As part of my new method, I’m trying a slightly different approach to review structure. I love movies on both a cerebral and an emotional level, so I will be discussing movies here from both of these angles in two cleanly separated segments: The Mind and The Heart. Preceding that will be an introductory Opening Credits and my final conclusion, labeled End Credits (because I do love a good theme), will be my usual wrap-up. This final heading is inspired by the time I sit in the theater taking in what I just saw and I will skew my words in that direction. Since everything here will be a thumbs up approval, grades are replaced by a Like Or Love option, to differentiate between the good and the great. Extending beyond that will be a Full Analysis, which will be hidden in the usual spoiler section and is for those who have already seen the movie or don’t mind reading about it in detail. Now, venture onward, reader!
Time/place: 5:05 showing at Cinepolis Vista with Sydney
THE OPENING CREDITS:
I enjoy science-fiction. The sci-fi and fantasy genres (Star Wars, superheroes, fairy tales) are some of the earliest storytelling inspirations I had in my life, and I still really respond to the fun that can be found in such a tale: bizarre creatures, interesting machines, the impossible as the everyday. As an adult, one of the greatest added values of the sci-fi genre is that it can also offer absolutely engaging “what-if” scenarios. My first short story was born from the “what-if” consideration of being possibly the last human alive, and while these difficult situations can be placed into any genre, I believe that sci-fi does it best.
Passengers takes place in our far future — a time in which we have discovered other habitable planets and are colonizing them. The movie has an interesting take on this premise, and though it’s hardly the core of the story, I enjoyed the details that served to make this story less about the adventurous few and much more commonplace. This is a small, personal story, without the grandiose underpinnings of saving the world as in something like Interstellar. This tale instead focuses on the concept of solitude in the vastness of space. Our lead, Chris Pratt (and yes, while he is not top billed, it is his story first) finds himself in a painfully solitary situation, and the first quarter of the movie is a really interesting exploration of this. Many shipwreck/drowning comparisons come up throughout the movie, and they are all rather apt as this is what drives the story more than anything — and, ultimately, what drives our main character’s choices.
Pratt is in great form here: charming enough, but genuine. I would have enjoyed seeing his solitude played out on screen even longer, though it would have been at the cost of the movie’s ability to sidestep a very dark tone (it deals with some ethically and personally heavy subjects). I simply enjoyed watching him perform the many layers involved in such a scenario. Michael Sheen, as always, is delightful to watch, and once Jennifer Lawrence’s character enters the story, the three characters play off of each other in delightful ways. The movie skips through time at a few points, which is necessary, but we are still presented with enough character moments to understand our two leads. Each comes from a very different place, but their joining together plays out wonderfully as something that isn’t necessarily kismet — but rather a condition of circumstances.
Visually, Passengers is good, fun sci-fi. Design and extraterrestrial spectacle are top notch in this movie, and as things go awry there are some genuinely thrilling moments. Robots and androids in this world have personality, but part of the charm of the story is their limitations as well. Thomas Newman’s score is unmistakably Thomas Newman, but it fits the movie’s tone — somber in the undercurrent, light enough overall, but without the bombastic nature of a Hans Zimmer ;).
The script falters on a few elements, mainly in some of it’s overly eager connections to simplify situations, but I enjoyed the movie overall. I really liked the slow-burn, both within the characters (for differing reasons) and in certain story elements themselves, but it remains light enough throughout to keep from being very tense. Unfortunately, the movie felt rather safe, and that did turn me off slightly. I considered various alternative endings that I would have gone with instead, ways that I think the story could have gone to avoid certain elements that I thought were slightly less interesting, but I realized that this wasn’t a movie about the irredeemable and hopelessly dire situations that still manage to have a positive outcome despite sad conclusions. Instead, this movie is actually about something far deeper than even the ethical conundrums and sci-fi elements present.
