Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are two of the biggest stars of the Hollywood scene right now. Lawrence has been winning hearts and minds with sheer talent and by being so damned down-to-earth in interviews since she was nominated for an Oscar in 2010, and following his breakout blockbuster role in Guardians of the Galaxy, Pratt has taken on the mantle of the latest comedic action hero, the Bruce Willis of our generation. (Though, full disclosure, Bruce Willis is the Bruce Willis of my generation.)
So having the two of them not only headline but dominate a locked-room psychological space thriller should have just worked. And it would have worked, too, if it weren’t for that pesky script. And direction. And, actually, Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence.
Our story is thus. Many years into the future, the Homestead Corporation is sending out fleets of luxury interstellar ships across the light years to settle future frontiers-types on distant planets. Having perfected cryogenic sleep, the passengers and crew of these inexplicably fancy vessels — what is the point of all the pomp and circumstance when most everyone will nap through it? — slumber their way through relativity, knowing that when they arrive at their destination everything they know and love back home on Earth will be gone.
One such ship, the Avalon, while en route to the lush new world of Homestead III, comes upon an uncharted and apparently unruly asteroid field, which for some reason sends the ship haywire and awakens just one passenger, lowly mechanic Jim Preston (Pratt), ninety years early. Now, you might think that this shouldn’t be too much of a problem, and that he could now simply put himself back into stasis or awaken a crew member for help, but if this is the case then it is possible you have never sci-fied. Because of course Jim is entirely unable to do either of these things, and he spends the next year growing a hipster beard and lamenting the life that will never be his.
But then he falls in love with the still, princess-like form of Lawrence’s Aurora Lane (Aurora, incidentally, is Sleeping Beauty’s birth name in several versions of that feminist nightmare. Coincidence? No.), goes full-on stalker by exploring her personal files, and decides against his own better judgment, and better angels, to awaken her too, so that she can share his doomed fate.
Horrible, right? Especially when it takes an hour of screen time for him to reach this momentous, murderous conclusion, and after we’ve spent what seems like an eternity feeling his pain as we watch him slowly descend into madness and make friends with a robot (the excellent Michael Sheen). But worse is yet to come, because on the face of it, that part is actually pretty interesting. Science fiction, after all, can be a very effective tool for exploring the human psyche, and the universal implications of Jim’s action are a legitimate use of the genre to force conversations and self-examination that might otherwise remain unpondered. I, for example, was appalled by Jim’s selfishness, was quite furious with him, and hated him forever more. My friend Austen, to whom I suggested we watch this film (sorry, Austen!), thought it was weird that I, a generally compassionate person, had none whatsoever for Jim’s loneliness. That one act of villainy/insanity/longing was the kind of contentious, thought-provoking allegory for which science fiction is so perfectly suited, and it unexpectedly turned the whole film into a fascinating contemplation of humanity… for about a ten minutes.
And then, with half an hour to go, it was suddenly just an action movie. A bad action movie. All jump scares and time running out and actors from much better action movies — hi, Laurence Fishburne! — and the girl letting the heightened stress of the situation overcome her better judgment and allow her to forgive the guy. This last made especially wearisome because Pratt and Lawrence share almost zero chemistry, and it is more than clear that she has been Stockholm Syndromed into this whole true love thing. (Which I know is an overused term, but certain applies here.)
You know, the plot holes in this film were far more forgivable when it was a morality play; far less so with it’s just the worst parts of Gravity.
In short, don’t bother with this film unless you have a real thing for Jennifer Lawrence (she is excellent and beautiful in it) or Chris Pratt (he is… fine), but as a movie it just devolves into nothingness.
(Again: sorry, Austen!)