Jan 09

Somewhere in the distant future humanity settles another planet and private enterprise manages to run passenger ships between the two planets.  5,000 people sign up to be transported in suspended animation for the 120 year journey.  By the time they arrive on their new home everyone they know back on Earth is probably dead.  Some days I’d like to sleep for 120 years.

The ship is fantastic, it is a big loopy thing with spinning rings and a long pointy nose that generates a protective shield or something, that pushes small objects out-of-the-way or burns them up.

Everyone is having a snooze, the 259 person crew too.  So the machine is fully automated.  For the sake of the movie the ship has lighting on for the 120 years and the computer systems continue to display vital information on big screens although there is nobody there to see it.  You’d probably trim a few years off the journey if you turned it all off and re-routed the power to propulsion, which is displayed as a lovely blue ring of burning stuff.

This is why I come to see science fiction movies.  I love to imagine the future and what it might be like.  I love the special effects and the thinking behind the devices of the future.

As you’d expect, something goes wrong on the Titanic, the iceberg hits and one of the passengers wakes up.  He’s a mechanic, James Preston, although he quickly tells the automated wake-up routine that he likes to be called Jim and every automated system throughout the ships address him as such from then on.  Clearly the original sign-up form didn’t have ‘Preferred Name’ or Jim forgot to fill it in, names can be so difficult.  Trillions of dollars on space travel, still can’t get a simple form right.

Jim is played by Hollywood heart-throb Chris Pratt.  We’d all love to spend a few years with Chris travelling the universe.  He has dreamy eyes, a cheeky smile and a body to die for.  Sexy.

For the rest of you that aren’t gay, bi or a straight woman you have to look at Aurora, played by Jennifer Lawrence.  She’s a delight to look at too, although I’m not expert on that.

Aurora, which is a wonderfully futuristic name, is also woken up.

So, Aurora and Jim wake up 90 years early, which is a problem.

Jumping to the end of the movie, Aurora the writer and Jim the mechanic manage to plug the hole in the ship using nothing but a few manuals that are printed on laminated cards and some high-tech devices.  The final part is, as you’d expect, full of impossible things and keeps you on the edge of the seat.  However, the mechanic and the writer save the Titanic from sinking.

The middle of the movie is appalling and is the reason I’m writing this review.  Jim spends a year by himself, his only company an android bartender named Arthur.  Arthur has been programmed with cheesy bartender type advice and is always polishing glasses.  The non-human becomes the confidante of Jim.  Jim tries to wake the crew, break into the bridge and send a distress call, all to no avail, and of course, goes mad.  During his many travels around the ship and presumably looking at 4,999 sleeping passengers, he discovers Aurora’s hibernation pod.  Helpfully the ship still has all its displays lit up giving full details of who is in the pod.  Not only can he gaze upon her beauty, he can glean basic information from the pod about her.

In the stalker of the future he manages to tap into her ‘Facebook’ type account, read everything she has ever written and become quite fixated on her.

In the ultimate Genesis moment of the entire history of everything, the voice of god thunders out “It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.”  And so Jim sets upon a plan to wake up Eve, sorry, Aurora.  That’s right.  This super sexy man is going to wake up the super sexy woman, not one of the other 4,998 passengers who may have a useful skill like hibernation pod repair or a degree in astrophysics.  No, no, Jim thinking with his waggly bits wants the woman, because she is beautiful.  It’s OK though, he struggles for months trying to decide whether or not to wake her up. He knows that she will face certain death because he also knows that there is still 89 years to go and they’ll both die.  He even talks to Arthur about it.  He knows it’s wrong, he struggles with the decision, and for a man who has spent 12 months looking at all the other options, he sets upon this as a course of action.

His waggly bits win out, he cuts his hair, removes his beard and he wakes her up and promptly lies to her and sets about spending the middle bit of the movie trying to win her heart, because she’s beautiful, he’s a man and he has needs.  She’s a woman and we have sexual tension.  We would all fall in love with him, even though he is a creep, a stalker, a murderer, a liar and a complete dickhead.  But it’s OK, he has eyes that beg forgiveness.  When Aurora finally works it all out she is, as you’d expect, very upset and yells a lot.  She even takes to breaking into his room and hitting him in the dead of night.  Predictably she then spends her time ignoring him and he spends his time trying to win her back.  He is not called to account for his actions, yet he is redeemed because he alone, the big brave man with the brown eyes puts his life on the line saves the day and Woman swoons.  Ugh.

Who writes this crap?  Who writes a really good beginning, a really good ending and stuffs up the middle bit?  There are thousands of ways to write the story.  The sexy woman could have been a mechanic that specialises in hibernation pod repairs, or an astrophysicist or an amateur astronomer or leader of the free world or a company executive able to give him access to the First Class passengers privileges.  Instead, we get a writer, nothing wrong with writers, perhaps not first choice in a crisis.  He didn’t wake her to write the story of what was happening, or to draft a stern memo to the company to give them a jolly good telling off.  He woke her because he was ‘in love’ with her.  He stalked her.  He then decided that it was a perfectly reasonable thing to do, to take the life of another human as it’s not good for the man to be alone.  Woman is swept off her feet by the bad boy who saves the day.

She forgives him, of course, and they live happily ever after.

His character is a creepy arsehole.

The writers should hang their heads in collective shame.

One Response to “Passengers – A Review”

  1. Ryan says:

    My current thoughts, but happy to ultimately be entitled to change them…I think the story is fine. It’s good science fiction. It explores some possible threads of outcomes in an invented scenario and speculates on ‘what might happen if?’. It throws in some knowns with the unknowns to see how they mess with each other such as ‘what human nature might be’, or even an attempt to expose exactly the hypocrisy of our current behaviour. Being good looking wasn’t used to ‘make’ anything ‘ok’. The effects of being good looking were somewhat included in the playing out of the story – as it can in real life. If there had been no ‘love’ developed before the terrible truth was revealed then the story could have explored a different series of events. The story acknowledged the situation from the perspectives of the characters even if contrived. Having the perpetuator trialled and punished, having the victim maintain horrified hate and vengeance and killing him in retaliation for her murder (as was correctly acknowledged as an option by the character) wouldn’t be any less or more contrived then the possible final choices the character made ( or writer chose to explore as a possibility ). Yes she was horribly manipulated by a person who is sexy, charming, intelligent and also makes horrific selfish inhumane decisions sometimes. The story says ‘Even when we can colonize other galaxies, we could still have laminated tech pages and humans could still make asshole decisions under certain circumstances’ it doesn’t say ‘and that’s ok’ even though it depicted a ‘things turned out alright’ style ending. But clearly it achieved good sci fi status if it left most of us with a sense of discomfort and unease and start digging deeper into the implications of the story we just experienced. Our Aesop fables are getting more complex as our society does.

    If we only create stories which match our burgeoning changing values, or which only reflect (as this one does) our flawed values and flawed human natures then it is almost like we are closing our eyes to the existence of them. We may not want to see it depicted because it’s confronting or it is shameful or isn’t where we want to be or be seen.

    I don’t think this movie glorifies, it depicts. It explores. Even if not to intense intellectual and moral depth as some may like. A smattering of aspects in that ‘future world’, where everything has advanced except the selfishness of man and the misery he can endure and cause.

    We want all things we identify as bad to have consequences in line with our own values. Sometimes they don’t.

    The movie is rated M. If you watch this, don’t take away a message that it is convincing you or others that everything that happened in it is ‘ok’. It was likely deliberately at odds with itself, with no easy answer, will cause tons of discussion and debate, and I enjoy a movie that does that.

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