We’ve been talking about Passengers as a Movie Star test since the first trailer. It’s now December and the movie opens in three weeks, so the test has officially begun. To that end, new interviews are rolling out, including Chris Pratt on the cover of British GQ. They’ve released some soundbites, and Pratt is hitting all the right notes. He’s full of praise for Jennifer Lawrence—“She acts like Adele sings”—but manages to keep the focus on her talent and their working relationship, no room for rumors here. He’s opening up about his father and how Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 ended up picking at some emotional scabs, and he reminds everyone that he used to be broke, one of the most relatable personal details. He’s swearing, he’s funny, he sounds more like One Of Us than One Of Them.
This is why Pratt is virtually bulletproof. Not even implied pet neglect can dent his celebrity armor right now. He’s Teflon. Even Passengers, an expensive gamble, comes with a padded landing—if it underperforms this month, five months from now Pratt will be headlining one of the biggest movies of 2017. And the next year, Jurassic World 2, almost guaranteed to be another hit, and Avengers: Infinity War, also going to be huge. Who really cares about the one-off pictures when all anyone will remember are the massive blockbusters he’s top-lining? Franchises will keep Pratt buoyed for a while.
But maybe there’s another weakness, one we haven’t talked about yet. A reader named Tam emailed an interesting take on Pratt, saying, “Chris Pratt does not have an ounce of a romantic male lead in him. […] He can do Movie Star action hero, but not Movie Star romance lead.” Maybe some of the weirdness with Passengers’ recent marketing is sensing Pratt is the wrong fit for this kind of material. (He had plenty of chemistry with Aubrey Plaza on Parks & Rec, but they also didn’t have to carry that show. April & Andy were mostly comic relief.)
It’s been noted recently that Passengers’ new marketing angle is a little confusing and maybe even off-putting, although my mother, who sees only a few movies in theaters a year, is excited for it. It’s the only holiday release she cares about, and it’s largely because of the romance. So that tack is working on the Minivan, and it also sets Passengers apart from Rogue One, which is also a space/sci-fi action-drama. It might look messy to us on the internet, who already have half an idea what the movie is about and also see all the clips and trailers, but most people will only see one trailer. To them, Passengers looks like a romantic movie set on a spaceship, starring two popular actors.
Passengers will determine whether or not Pratt will be known more as Star-Lord and “the raptor guy” or if the name “Chris Pratt” will be said with bright lights implied. Pratt has been rising steadily over the last couple years, and now it’s time to see what his potential really is. Chris Pratt: Movie Star, or Chris Pratt: Star of movies.