Daily Archives: November 14, 2021

Passengers (2016)

*. I didn’t see Passengers when it came out, but I remember it being a lightning rod for criticism because of its plot. In short, a spaceship full of settlers who are in a sort of cryosleep runs into a meteor shower and one of the pods opens early. Out pops Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and he’s all alone. In despair, after a full year of moping around the giant ship, getting drunk and growing a beard, he decides to wake up Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) because he’s fallen in love. She’s none too happy about this when she finds out, but they later kiss and make up and apparently live happily ever after.
*. Critics couldn’t wait to pile on to the inappropriateness of Jim’s actions. He was described, over and over, as a sinister/creepy stalker who perpetrates a terrible act of violence or even rape (abduction), while Aurora isn’t seduced by his charm so much as she falls victim to a kind of deep-space Stockholm syndrome.
*. I think these criticisms are fair, but they are also clearly presented by the script as being in play. Indeed, they’re what the movie is all about. And I think they’re addressed most cogently by Laurence Fishburne, who also wakes up accidentally (and has to spend some time in a very unflattering flightsuit). “The drowning man will always try and drag someone down with him. It ain’t right, but the man’s drowning.” Of course it ain’t right. Everyone is on the same page there.
*. It seems to me that there are other, better reasons for not liking Passengers. The plot doesn’t actually make any sense. How is such a massive ship being run by an AI that stupid? How, when Fishburne’s character gets sick, does the AI know that there are no treatments that will “meaningfully extend the patient’s life”? I’d like to know what algorithm it’s using to quantify the meaning of life there. Why is Michael Sheen playing Lloyd the bartender from the Overlook? And perhaps most pressing question of all: can Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence act, or do they just look pretty?

*. But despite all these questions, I have to admit I enjoyed Passengers and found it a guilty pleasure. Pratt and Lawrence don’t have to be anything other than cute. Since they’re the two prettiest passengers on the ship it was destiny that they pair off. This leads to the ultimate romantic-getaway fantasy in space: a life spent in luxury, six-star accommodations, wearing designer outfits whenever you feel like it, with machines doing all the laundry and generally keeping the place glitteringly spic and span. Tell me that isn’t nicer than roughing it in the bush on Homestead II.
*. It does leave one with a question though. Wouldn’t Jim and Aurora have had kids? I can only think that would have been seen as too corny or sentimental an ending (and the ending is corny enough as it is), but given how we leave the happy couple isn’t their having kids, and grandkids, inevitable? Though the inbreeding might be a problem for the next generation.
*. I wonder if they gave a thought to a gender reversal. The scruffy handyman guy and the upper-class girl felt awfully tired. Why not have a female engineer waking up a hunky poet? Well, it wouldn’t have sold as many tickets for one thing.
*. It’s a stupid movie. There’s a generic crisis thrown at us at the end that has Jim and Aurora saving the ship from blowing up. This action sequence incudes the sudden loss of air pressure scene. And a walk-outside-the-ship scene. And a countdown scene. And then a resuscitation scene. That part is pure formula. But the thing is, I still thought the basic premise was something new and enjoyable. Mainly for the darkness in it that so many people objected to.
*. Every now and then you have to take your lumps as a reviewer and admit you liked a lightweight bit of trash like this. Sure it could have been a more interesting movie if they’d played down all the special effects and glamorous set designs. Why would a human cattle-car be so well appointed anyway? Another question without an answer. But the look is the draw. As I say, it’s a romantic fantasy. Critics hated it. Audiences gave it a thumbs-up. Tell your inner critic to take the night off and enjoy it.