WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS
If you watch the trailer for the movie Passengers you will know that it is the story of a starship on a 120 year one way trip to colonise a new world. Two passengers (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) wake up from cryosleep 90 years prematurely. With no way of going back to sleep and no one else due to wake up until the final stages of the journey, they are in effect, the only people alive, or two survivors on a desert island without the possibility of escape or rescue. The latter part of the trailer tells of how their love story gives way to action and adventure as they have to save the ship.
I was fortunate enough to see a preview of the film without hearing anything or reading any reviews. The first review I heard came a few days later from Mark Kermode on the BBC. Normally very careful not to give away any spoilers Kermode gave away a key point in the plot. As we know from the trailer, Jim Preston (Pratt) is woken 90 years too soon, but what we didn’t know is that he was responsible for waking Aurora Lane (Lawrence). A quick search online will tell you that Kermode’s newspaper of choice, The Guardian published not one, but three reviews of the film by: Wendy Ide, Peter Bradshaw and Andrew Pulver. They all give away this key plot point, the later even mentions how the marketing doesn’t mention it: “All the pre-release material – trailers, marketing trails and the like – suggest that Lawrence’s character, a whimsical writer called Aurora Lane, is woken in a similarly accidental way to Preston; or at least they wilfully gloss over the actual reason.”
Both Kermode and Pulver point out that it isn’t a spoiler, I have also hear other reviewers suggest the marketing isn’t designed to avoid spoilers, rather to hide a more icky side to the story. However, I think it is a spoiler. The film is very bright and is directed with a light touch, it has plenty of comedy. A lot of the comedy is provided by a brilliant Michael Sheen as Arthur, the robotic barman reminiscent of Lloyd, the bartender from The Gold Room at the Overlook Hotel. This brevity gives the films darker underbelly a more menacing and disturbing context. Many of the films detractors will tell you that the moral question of what the Jim does in condemning a another person to the same fate that as his own is glossed over. Others will tell you that that the overriding plot lets the character off the hook. Both of these are true to a certain extent. There are clearly extenuating circumstances, not least Jim’s state of mind, remember he was on the verge of suicide!
Ultimately the film is good, but not great. The best thing about it is the concept and the likeable cast. The worst, the holes in the plot. But this isn’t a review, it isn’t about how good or bad the film is, more how it was marketed and reviewed. From my point of view the trailer was spot on. To see the amount of time Jim spent onboard alone before waking Aurora both gave the film a different context but also provided a more interesting second act than I was expecting. The twist doesn’t come when Jim wakes Aurora, but the moment you realise he is going to and that she won’t wake up by accident the way he did. This would have been destroyed by giving too much away in the marketing. What about the reviews? I am a firm believer that if you want no spoilers avoid all reviews and trailers, but in this case I do think they have gone a little too far.