Let me get this out of the way: Passengers is bad. Beyond the horrific, misogynistic setup that attempts to make Stockholm Syndrome sexy, the movie (which has been in development hell for the better part of a decade) is just plain dull. Everything about it—from the easy casting of its titular lovebirds, to the cobbled-together set design of its ship, to its yawn-inducing set pieces—is uninspired. The trailers for Passengers famously (to me) didn’t know how to sell it, because Passengers is a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be. A romcom or a sci-fi thriller? Campy or serious? It doesn’t even have the good sense to be a bad movie that’s fun to watch, it’s just a movie you can’t wait to escape. So instead of seeing Passengers this weekend, save yourself the money (and frustration) and just read this detailed plot summary of Passengers instead.
We begin on the Avalon. It’s a futuristic ship modeled after futuristic ships we’ve seen in better movies that’s 30 years into its 120-year journey to a recently colonized planet called Homestead II—which is a lot like Earth, only with a Yosemite National Park clone stamped all over the entire thing. While hurtling through the usually empty vacuum of space at the speed of, oh, let’s say sound, the Avalon oopsies its way through an asteroid belt that its fancy fusion-powered shields is unable to properly... shield. So the alarm bells go off and a big daddy asteroid plows into the Avalon and busts the most important parts of the ship just enough to cause a single hibernation pod (out of over 5,000) to malfunction. The man assigned to the newly busted pod is named Jim (Chris Pratt). Jim is a mechanic who longs for the good old days when men fixed broken stuff instead of robots fixing stuff, the stuff fixing itself, or just dumping the broken stuff and buying new stuff. I don’t understand this particular character trait, as this movie is set too far into the future for Jim to plausibly remember a time when humans were needed to fix stuff by hand, but hey, I’m no screenwriter.
When Jim wakes up, he is confused. Where is everyone? Why is the only person I can talk to a robot bartender played by Michael Sheen? Oh, he realizes, the pod broke and woke him up 90 years too soon. And whoops, the pods were thought to be failsafe and cannot be re-entered. Basically, he’s doomed to die on this ship well before anyone else wakes up. After grappling with this harsh reality, Jim asks the robot bartender for advice. The robot bartender says something like, “I don’t know, enjoy your time on the ship while you can.” It is here that the contemporary remix of that Elvis song “A Little Less Conversation” begins playing. Yes, that version you’re thinking of. Jim plays a Dance Dance Revolution ripoff with some holograms, wolfs down food from the ship’s fanciest restaurants, and stops shaving. After roughly one year of montaging, Jim decides that the ship’s many delights are no fun when alone. So he wanders into the spacewalk chamber and contemplates having a little less conversation, and a little more suicide. Unable to pull the trigger (or, in this case, a push a button that opens a hatch that would suck him out into space), Jim returns to the room filled with hibernation pods, trips on an empty liquor bottle, and falls at the foot of a pod inhabited by a woman named Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence). After looking at her sleeping, might-as-well-be-dead face, he becomes hornier than he’s ever been. This is the Passengers idea of a meet-cute.
After looking Aurora up in the passenger log (she’s a writer), watching some videos of her explaining why she’s traveling to Homestead II (she wants to write about it), and reading everything she’s ever written (literacy is sexy), Jim decides to break her hibernation pod so the two of them can fuck until they die. Then, presumably after masturbating, he decides not to. But then he gets horny again and thinks, “Fuck it! I’ll wake her up and tell her it was an accident!” Because he is a filthy misogynist AND an idiot, he tells the robot bartender his plan and asks him to keep it a secret. So off Jim goes to Aurora’s pod. He twists a phillips-head, crosses a few crossed wires, and ZAP! She’s awake, and (fingers crossed!) ready to fuck.
Jim meets her and is like, “Hey. Pod break?”
She’s like, “Yeah. What’s up with that?”
He’s like, “I dunno, happens sometimes I guess.”
She’s like, “When are we landing? Soon?”
He’s like, “Nah, 88 years. Sucks.”
She freaks out. Jim is still horny.
Jim wokely allows Aurora to navigate through all seven stages of grief before asking her on a date. Aurora, unaware that Jim is actually a stalker who ruined her life so that he’d have something to fuck besides his hand, is charmed by his restraint and says something like, “It’s about time you asked!”
After one montage of their first dates and a couple PG-13 sex scenes, Jim is ready to propose. So he wanders into the part of the ship where the precious metals are stored and forges an ugly engagement ring. Unfortunately, the robot bartender casually reveals Jim’s sinister actions to Aurora mere seconds before he gives it to her. She is rightfully horrified, and calls him a murderer. This is a good scene! Jim deserves this scolding. He arguably deserves more! But the movie does not have time to punish Jim for his actions, and must give him the opportunity to redeem himself and save the life of a lady.
Enter: Laurence Fishburne. He plays a crew member named Gus whose hibernation pod also malfunctions. Odd! Within minutes, he discovers that the breakdowns are symptoms of major damage (remember daddy asteroid?) and that, if the original problem is not fixed, a chain reaction beginning with pod breakdown and ending with the fusion reactor exploding is unavoidable. He also discovers that Jim is responsible for breaking Aurora’s pod. “Did he tell you?” he asks Aurora.
He then says something along the lines of, “Awful! But... he was alone for over a year...”
Aurora is not repulsed by this. In fact, she takes a moment to consider it. But before she can fully forgive the man who ostensibly murdered her, whoops! Gus dies, leaving Jim and Aurora alone to fix the ship themselves. The formerly happy couple heads to the reactor and finds it pockmarked with holes from the asteroid impact. After sealing a few up, they discover the major problem, which has something to do with the reactor core. An unsatisfying explanation of this issue is given, and Jim and Aurora realize they must “vent” some heat by opening a set of, I guess, heat-venting doors. The catch, of course, is that the doors are jammed and will need to be popped open from the outside. Jim takes the honors.
Once outside, he realizes the doors will not stay open long enough to vent the hot gas unless he props them open with his big strong body, so he says what he believes to be his last goodbyes to Aurora, and props the doors open with his big strong body. The hot gas engulfs him, overpowers his magnetic boots, and shoots him into space. Instead of leaving him there, Aurora (presumably quite horny herself), throws on a space suit and floats out to save him. She succeeds, and the two head back to the ship—now fully repaired.
She drags Jim (now unconscious) to the medical bay to fix his many wounds in the “Autodoc” pod. Once fully healed, Jim reveals that he recently learned the pod’s hidden setting: hibernation mode. Unfortunately, only one of them can be in there at a time, so he thoughtfully offers Aurora the privilege. “Write your book,” he tells her. (Remember, writing is sexy.)
Then we get a title card: 88 YEARS LATER (Or maybe 87? I don’t remember.)
The remaining passengers are now waking up—including the captain, inexplicably played by Andy Garcia (he has zero lines and perhaps six seconds of screen time.) After emerging from their pods, they notice the ship has been transformed into a forest of sorts—as Jim and Aurora have stayed together and planted vegetation and raised animals and lived happily ever after on the ship because love always wins and that a man can get away with being a creep to a woman as long as he saves that woman’s life at least once. And now they’re dead. Stockholm syndrome is real, and it is spectacular.
There, now you don’t have to see Passengers.