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Passengers: A Film Review
When I saw the trailers for Passengers it looked interesting so tickets were bought well ahead of time and I was looking forward to seeing some sci fi that wasn’t Star Wars (just to be clear – I adore Star Wars but it is great for me as a massive sci fi fan to see films that are not part of an ongoing saga).
However, when I heard about the plot ‘twist’ I really wanted to back out on seeing it. In the end, I did go but I had to go and see Rogue One (for the 2nd time) right after to wash the horrible aftertaste out of my mouth.
I like Chris Pratt. I like Jennifer Lawrence. But what in the world made them agree to sign up for this?
Now, I had absolutely no intention of writing a quasi-review of this but after seeing many great discussions online, I realized that I did have something to say about this so I am just going to chime in with my two cents.
This could have been a great film if the trailers were indicative of the plot. They really made the film look as though it would be a awesome thriller set in space.
**warning: there be spoilers ahead**
What I Thought The Film Would be About:
A ship is sent out to form a new colony with 5000 sleeping passengers on board. Two passengers are woken up early (90 years too early) due to a ship malfunction. They form a romantic bond, after realizing there is no way for them to go back into hyper sleep. Then, when the ship is in distress, they are able to fix it up in order to save the lives of their fellow (sleeping) passengers. Sounds pretty good, amiright?
The fact that the trailers are so misleading, genuinely makes me believe that the marketing team knew how problematic this film would be. So why didn’t anyone else attached to it??
What The Film Was Actually About:
A ship is sent out to form a new colony with 5000 sleeping passengers on board. Chris Pratt’s character Jim is woken up early (90 years too early) due to a ship malfunction, he realizes his predicament and goes a bit nuts with only having one android bartender for company. He comes across Jennifer Lawrence’s sleeping character Aurora and after some internal debating, decides to wake her up so he has some company.
They form a romantic bond, after realizing there is no way for them to go back into hyper sleep, until Lawrence’s character finds out why she was awoken early.
She does not take it well (at first).
Then, when the ship is in distress, they are able to fix it up in order to save the lives of their fellow (sleeping) passengers. It turns out there is a way for Aurora to go back into hyper sleep but she chooses to stay with Jim because she lurrves him. So, they live happily ever after on the spaceship with no chance of ever getting to the colony planet or ever seeing another soul apart from each other. The end.
What the actual ever-loving hell??
The problems with this film are so numerous I don’t even know where to begin… but, I will try to put my thoughts into some kind of order. This movie did make me mad though, so I will probably be ranting before long – I will do my best to curtail this as much as possible for the sake of brevity.
I will give the film kudos where it is due. The first part of the film, with Jim trying to grapple with the enormity of being alone on a ship for 90 years and his slow descent into madness along with the depth of his loneliness and solitude is very well done. But, and this is a big BUT, it does in no way justify what he does to Aurora.
Essentially, he is condemning her to a slow lonely death along with him. She will never get to see the planet they are planning to colonize. She loses the chance at a new life because he is lonely and has decided that she is the perfect woman for him, there to assuage his loneliness. He has taken away her agency, her choice. It is a horrifying prospect. And the film DOES NOT SEEM to grasp this.
The film very much portrays Jim as the hero of the piece, who awakens his Sleeping Beauty (barf), makes her fall in love with him (really, what choice does she have – he is her only option) so that when the opportunity arises for her to re-enter hyper sleep, she realizes the depth of her love for him and chooses to live out her life on the ship.
There is a moment when another crewman is awoken where I was just waiting for the film to posit Jim as villain he actually is but instead the excuse given was a drowning man will always find someone to go down with him. WTH??
The film could have been brilliant, even with the aforementioned issues, if it had had the guts just to make Jim the villain. But either the people making it didn’t see how massively wrong his actions were or there is something even more sinister lurking underneath. There is the issue of consent – how people view this, both men and women, and just what message this film actually conveys and what people will take away from seeing Passengers.
It seems like a lot of people (mainly women) when they discovered what this movie was about, noped right out of there (and I really cannot blame them). However, what I do find interesting is that other movies that really should have the same reaction (Fifty Shades anyone? Twilight?) are massively popular and women go in droves to see them.
There seems to be a massive dichotomy between what popular internet opinion is against what the general public really consumes. So why is Passengers the one movie that seems to fly in the face of that?
One reason could be that science fiction is a genre that people do not tend to take seriously. This film potentially was always going to have some trouble finding an audience and as soon as it appeared that the content was problematic – that seemed to be enough to put a whole subsection of people off the prospect. It was never going to be a big hit with Joe Public anyway, and the more media savvy people who would have been interested in the film were instantly put off when rumblings about the plot started to filter out. That seems like a plausible reason to me – what do you guys think? I would love to read your thoughts so feel free to comment below.
Normally, this would bother me because I love science fiction and wish it was more widely enjoyed. However, with Passengers, the fact that it has pretty much flopped is probably a good thing even though normally I would never go with what other people say about anything – I prefer to make up my own mind.
However, the various opinion pieces I have read on Passengers have definitely given me food for thought and I would encourage people to check these out before watching this film. This film has rapey undertones and the fact that it never addresses sufficiently the idea of forced consent (because, let’s face it, Aurora is never given the option and ever her ‘choice’ in the end, is heavily influenced by the gaslighting she received at the hands of Jim) is perhaps the most worrying aspect of all.
This was not wholly a bad movie; the film was beautifully shot, well cast (Michael Sheen is awesome in this as the android bartender Arthur), and visually stunning, but there was a darker heart hidden behind this seemingly innocuous sci fi space opera that I wish had been more fully explored. Although Jim somewhat ‘redeems’ himself at the end of the film; his heroism in no way should be offset against his previous actions. He was forgiven far too easily by Aurora for his transgressions.
This is just my opinion though. I know not everyone will take away the same messages from the film and hey, that is absolutely fine too. Has anyone else seen the movie? What did you guys think of it? I would love to hear your thoughts!