Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Movie Review: Passengers

Directed by: Morten Tyldum, 2016

Pros: thought-provoking, some great special effects

Cons: not scientifically accurate

A malfunction after passing through an asteroid field opens the sleeping pod of Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), 90 years before Starship Avalon is due to reach their destination of Homestead II.

I really enjoyed this film. I was a little worried going to see it as I had read an article about it that I’ll discuss in the spoiler section below.

The movie takes a simple premise: What would you do if you were going to be stuck on a spaceship, alone, for the rest of your life? Jim does several things, starting with trying to access the crew sleeping pods so he can wake someone up who will be able to help him, and trying to fix his sleep pod. As more and more time passes he becomes depressed and suicidal. He then decides to do something that both helps and hurts him.

I think the film did a great job of showing his decline and the amount of soul searching he did before making some of the decisions he makes. He isn’t impetuous. And while he doesn’t exactly own the decision to wake up another passenger, he doesn’t shy away from it once it’s revealed. As an aside, it was great seeing Chris Pratt play an actual decent guy, rather than the a-holes he usually plays.

I thought Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence)’s reactions when she wakes up and when she realizes why she woke up, were realistic and honest. 

The romance aspects worked for me. I thought they developed it slowly and over enough time to feel real under the circumstances.

There are some great special effects, especially the sling shot scene. The android bartender looked great, with a seamless transition between its his human upper half and robot bottom. I also loved the infinity swimming pool and observatory.

While some scenes looked great, the science wasn’t accurate. There were some… plot questions as well. Things like, if the crew quarters are locked off so permanently, why are the tools so easy to access? I was actually surprised that Jim didn’t go through the passenger manifest, for entertainment if not to find someone to awaken who might be able to help solve his problems.

I was a bit surprised by the ending, in that I thought they’d go with a more thought provoking, less conventional, idea. 

I enjoyed this. It’s what good science fiction is about, examining how technology affects people and what people do when put into difficult circumstances.


I read an article that claimed the film perpetuated rape culture by 1) having Jim wake Aurora and then, 2) when she discovered the truth, had him ignore her desire to distance herself from him by going over the PA system to tell her why he did it.

1) The decision Jim makes wasn’t a spur of the moment thing. He doesn’t want to do it. He tries not to do it. When he finally does it - because he’s going to kill himself if he’s stuck alone any longer - he immediately regrets it. 

I appreciated that he gave her space when she woke up and didn’t try to force his company on her. They honestly spend some happy time together. Based on a lie? Yes. But it’s happy time nonetheless. The romance did not feel forced to me, or creepy, despite Jim’s omission.

2) Once Aurora discovers the truth she wants nothing to do with Jim anymore. End of story. Yes, he uses the PA system to explain himself and the movie addresses that by having her scream that she doesn’t care why he did it. She just does not care. And she does not forgive him. 

When Gus Mancuso (Lawrence Fishburne) wakes up he neither absolves nor condemns Jim for his decision. I expect the audience is meant to do the same. What he did was wrong. But it was also human. While there might be a small percentage of people who could live entirely without human interaction, I would say that the majority of people in his position would either kill themselves or do the same thing.

My husband and I both thought Jim would die at the end and put Aurora in the position Jim had been in. That having to make that choice herself, she’d come to understand why he did what he did. My husband actually thought they’d have a Twilight Zone ending and show her opening someone else’s pod before fading to black.

But I think it’s important to point out that Aurora only forgives Jim when she’s faced with his death, with her own looming future alone on the ship. Nothing less than being in his shoes could have resolved their storyline and made the final romantic nod feel honest. And when he explains that the medical pod can be used to hibernate, she makes the decision to not go into it. 

For more scientific inaccuracies, my husband pointed out that the water bubbles during the anti-gravity scene should have been easy to swim out of, and that a cascade failure is pretty much instantaneous, so they'd all be dead.

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