Passengers: A Stalkers’ Love Story

Due to the insane nature of Passengers‘ plot, Reel Thoughts will be dividing its review into a small non-spoiler section, and a more in-depth spoiler filled review. We find that our impression of the film cannot be fully explained without giving away major details of the films’ story, and want to spare anyone considering seeing the film. So, Please enjoy the shortened, spoiler-free review bellow, with the full-spoilers review afterwards.

Spoiler-Free:

Passengers certainly isn’t without its bright spots, highlighted by generally good performances and an engaging first act. But once the main idea of the film is presented, the writing cant help but make this film feel far more disturbing then intended, turning what should be a space-set love story into something more unsavory. The film certainly tries to recover, but does so in a way that seems to miss what the problem with the script was in the first place. Combined with effects that never make you feel like you are really there, and a number of major plot holes towards the films climax, and There’s very little to recommend. While it may make for a fun rental, Passengers will likely be remembered less for the first on screen pairing of two Hollywood icons, and more for the ludicrous places the script tries to take its audience.

Arbitrary Numerical Rating: 5 Concerning Ideas About Love out of 10

 

Spoiler Review

Passengers, on paper, seems like a perfect film: a sci-fi romantic thriller, staring two of hollywoods’ biggest stars, with an ad campaign that teases at a greater mystery in the film. Although certainly popular right now, Hollywood has been releasing Science Fiction films concerned with ideas like love for several years, with this years’ Arrival as the most recent example. But what this film may have lacked in originality, it was hoping to draw in audiences with its twist of what wasn’t being shown in the trailers. And while Passengers starts out engaging, it’s not long before the creepy nature of the script unravels the films initial promise.

While the ads presented that Co-Stars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence wake up together in the beginning of the film, as a result of malfunctioning stasis pods aboard a spaceship, the film actually begins with just Chris Pratt’s pod malfunctioning. During the entirety of the films first act, we watch as Pratt’s Jim explores his new surroundings, realizes he is now alone on the ship for the rest of his life, and tries to make peace with this. Pratt’s entire performance at this point is left on his shoulders, and he delivers an engaging performance, pulling you into the sense of desperation that should come with current situation. The standout scene comes in a montage where Pratt experiences all the ship has to offer, beginning playful and childlike, and slowly turning depressing, as he begins to come to terms with the hopelessness of his new life. It’s one of the few real moments the film has, made better by the portraying most of reactions through visuals, rather then dialogue.

Everything for the film changes, however, once Jennifer Lawrence’s Aurora is introduced. While the ads for Passengers made it appear as if her stasis pod had also malfunctioned, she is actually woken up on purpose by Jim. As Jim drunkenly walks into where the pods are kept, after a failed suicide attempt, he sees her sleeping in her pod and forms a bond with her. He spends the next few months in the film reading everything she has written, looking up everything he can learn about her, and struggling with whether or not to awaken her, which he ultimately does. The problem with this is that these actions are that not of someone in love, but a stalker, looking up ways to manufacture a version of himself that she could come to romantically invest in him. While the film shows his struggle with whether or not to wake her up, it never questions his looking up everything on her, creating this persona for her to fall in love with, and the questionable eeriness of Jim’s actions.

Once Aurora is awakened, Lawrence and Pratt show plenty of natural chemistry with one another. It makes sense that they would end up romantically entranced by one another, and obviously they end up falling for one another. What’s concerning about how the film portrays this is that while it begins by showing how disturbing Pratts’ actions are, there comes a point where the film suddenly switches sides, ignoring how he is responsible for taking away Aurora’s life, and instead looking at the events of the film as “isn’t it touching how these two found each other and have fallen in love?”. To answer your question, Passengers: this isn’t romantic, because Jim forced all of this to happen, and destroyed another persons life in order to do sowhich is less “romantic” then it is a deeply disturbing and selfish act.

While it is eventually revealed to Aurora that Jim is responsible for taking her life away, the script only continues to make bad decisions by trying to make the audience feel bad for Jim, often having him try to explain that what he did was okay “because he fell in love.” One particular scene has him explaining his disturbing actions to Aurora on the intercom of the ship as she tries to run away; with a change of setting and tone, this is a scene from a horror film, about a trapped woman running from a man she doesn’t know who has taken her and claims that he “loves” her. There is never a moment where Pratt and Lawrence’s characters sit down and discuss the disturbing implications of what Jim has done, and thus the film ends up being in favor of his kidnapping of Lawrence’s life.

The Last third act could have been spent trying to fix this, perhaps giving Jim a moment of realization, or the talk between our leads we discussed previously. Instead, the film tried to deliver a trial for our characters to overcome, through a malfunction that threatens to destroy the ship. While not done poorly, it’s an all too familiar third-act sequence, full of teasing character deaths and ticking clocks. It’s the kind of movie scene where lines like “theres no time”, “this is the only way” and “I have to do this” and thrown about a dozen or so times. Not helping matters are the subpar special effect, which while not bad in any noteworthy way, are fairly lackluster and green screen heavy, distracting from the emotional weight the film tries to portray.

In the final minutes of the film, it is revealed that Jim has managed to find a way to put Lawrence’s Aurora back into stasis and give her her life back. Instead, She chooses to stay with him, forgiving his actions without any explanation, and robbing the audience of an explanation for why we should forgive his actions. It comes off less as a “love conquers all” message, and feels more like a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome, where in Aurora resigns herself to the emotions she’s feeling, and moves past the fact that this man destroyed her old life in favor of making his better. It’s an eerie, highly disturbing look at how love works, whose muddled message carries with it an unfortunate translation for viewers who end up miss-interpreting it.

Ultimately, Passengers is a film about selfishness, where in no one pays for their own selfishness in any meaningful way. Jim steals vital resources from the ship to create gifts for Aurora and doesn’t pay for it, putting his needs over those of the other 5,000 members of the ship. He steals Aurora’s life from her so that he wont have to be lonely, and doesn’t even not pay for it, but be rewarded for his own selfish act by having her stay with him for the rest of his life. The film tries to romanticize its own view of love, which has nothing to do with attachment and connections, and instead has everything to do with attraction and selfishness. The first act may intrigue audiences, and there may be some okay effects and performances from the films leads, but Passengers script ultimately astonishes in how far it goes to try and justify and glamorize the deeply concerning actions of its lead actor, leading to one of the years most morally dubious film of the year.

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