I was pretty much always going to see this, just because it’s in space and has special effects and looked from trailers like it couldn’t really decide what it wanted to be. This is directed by Morten Tyldum, who directed the Norwegian thriller Headhunters, which I liked very much, and The Imitation Game, which I also liked very much, until I realized it was a complete fabrication masquerading as a historical story. This is also developed from what was apparently considered one of the “great unfilmable scripts” floating round Hollywood for a while, from Jon Spaihts, who also co-wrote Prometheus and Doctor Strange. That’s the reason I mention that is the script is particularly bad, full of obvious holes that raise questions that make you just kind of shake your head and go “Really?” as the movie barrels on, oblivious. Oh, and it’s also full of just plain bad writing.

But I really started to want to see it after the negative reviews started coming in, and that, not only is it not good, but it hinges on a major issue of consent that many, many people have a hard time getting over. A mild spoiler is given in the next paragraph, but suffice to say, I was amusing myself by referring to it as “That Rape Movie!” for awhile.

So there’s this huge homage to 2001 carrying 5,000 passengers to a new planet. The spaceship flies through an asteroid belt [it isn’t programmed to avoid such things?] which causes one of the passengers in suspended animation to wake up [why would an asteroid cause this completely unrelated malfunction?]. This is Jim, played by easy-to-look-at Chris Pratt, who learns that there is no way to go back into the pod [why? Because: the premise] and gets lonely, learning that there is 90 years before his compatriots awaken. He talks to the robot bartender [why would there be a robot bartender working 90 years before any people would show up?], but eventually [here’s the mild spoiler:] he decides to wake up the comely Aurora [Jennifer Lawrence], even though doing so is dooming her to death. Then he doesn’t tell her, and they fall in love, while we wait for his secret to be revealed, and the expected events to follow.

Among the problems the movie faces is that it thinks it’s deep, but it’s actually quite superficial. This is most painfully obvious in that it glorifies Aurora’s idea, which seems rather craven and crass to me, to go to the new planet and come right back to Earth and write about it, therefore being the first person to “scoop” the story. It’s a phenomenally dumb idea, and that’s before you realize that she could just email the story back in far less time. Oh, and that 240 years will have passed on Earth by the time she gets back, and people are probably unlikely to give a fuck. Oh, and that this is apparently just one of several offworld colonies, so her story would be far from unique. And this is before her line about “telling stories makes us feel human,” that made me want to leap onto the screen and bash her [or the screenwriter’s] head in, especially as this is treated as deep wisdom. Luckily, I did not hear her—as another reviewer did—say “We think we’re the captain of our fates, but we’re just passengers along for the ride.” Get it: Passengers? Just like them! Just like the name of the movie! Let’s not even mention the samples we get of her banal journalistic prowess.

SPOILERS > > > So once we know that Jim doomed Aurora to death by waking her, we eventually realize the movie only has one possible course now: he has to die. He could just go through hell to prove that he’s a good guy, but that might not be good enough for some people. Best would be if he actually died, which would complete the irony, and show that he really is a good guy underneath it all. This movie, in fact, has it both ways, in that Jim dies saving the ship [and Aurora!], but she pops him into the med-tube, which brings him back from the dead. The movie claims even more redeema-points in that he offers to put her back to sleep in the med-tube, but now that she has a choice, she chooses to be with him alone until they die. The idea that they could both go back to sleep and wake to their romance in 90 years is sweet… but unexplored. Because–and here comes the doozy of all the obvious plot-hole questions–THERE IS SUPPOSEDLY ONLY ONE MEDICAL TUBE FOR THE SHIP OF 5,000 PASSENGERS AND 250 CREW. < < < SPOILERS END

By the way, the line from the trailer: “There’s a reason we woke up early!” is not at all in the film and was recorded specifically for purposes of misdirection. This is one of those movies that goes down reasonably smoothly, but all the obvious questions start crashing in as soon as it’s over, and continue for anyone unlucky enough to continue thinking about it. I suspect the movie won’t ultimately do that well, because aside from all this moral stuff and sense-making stuff, it just isn’t a very fun or appealing movie.
Oh by the way, let’s not forget the one additional character who wakes up simply to deliver a lot of exposition, and move the plot along in a way the other two couldn’t by themselves, then conveniently dies for no reason except that we have to get the characters back to being alone. It’s astonishing this could have been considered a “good” screenplay, let alone a great one. The biggest question it leaves one with is: why doesn’t Chris Pratt just be what he is and play a role in which he gets to be a straight-up working class Southern hunk?

3 thoughts on “Passengers

  1. So annoyingly, I read the script ages ago and really loved it because it turned out that all the pods were malfunctioning and everyone in the pods died even though the two main characters tried to save them all. Instead they decided to raise all the potential children that were stored in some sort of genetic bank on board the ship so that people would arrive at the destination. I haven’t seen it yet, but it seems like that whole element got dumped. It didn’t make up for the whole consent issue but it added more nuance.


      • They only realize that people are dying in the pods after she realizes that he woke her up so the whole rapey narrative still happened. It complicated things because his actions saved her life, as the issue with the pods started happening after he woke her up.


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