Passengers or, proof that fantastic actors can’t necessarily make up for bad writing, the Sci-Fi, Romance/Stockholm Syndrome movie
Jim (Chris Pratt) wakes up. He is on a space station that is sending 5,000 passengers (and some crew) to a new planet, so start a new life. However, there’s something wrong. He’s woken up 90 years too early and if he doesn’t find a way to go back to sleep, he will die on the ship. Jim’s only friend is the bartender robot, Arthur (Michael Sheen.)
It’s one year later and Jim has accepted his fate: he even considers killing himself, but after he ventures outside, into space, something happens, he stumbles upon Aurora’s (Jennifer Lawrence) pod. Jim learns about Aurora through the information about the passengers and, because she’s a writer, through her writing. He fights his inner self with the dilemma, but decides, in the end, to wake her up.
Aurora wakes up, unaware that Jim is the cause of her waking and the two form a friendship and eventual romance, being the only two humans who are awake. They live in relative happiness until one day Aurora finds out, from Arthur, that Jim was the one who woke her and essentially took her life from her.
Jim’s attempts to apologise to Aurora fail, he even plants a tree to try and win her back, but this fails too. Then Gus (Lawrence Fishburne) wakes up too. His pod has malfunctioned so badly that he is feeling ill – luckily, he is part of the crew, so has access to the engine room and the infirmary. Gus explains to the pair that there is something broken on the ship and it has to be fixed or everyone will die. Then, he dies.
Jim and Aurora discover that a part of the ship is on fire, due to a hole created by an asteroid and the only way to “fix” the ship is to open the air duct and blast the fire out. Jim realises this can’t be done without him manually holding the door open and thus potentially burning himself alive.
Jim survives the blast but then gets hurtled into space and his tether snaps, which means he will loose oxygen quickly and most likely die. Aurora follows him out into space and manages to grab hold of his tether, bringing him back in.
By this time, Jim has lost a lot of oxygen and is pretty much dead, but, don’t worry, there’s a machine that can bring him back to life! Aurora puts him in the machine and does just this, forgiving him for waking her up.
Jim is back to full health and realises he can fix the infirmary pod so that he can send Aurora back to sleep, writing the wrong that he has done. But, of course, she refuses, choosing to spend her life aboard the ship, with Jim.
Flash forward 88 years and the crew/passengers are waking up. They find that the ship is covered in trees and plants with fruit and chickens – Jim and Aurora have created a life for themselves and Aurora has left a written record of the life.
A chicken? A CHICKEN? Where did they find a freaking CHICKEN? Ok, the Chicken’s not the point, it’s more about what it represents: the ridiculousness of this entire movie.Let’s go from the top.
The opening sequence looks like the beginning of a free i-pad game in which the makers use cheap font and overt exposition to explain the future-world setting. By the time you get a shot of Chris Pratt, you already know the name of the ship, the destination, the time it will take them to get there and the number of passengers on board. There is no need to expose any of this through dialogue or in any other way, luckily, perhaps, because the dialogue was shockingly bad.
For two great actors to be put upon by bad dialogue is a terrible thing (not to mention the two supporting roles by Fishburne and Sheen.) The conversations about the ship, space and other sci-fi elements were cringe-worthy, as if someone who has only ever seen the Phantom Menace decides to get drunk and write a Sci-Fi movie. Here, I’ll do it for you now:
“If we don’t get open the air duct, it’s gonna blow!”
“What do we do?”
“I’ll have to go out there, and when I do, you pull that massively over-sized leaver there to blast the fire out into space!”
“But you might die!”
“That’s the sacrifice I’m willing to make to redeem myself so the audience don’t think I’m a total jerk for waking you up and ruining your life!”
That’s pretty much VERBATIM.
The plot itself was also something to be desired, though the basic premise was solid. A man wakes up on a space station, on his way to a new life, gets lonely so wakes up a woman, they must then fix the space station in order to save everyone. It was the small parts of the plot that ruined it.
For example, Aurora is a writer. Sometimes we get snippets of narration that are clearly meant to be bits of a book she is writing, but we don’t get this enough to make anything meaningful from it. It could have been that the whole movie was, in actual fact, written by Aurora and thus brings into question the parts with Jim (as it would have all been from her perspective.)
Another plot point that was slightly too much, was Gus waking up, with little explanation as to why he woke up so much later than Jim – if his pod was damaged at the same time. It was very convenient that someone who could explain exactly what was needed to be known woke up after they two had so much time together. They could have made one of the two main characters a member of the crew (perhaps Jim, which would explain how he knows so much about space travel and repairing ROBOTS, which is something a regular mechanic probably wouldn’t have known.)
Lastly, SPACE. I’m no scientist, but there were some very questionable space-related bits. Like when the ship gets THIS CLOSE *puts thumb and finger out to indicate a small distance* to a sun-like star. There’s no WAY they would have been able to get that close. Okay, a little artistic license, you know, it being the future and all, but still, no way.
The ending, too, was something that my friends and I all agreed should have been different. There were two things that could have happened to make the ending more satisfying and less “happily-ever-after”. [Side note: Aurora, for those of you who hadn’t noticed, is the real name for Sleeping Beauty. She’s LITERALLY sleeping beauty.]
- Jim could have died. He could have died in one of 2 ways. Firstly, he could have died out in space, after he saved Aurora and the other passengers by holding the door open. Or, Aurora could still have saved him, but then failed to resuscitate him. Having Aurora alive at the end, without Jim, would have allowed her to make a decision about how to live her life, alone. But at least she would be alive, which she would not have been, had Jim not woken her up – because they were both needed to repair the ship.
- Aurora could have gone back to sleep. Another potentially better ending would have seen Aurora going back to sleep in the pod that Jim repaired and Jim living out his life alone, with Aurora waking up 88 years later, to live her life on the new planet and write about her experience with Jim. This would vindicate Jim and also allow Aurora to find love that isn’t this weird ‘Stockholm syndrome’ style love, where she falls in love with the only other human who is awake.
Okay, there were some good bits. I loved Michael Sheen’s character, Arthur, the bartender robot. He was comical while also being, a very effective bartender. I felt like the writing for those scenes was better: possibly even written by someone who had once been a bartender. Sheen was also very good at being a character without human feelings/emotions, without actually being wooden.
I also liked the scenes where there was no dialogue at all, the montage-time-passing scenes that showed how much there was to do on the ship: the vastness and the quality of the space station was (in all fairness) pretty rad.
Also naked Chris Pratt. Twice. Just saying.
If you are going to see Passengers, I would suggest going with friends you know will laugh at the same things you will. Go with the idea in mind that the writing isn’t amazing, but it won’t be unpleasant. The actors are great and visually, the movie is pleasing. But if you’re one of those people who really enjoy a good existential crisis after your cinematic experience, this one probably isn’t going to get you there.