While Passengers begins as an exploration of solitude, and concludes with a somewhat formulaic adventure (though still very fun to watch), what it becomes is much more than a story about space and moral dilemmas. This movie ended up becoming a tale about relationship. Obviously, two good-looking Hollywood stars are stuck together in sapce and no-duh, Sherlock, of course it’s a romance… but I mean relationship in a broader sense. In fact, I don’t actually think of this as a romance story. These characters are used to explore loneliness, forgiveness, and the value of companionship (despite wrongs suffered). I read that many reviewers panned this movie based largely on what they perceived to be a very negative message (likening it to the support of rape culture), but while I may be giving the script too much credit, what I saw instead was an even richer examination of humanity. These negative critiques actually aren’t stretching too far, as this very conversation is a major focal point of the third act of the movie (I don’t specifically remember the word “rape” being uttered, but “murder” and the loss of life without choice are very prevalent). While the conclusions are subjective, I didn’t walk away from this movie feeling slimy. I think the script intended to reveal something else, rather than gloss over “rapish” tendencies to get to the sweet, sweet romance, and in its character development and conversations I saw that.
I’m sitting here talking about rape and ethical conundrums, but either I’m a monster or I simply didn’t see this movie as others did. I honestly don’t think this picture deserves such deep analysis, but I don’t see it in the negative light that others have. At least, not for the same reasons. Passengers is a fun, entertaining sci-fi adventure that deals with some interesting topics and presents a package that left me pretty satisfied, save for some too-convenient events and predictable elements. For not being a dark movie, it approaches some dark situations, but at the conclusion I left with an upbeat view due to what I saw as a focus on forgiveness and what it means to connect with another human being. Oh, and I got to see Chris Pratt’s naked butt, so… A+ for that!
LIKE or LOVE:
Like. Not as deep of a movie as it could have been, but it was a fun couple of hours and I definitely recommend it!
WARNING: There be spoilers below…
I’m actually little pressed for time, unfortunately, so it’s a bit of a bummer that I won’t be able to delve into this movie as much as I would like to for my first new-review outing, but I do want to expound upon one concept that I referenced above.
Laurence Fishburn’s character offers advice to Jennifer Lawrence’s about her situation, and it is my favorite idea in the whole movie. He likens Chris Pratt’s choice to wake her up as a means of saving his own sanity to the actions of a drowning man — it’s not done out of cruelty, but a drowning man will pull someone down with him. The movie does not treat Pratt’s decision lightly; we see him first suicidal before finding her, he “gets to know” her by her writing and profile videos (it’s much more than her being hot), we see him go back and forth on the matter, and his comment to himself in the mirror of, “Please don’t do this,” just before he goes to wake her up says volumes. What he did, even before the lying and deception, is cruel and entirely selfish, but not only does the movie portray his great hesitation, but I think it is also very fair to say that he is not in his right mind, anyways. I don’t know of many who would SUPPORT this character’s decision to wake up another human being in this situation, but by golly is it understandable. Her “forgiveness” doesn’t come lightly, either… the lapses in the timeline presented make it seem quicker, but they have lived apart for a long time when Laurence Fishburn shows up.
Following this same concept, the idea of her forgiveness at all seems to be rough for some. When she is faced with Pratt’s possible death near the end of the movie, it is just as much a response of self-preservation. If he died, she would be alone for the rest of her life. Remember, this is the same terrifying notion that led him to revive her to begin with. Their romantic feelings for each other were genuine, sure, but in the heat of the exciting events of the final act, she is obviously horrified by the idea of being alone. Though it is in a similarly dour vein of some of the alternate endings I thought of, myself, I read another’s concept as to how it could have ended instead: Chris Pratt dies, Jennifer Lawrence is driven mad by solitude, and the movie concludes with her opening another person’s hibernation pod. This would have been very interesting, and I think it’s the logical conclusion if she had been placed in said position, but I don’t think that’s what the moviemakers were trying to tell us. Passengers isn’t a dire social commentary or hopeless “what-if” tale — it’s a simple story about love, and all that it entails.