Many of the reviews for Passengers take the time to highlight the film’s better qualities – including, the performances from its leads and impressive production design – yet most every one of them so far seems to agree that the writing by Spaihts and direction by Morten Tyldum (director of the Oscar-winning biopic The Imitation Game) are lackluster on the whole. Even the few more-positive reviews (see the excerpt included below) admit that Passengers doesn’t offer a compelling human story and/or wrestle with the deeper implications of its premise, to the degree that other, original, big-budget sci-fi films released over the past few years have.
Forbes – Scott Mendelson
In a less brand and tentpole-centric time, Passengers would be… well, a movie. The picture is under much pressure to perform because it’s an original, star-driven genre film in an IP franchise era, starring two very famous movie stars with questionable drawing power outside the comforts of franchise fare. But stripping all of that away, and the Morten Tyldum-directed/Jon Spaihts-written sci-fi romance is just a movie. It’s most entertaining, it splashes its alleged $120 million budget on the screen, and it offers plenty of surface value entertainment, even if it dances around the thematics of its core narrative.
The short of it: unless the story changes significantly hereon forward, it sounds as though Passengers won’t be joining the ranks of Gravity, The Martian and this year’s Arrival as part of the “Golden Age” of mainstream science-fiction films that has emerged over the past four years. That doesn’t bode well for the movie’s box office prospects either, seeing as it has to compete for attention from moviegoers with not only Rogue One, but other tentpoles (like Assassin’s Creed) – and the many awards-season contending films that are now playing in semi-wide releases, too. Passengers may turn out to be one $120 million “gamble” that doesn’t pan out well for Sony, as a result.