First of all thanks for coming to see my new blog host WordPress, going to aim to compile my old stuff from LiveJournal and Wattpad and chuck it on here too, but for now lets
rant discuss a movie: Passengers
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD
I have to clarify first that I actually really liked this film, in the sense that it was a relatively solid piece and it did the thing that most writers attempt to do which it made me think – I was ultimately unhappy with many things about the film, but it succeeded in getting my attention and generating some though (you’ll come to get my point of view as the rant continues)
In order to explain I’m going to do a bit of a plot summary which is not usually my goal but I feel is needed to make sense of my worlds.
The plot of Passengers begins with a spaceship, running on autopilot the spaceship houses thousands of hyper-sleeping passengers and their crew on the long journal between Earth and a colony planet. We see an asteroid strike the ship, resulting in a malfunction which causes Chris Pratt to wake up early. How early you say? Basically 90 years too early, so early he is damned to spend the rest of his days alone on the ship as he dies of old age before the thing reaches its destination.
Now, a few people have critiqued this aspect of the film for having an amazing futuristic ship which seems capable of doing every magical thing possible and yet can’t get Chris P back into hyper-sleep (and/or that for all the advancements of this future doesn’t include enough life extension of some form). I’m willing to give this a pass because in any type of travel it makes sense to not include unneeded cargo (however it is a bit hard to believe that technology is so foolproof they don’t have any sort of back-up or contingency for a hyper-sleep pod malfunction)
Anyway I digress. The movie and Pratt do an excellent job portraying the horror and sadness of a man trapped in an unsolvable situation, and the other thing I love about this film is they make a major tension about a character’s choice . As Mr Pratt gets increasingly upset and lonely he stumbles about J’Law a veritable sleeping beauty that Chris’ character quickly falls for through reading and viewing her work as a journalist. We see the trauma of his decision as he considers waking her up, putting her in the same situation as him but ending his loneliness.
It probably comes as no surprise that he does eventually do it, credit must be given that the writers didn’t go for a soft move and have some other way for he to be woken. Nope they go whole character develop ham and make Chris do a very evil but very understandable thing.
From there to movie continues in excellent tension as we see a relationship blossom between the two, but of course eventually spectacularly fall to pieces when Lawrence learns the truth.
I’d like to pause here and discuss where I wish the movie had gone. Up until this point it was in my opinion a brilliant piece. There were several directions they could have gone to keep up the excellence for example the rest of the movie could have explored:
- the relationship between the two as virtual prisoners stuck in each others company, would she had forgiven him what would he have done to restore her trust and so forth
- Whether the pair woke more people, it would make a plausible plot that Jennifer’s character would have wanted someone else awake to divert attention, it would have been a cynical but awesome plot twist to be a movie about a cascade of bad decisions where more and more people get woken up
- There could have been some other reason Chris Pratt was awoken that developed the plot further, like some sort of horrible deep space experiment or something
Anyway this isn’t about tooting my own plotting horn its just about how I didn’t really like what was done with the movie from then on. Basically what happens is as follows.
Between the angst of the two passengers a member of the crew literally McGuffins into the story when his pod opens (I think I’m using that term right) he basically appears to give the other characters access to other functions of the ship, lightly scold Pratt for his choice and, I kid you not, outright awkwardly not talk to J’Law about her perspective on his crime when she tries to talk about it. He then immediately dies (because honestly they didn’t want to have to work out the dynamics of 3 people hanging out in isolation together, I doubt it would be quite as ‘feel good’ as they tried to make this movie.
So yeah McGuffin dies and tells the other to look after themselves and to fix the ship. We’re then greeted to a number of sci-fi spaceship repair sequences and in my honest opinion an extremely far too drawn out scene of ‘will Pratt die or not?’
I think the whole bit was meant to show their relationship being forged together in the fire of adversity, but the whole section was really pretty forced. A lot of backstory effort is put into making the J’Law character desperate for true love, to make her connection to Pratt all the more significant, but can one really look past the issue of he is literally the only other moving human in existence for her. The final beat is that Jennifer chooses to stay with Chris even though they find an option for one of them to be put back to hyper-sleep and it all feels super awkward really. He doesn’t really make up for his horrible decision to wake her up (although I would like to point out an interesting hubris on her part, she is generally a blameless character although she reveals that her plan was to hyper-sleep to the colony, then take the first shuttle back to Earth, effectively zooming 200 years into the future all for the purpose of writing a famous story. The reason I say this is hubris is she is shown to leave loving friends behind and the suggestion is her goal of writing fame led her to instead being prematurely awoken).
The other dubious overtone, is there is a scene between the two in the movie where they discuss the financial gains of the colonizing company for the mission. The issues has a related scene where J’Law hassles Pratt for his life dream being the same as the company slogan ‘Start New’ finally he pairs major action from their awakening is to save the ship (sort of at the cost of their own lives, although admittedly they were already awake and would die too if they ship wasn’t saved). I say this is dubious because there is a rather uncomfortable message here about individual lives not mattering in the face of massive profit loss, and people should make the most of crappy situations by saving company products. I dunno maybe I am reading too much into it.
I’ve ranted too long by now, I loved the start of this movie because the drama and tension hinged on character’s decisions and the consequences of, I think they made a mistake then thinking it would be enjoyable to watch those characters run through a generic action sequence. Passenger was a good movie, but ultimately a frustrating one because the thoughts it provoked staled in the face of Hollywood storytelling. It’s a bit like being asked the question “what would you do in this situation” and rather than throwing any more ethical curve-balls just drawing out a brief adventure.