easily forgotten film I am afraid to say.
Trivia: - The bar room is inspired by the bar room from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980). Similarities include: the bartenders are dressed in red tuxedos, carry themselves in a sophisticated manner, have a strange friendship with the lead male, are not concerned with payment, bartenders are unable to leave. In addition, the primary light source in the bar and lounge shines from below rather than above. Finally, a variation on the iconic orange and red carpet design from Overlook Hotel hallways can be seen in the seating area.
Ohh, damn it, it sucks to be right in this case! You could feel it in the trailer: the unmanageable tone, the space adventure wannabe mood and the dramatic ambivalence. When you see enough trailers, you become good at spotting them and this film confirmed every fear I had. Original stories are becoming scarce in Hollywood but if the original ones are going to be like this, I'd rather see Airplanes 3. But what makes this movie so average you ask? Maybe it's the tonal shifts, or the annoyingly passable music (and it pains me to say this as it was composed by one of my favorite composers, think WALL-E and Finding Nemo). More than that, it's the frankly weak script combined with Tyldum's direction. Structurally it feels wrong, the scenes don't breathe and everything that you already expect keeps happening just to rashly kick start the other bit that is completely different in tone to the previous one. Also, it's important for a director to know how to signal an ellipsis and in a time when everything has been tried, what do you do to show that some time has passed? Writing "1 year later" or growing a beard is simply not enough, we have to feel that the character has changed. In this movie, the characters don't change in accordance to what they are supposed to but WHEN they're supposed to. They both at some point lose their minds and I don't feel where they come from, I don't sense that some time has passed to let the atmosphere sink in and therefore I don't feel their romance or tension. Also the actors receive a dubious performance direction which is bizarre knowing they were directed by the guy who brought us The Imitation Game, a film that I love and that deals delicately with homosexuality and psychological havoc, being mainly carried by extraordinary portrayals. Yet, there are a few scattering scenes that do manage to grab your attention (I fairly enjoyed the bubble one), the set design is stunning and the visual effects do an efficient job. Also, Michael Sheen shines as Arthur and the plot glosses over some interesting positions. And, despite the misdirection, Pratt and JLaw are still magnetic and keep the story afloat. How do you know when it's not worth your money? When it's exponentially more fun on set...