I’m sure that everything that’s needed to be said about the movie Passengers has already been said, but I finally had the chance to see it this weekend and simply had to get some thoughts down on digital paper about it. It spurred a discussion between Wes and I that spanned two days, which I think makes it remarkable because really, how many movies do that?
For those unfamiliar with the story, SPOILERS
there’s a giant space cruise ship that’s transporting five thousand settlers to a planet that’s really far away. They’re in suspended animation for the bulk of the 120+ year trip, but then something goes wrong and one of the passengers, Jim, played by Chris Pratt, wakes up just thirty years into the trip.
He makes it a year before succumbing to crushing loneliness and waking up a female passenger, Aurora, played by Jennifer Lawrence, because he’s studied her profile and writing and he’s convinced she’d be awesome to hang out with. When she inevitably discovers that he woke her up on purpose, essentially stealing the rest of her life from her, she’s furious until the ship experiences catastrophic failure. They work together to fix the ship, she forgives him, and they turn the ship into their own private Eden and die offscreen at some ambiguous point in the future.
It must be said that this movie looks cool. The visual effects were mesmerizing, and from what I’ve read they were apparently achieved using practical effects which is always very impressive. The acting was good, too. I have to imagine that it’s difficult to carry a whole movie with just two actors, and these two did a lovely job in my opinion.
My issue is with the story, though, because as entertaining as I found this movie, I think it could have been so much better. The premise of a guy stranded on a spaceship for the rest of his life while thousands of other people are asleep all around him is excellent. It’s a new take on the guy-stranded-on-an-island plot, because the stranded guy doesn’t have a potential solution to his dilemma tantalizingly close. The moral dilemma of, “What would you do if you were in that situation?” is a worthy one, and I applaud whoever came up with this idea.
My only qualm is that they let the movie go in such a predictable direction. At a certain point, Jim sacrifices himself to save Aurora and the rest of the passengers and it looks like he’s definitely not going to make it. I got so excited, because what an amazing chance to force Aurora, who condemned Jim for what he did to her, to confront that choice in her own life. With Jim dead, she’d be alone for the rest of her life. What better way to reinforce the most interesting aspect of the movie? The romance was cute, but it wasn’t what made the movie interesting.
Either that, or they could have let Aurora loose a little more, I think. She’s this nice girl who falls in love easily and then gets predictably angry when she figures out what Jim did. Her form of anger was to ignore him and scream, but what would have made the rest of the movie more interesting was to see her imperfection as a person. As she was, she was a romantic foil for the film’s heroic male lead. If Jim’s moral failing was that he succumbed to the need to connect with someone, hers could have been what happens when she gets angry.
Think Gone Girl in space, and you would have had an unmissable cat-and-mouse story that I would have watched the crap out of.
All this to say, there were a couple places where they could have taken this interesting premise to an interesting conclusion, but they went with the predictable route. It’s a shame, but not a huge one because as I said, the movie was still fun to watch. It’s always easy to point out what’s wrong with something, and much more difficult to produce something new.
So to the people who made Passengers, I say thank you for a fun movie! Maybe next time just let me help you with the ending.