Without too much pretense, I must tell you that Passengers has an ill advised and unbelievable twist. I’m going to have to address it right away, because if I don’t, the rest of what I have to say about the film won’t really matter.

If you don’t want to know, please click away now and enjoy something else, like a Star Lord dance off and blooper reel.

You’re still here? Ok then, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Jim (Chris Pratt) is aboard the Avalon, a spaceship making the (totally safe, right) transit of 120 years from Earth to Homestead II, a habitable planet for colonization.  The 5,000 passengers and almost 300 crew members are put into hibernation for the trip, and everything seems hunkydory.  Until something goes wrong.

The hibernation pods

In year 30 of this trip, the Avalon encounters an asteroid system and has to reroute power and resources to keeping the forward shields at full power. This causes some shorts in other computer algorithms, and Jim’s hibernation pod fails, waking him up early.  90 years early, with no possible way to go back to sleep.  This means, in no uncertain terms, 35ish Jim will probably die on the ship alone, before anyone else wakes up.

If you like Chris Pratt, this is probably the film for you, as the majority of the first act of the film shows Jim coming to terms with his being alone on the ship, with only an android bartender for humanoid company, as well as a few scattered waiter-bots. Jim is alone, he is depressed, and he is at the end of his ropes after almost committing suicide in a spacewalk airlock without a pressure suit.  In his state, he accidentally lands face first alongside a pod belonging to Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence).

This is when things get sticky.  Jim decides, after combing through the personal videos and logs of the ship’s passengers, that New York author Aurora is the most perfect woman in the world (or space, I guess) and that he should wake her up so he doesn’t have to be alone.  He tells all this to Arthur, making him promise to never tell her if he goes through with it.

Michael Sheen is Arthur, the android bartender.
Michael Sheen is Arthur, the android bartender.

I will say the filmmakers go to great lengths to show Jim wrestling with the decision to- no, no I can’t even fake type that.

This guy can’t go a year, one single year, by himself in a space paradise.  He makes the choice to wake Aurora up, without any thought to how she may react, pretty much condemning her to die.  He knows the idea is wrong, and says so many times while talking to Arthur. So he teaches himself how to hack her pod, and does the thing.

Aurora and Jim
Aurora and Jim

Jim convinces Aurora her pod malfunctioned like his did, and they spend a year together where they (of course) fall in love.  You see it coming from the first day they share time, she’s gonna find out what he did, and it’s not going to be pretty.

On the romance- it is completely impossible to watch their relationship grow with any sense of impartiality. He did something so unthinkable, so horrible, and yet here they are, happy and in love and alone in space, until Arthur spills the beans. Aurora’s reaction is exactly what you think it’s going to be; rage, horror, and disgust.

The design elements were nice, some things we've seen before but believably attainable, elegant and futuristic
The design elements were nice, some things we’ve seen before but believably attainable, elegant and futuristic

There *IS* some good action in the film, and I honestly believe the entire story would have been BETTER without the spacerape trope.  Why couldn’t she just wake up accidentally like he did?  Why does he have to be creepy stalker guy who she falls in love with, and FORGIVES because she doesn’t also want to be alone?  If the importance of this breach of trust is as monumental to the core of the story, why not REALLY shake things up and have her be the one to wake him up?  Why wasn’t there a longer length of time for Jim to wrestle with the choice? The thought that a man, with so many entertainments at his disposal, couldn’t stand more than a year by himself?  I don’t buy it.

There is a scene where, as Aurora and Jim walk through one of the pod rooms, he has her guess what job each of the sleeping passengers has.  They pass a midwife, and the minute it was said, I was almost hoping the reveal of his deception would come when Aurora finds herself pregnant.  Something would be going wrong, or they would both be scared enough that he would wake up the midwife, and would be forced to admit through knowing the process that he had done it to Aurora too.

If there wasn’t the element of a piss poor choice, I would like this film more.  It’s not anything new really, but the presentation was clean and approachable.  It’ll make a ton of money because of the starlets in it.

SCORE: 1.5 out of 5, viewed in standard non 3d, would not see again

I would most definitely score this higher on visuals alone, but I cannot bring myself to do it.  You can guess almost every twist and turn in the film, the delightful light humor we’re teased with in the trailer is almost non existent and so I felt a huge let down.  I wanted to like Passengers, I really did.

ABOUT >> Mary Anne Butler
  • BIO >> Mary Anne Butler (Mab) is a reporter and photographer from San Francisco California. She is a lifelong geek, huge music nerd, occasionally cosplays at conventions, does Renaissance Faires, and in general lives the life of a True Believer. She may be short, but she makes up for it with a loud voice.
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