The tagline outside the cinema read, ‘They woke up for a reason’. Naturally, this led me to expect some form of antagonist in the latest sci-fi drama starring Hollywood darlings Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. Unfortunately, the only antagonist is the viewer as they leave the cinema.
Some people will just love the romantic drama on display here. The film boils down to forgiveness. If you had met the person of your dreams in tragic circumstances, fell in love and were truly happy. Could you forgive the person who caused those circumstances? When the film plays to these strengths it is good. Both actors are more than competent at whatever they do and Pratt as always manages to be extremely likeable and funny no matter what he is doing. Where the film fails is in the sci-fi elements. When I say fail, I don’t mean it is an absolute stinker, it just doesn’t follow through on some of the great ideas and premises it conjures up. If you have seen the trailer for this film, you will be expecting one hour and fifty-six minutes of pulse-pounding action as the pair try to escape from whatever is making the ship do terrible things. What you get is very different.
The answer to everything is unfortunately revealed in the first few seconds of the film. The ship is merrily making its way to the new planet where people of skills are going to colonise. A meteor manages to hit the shields of the ship causing some kind of malfunction inside. It isn’t made clear but as Pratt wakes up almost immediately after most people will tie the two together. I didn’t, more out of blind hope for an antagonist than logic. From here Pratt does his best as the only person awake on the massive sprawling ship. He does all the things you would expect someone to do in this scenario in what comes across as a modern day Red Dwarf. His only company is the robot bartender Arthur, played with a hint of malice by Michael Sheen. Sheen serves the drinks and dishes out advice with hidden venom throughout and steals any scene he is in. He is also the unwitting driving force of the film.
The main question I alluded to earlier comes around when Pratt’s character is woken from hibernation 90 years away from the destination planet. This obviously means he will die before reaching the end. After a year or so with only Arthur as his company, he completely falls for the ‘sleeping beauty’ of Lawrence’s Aurora Lane. As stupidly named a character that you will ever see. He then has the moral conundrum. Kill himself due to chronic loneliness or wake her up from hibernation, in effect killing her as well. Of course, he gives in wakes her and the movie truly begins. Arthur is the one who breaks this news to Aurora after another year has passed leading to much angst. All very good in a dramatic and philosophical way. What would you do? Could you live with yourself? All good questions, that should be in the audiences head. Until the final act.
Here the film suddenly realises that this could become very boring. Two people and a robot bartender in space not really talking or interacting with each other. As a result, a third human wakes from sleep. Laurence Fishburne plays a crew chief who grants access to other parts of the ship. He learns what Pratt has done but now things on the ship are breaking down quickly and the three of them need to work together to save the lives of the other 4997 on board. These sections are where the film got the trailer from. There are some dramatic set pieces but unfortunately, the real drama gives way to some very alarming plotholes from this moment in. Fishburne’s character is very sick from being woken from hibernation, in fact, he dies not long after explaining a bit of how the ship works to the other two. This leaves the question of why he got sick from being woken up when the other two are fine?
We also learn that everything that has gone wrong came as a result of the initial contact with a meteor in the first few frames. So no shadowy conspiracy, no plot twist and no deeper story. It all boils down to a fluke and freak accident. needless to say, the day is saved with another improbable action scene and the use of an incredible piece of equipment the Autodoc. The Autodoc is the most amazing futuristic element of the film. You put a patient in this it diagnoses their ailments and then cures them if possible. Unfortunately Laurence Fishburne was too far gone. This device saves one of the main protagonists and reveals a feature which will allow one person using it to return to hibernation and as a result not die and reach the destination. Pratt offers this to Lawrence as he should yet we get no resolution of this storyline. the film ends a few moments later with a voice over from Lawrence as the rest of the 4997 on board awake to find a forest on board the ship from the tree Pratt planted. They presumably stayed together and died together but we dont know. This caused me to leave the cinema rather perplexed.
For a start we are to believe that there is only one Autodoc on board this ship to service 5000 souls? What if it breaks down? What about the earlier statement from Pratt, that there are enough spare parts to rebuild anything on the ship? No neither of these are resolved. Neither is the thought that one of these characters will die before the other leaving the survivor free to use the machine and despite their old age be able to tell the heroic story to the rest of the passengers. Aurora Lane is a journalist after all and is writing a journal about this. No nothing is resolved and we are left with a film two-thirds drama and one-third sci-fi on a lever with the much superior Sunshine by Danny Boyle.
Definitely, one to take a partner to just don’t expect what you see in the trailer or promotional material.