Passengers an ambitious attempt but fails to deliver (3 palm trees)
by Richard Lieberman
Latest science fiction movie with a blockbuster budget, and starring two of the biggest names in Hollywood, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. Not just about a space romance, but a movie that tries to challenge you, and does at first only to sink into more predictable, safe version of Hollywood’s vision of the space genre.
Written by Jon Spaihts and directed by Morten Tyldum, Passengers is about 5000 humans traveling from Earth to a new planet, a trip that will take 120 years of space travel. Something goes wrong and only 30 years into the journey one of the suspended animation pods mysteriously opens, condemning Jim (Chris Pratt) with 90 years of space travel and no way to re-enter suspended animation. He can’t go back to sleep, there is no help available and he will die long before the ship reaches its destination.
That is the first engaging dilemma Passengers hits us with. How would you handle this?, How would you spend the time?, Could you adjust to the inevitability of spending the rest of your life alone, on a sterile ship. Would you make the same decision Jim does?
After a year on the ship after awakening exhausting every available option, Jim becomes so lonely he decides to awaken another passenger. The passenger a young woman he has been obsessing about for some time named Aurora, played by Jennifer Lawrence. Waking Aurora is the same as murdering her, already in her 30s, she won’t live another 90 years until they reach their destination. Jim is aware of this, but wakes her anyway. After waking her he lies to her claiming it was a malfunction of the suspended animation pod.
All this occurs in the first act of the movie so I am not spilling all the beans. This decision however is the core of the movies premise. It is a selfish act, and now he has condemned Aurora because of his loneliness.
Whatever you feel about so horrible an act Passengers is centered on this cruelty. The fact that the movie so early on centers on this cruel act almost makes the movie interesting on its own. Few Hollywood movies of this size and scope would ever touch a moral dilemma like this.
The problems with Passengers begins almost at the moment he wakes her up, the film wants us to root for the couple to be together. Jim’s lie should have cast a bigger shadow over his and Auroras relationship, but it doesn’t. It just feels all kind of wrong when you already know what Jim has done. His action gets a big moment, but then just forgotten.
Disappointing and swaying from the original premise the film does not explore the fascinating facts about 5000 fellow human beings who have embarked a vast journey. We are left with no in depth knowledge about the how’s and whys of such a journey. What is their plan? Unfortunately we never really find out. rated PG13