— Spoilers Ahead —
Perhaps I am a biased critic. Admittedly, I had never wanted to see Passengers in the first place – I was dragged by my brothers for a Christmas Eve outing, prompted by my parents who had arranged to meet with Santa Claus. Sigh.
I gave in and made a resolution to go in with an open mind. The film had Chris Pratt, it could be good! Leaving the cinema, I realised I should’ve trusted my gut, and re-watched the other, good space film with Chris Pratt in it for the umpteenth time.
“the plot, or lack thereof, had a promising beginning”
The plot, or lack thereof, had a promising beginning. Aboard the spaceship Avalon, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is woken up from his induced coma 90 years too early, destined for a new planet colony, Homestead II. Jim comes to the realisation that he’s alone, and may die alone before reaching his destination. Beginning to go mad and desperate for human company, he fixates on Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), and this is where it all goes downhill.
From here it’s a bland romantic drama inter-spaced by, well, space. He wakes her and the two slowly fall in love, until Arthur, the android barman (because of course there’s an android barman) let’s slip about Jim’s secret. She’s understandably outraged since Jim has basically condemned her to die with him. Her anger, however, is framed in the film as unjustified and Jim’s pitiful longing looks at her make him seem like the victim, even forcing her to listen to him through the intercom. Beyond creepy. Eventually, very obviously, Jim nearly dies trying to save both of them, in a brave display of archetypal masculinity, and she forgives him of everything. It was painfully predictable, and any actual sadness the film had intended was superficial and not properly explored. Everything is rather abrupt and it’s as if the film can’t decide how it wants us to feel.
“it has been compared to titanic, but i can’t see the resemblance”
It has been compared to Titanic, but I can’t see the resemblance. Obviously one is in space and the other at sea, but other than that, Rose and Jack’s relationship in Titanic seems genuine, whereas the love in Passengers is predicated wholly on a lie, which limits our ability to feel for either of the characters. The tragedy of the Titanic is a constant feature echoing throughout that film, whereas the tragedy in Passengers is overlooked; one of the crew members wakes up later in the film and he dies nearly straight away, before any connection could be formed. Arthur is badly hurt (broken?) in the eventual climax of the film, and that’s the only thing I had felt any semblance of sadness about.
“i really hadn’t realised that it could make space seem so uninteresting”
But even the characters, despite being well acted, were bland. Aurora is set up to be an amazing character – a creative and zany writer. But as we meet her on aboard the Avalon, she’s a pretty stereotypical woman, who’s rich and falls for the protagonist. She spends most of her time pining for Earth and looking pretty, which is a sad outcome for an actress as good as Jennifer Lawrence. Jim is an engineer and lacks any real emotional depth. One scene in which he attempts to end his life is extremely powerful, but it comes out of nowhere, and is then forgotten without any development, as if he just chooses to get over being suicidal.
Passengers is a huge disappointment, from a predictable plot to superficial emotion. I felt like Jim should have died to add a bit of excitement, but as it turns out they lived happily ever after. How cliche. I didn’t expect much from this film, but I really hadn’t realised that it could make space seem so uninteresting.