Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence play lovers who are almost literally star-crossed in “Passengers,” a sci-fi romance set aboard an intergalactic cruise ship. Pratt is Jim Preston, a mechanical engineer, while Lawrence is Aurora Lane, a New York journalist, who emerge from their hibernation pods roughly 90 years too early to reach the colonial planet of Homestead II. Faced with a lifetime alone — the other 5,000 passengers are still snoozing — they do what just about anyone would: They fall in love.
Jim and Aurora may be enough for each other, but will they be enough for us? They’re essentially the only people in this film, aside from the occasional customer-service hologram, a gentlemanly robot-bartender named Arthur (Michael Sheen, from the waist up) and a guest star who won’t be revealed here. Two hours can be a lot of time to spend with just two actors.
Fortunately, Pratt and Lawrence have enough charisma to last light-years. Pratt, the rare movie star who can do hunky and goofy, carries “Passengers” virtually by himself at first. He takes Jim through several stages over the course of a lonely year — panic, depression, inebriation — and we feel him melt with joy when the beautiful Aurora awakes.
Lawrence is radiant as the Eve to Jim’s Adam, and it’s a credit to director Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game”) that her erotic allure never overshadows her personality. We feel Aurora’s plight, too — a big-city girl suddenly stranded in the smallest town possible. We also know that her new soul mate is keeping a terrible secret.
With its inventive special effects, sleekly creepy sets (designed by Guy Hendrix Dyas) and a shivery undercurrent of existentialism, “Passengers” occasionally threatens to become a new science-fiction classic, something along the lines of “Silent Running.” It doesn’t quite get there. The screenplay, by Jon Spaihts, sets up major expectations — what’s wrong with this spooky ship, anyway? — but delivers only minor revelations. That said, Pratt and Lawrence are great company. They could make 90 years go by in the blink of an eye.