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Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt

Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt

“PASSENGERS”  My rating: C

118 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

The problems plaguing the futuristic “Passengers” can be crystallized in the film’s mutating marketing campaign.

For months the film’s trailer has sold a story about a century-long intergalactic space flight during which two passengers — played by Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt — awaken prematurely from hibernation.

Faced with a lifetime with just each other (their thousands of fellow travelers will slumber on for another 90 years), these two must fashion a new existence for themselves — Adam and Eve in their own mechanical Eden.

This week a new “Passengers” ad campaign hit our TV screens. It’s selling the film as a sci-fi romantic comedy.

Am I the only one who smells desperation?

In truth, “Passengers” is more interesting than either approach suggests. But having established a crushing moral conundrum as its premise, the filmmakers don’t know what to do with it.

Jim (Pratt) is among 5,000 passengers and 250 crew members snoozing their way to a colonized planet on the other side of the galaxy. He awakens from his slumbers to be told by hologram guides that the ship has arrived at its destination.

Except that the arrival is actually 90 years in the future, and Jim has the vast ship to himself. His sole companion is a robot bartender (Michael Sheen) programmed only for small talk.

Like Robinson Crusoe, Jim is overwhelmed by loneliness. His beard and hair grow shaggy. Though he is a mechanical engineer, he cannot put himself back to sleep or interfere with the ship’s automatic functions.

Even an SOS sent back to Earth will require 55 years for a response.

And then, another passenger, the beautiful Aurora (Lawrence) awakens in a way I won’t spoil, but the issues it raises spoil the movie. (more…)

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