I love movies that make me start to internally question myself by asking what I would do in a certain situation, and “Passengers” did just that. (Interestingly enough, all three people in my party had different answers to that same question). The movie is sort of a morality play / sci-fi romance that offers plenty of food for thought as well as entertaining escapism.
The film is set entirely on a gigantic spaceship that’s carrying thousands of paying passengers and crew members in sealed hibernation pods. Everyone is asleep for the 120 year journey to a distant planet that they will later colonize. When there is a serious onboard malfunction, a couple of people are awakened 90 years too early, including mechanical engineer Jim (Chris Pratt) and writer Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence). The pair struggle to solve the problem with the ship but are soon faced with the harsh reality that this is how and where they will live out the rest of their lives.
The ambitious story cleverly explores the idea of loneliness by inserting the character of android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen). Arthur doles out advice (sort of) and keeps the humans company. In what is undoubtedly going to be viewed as a misogynistic turn, Aurora and Jim begin a romantic relationship and supposedly fall in love. But are they really in love, or just faced with such desperation and grief that they sort of have to be romantically linked? This is slightly offensive to me as I’m sure it will be to others. Why settle for Mr. Right when Mr. Right Now is inhabiting the space station with you? We all know women are stronger and smarter than being forced into a romance simply because he’s the only game in town.
This is what makes the movie so damn odd. It can’t quite seem to make a firm decision as to where it wants to go and is a weird mix of uncomfortable, begrudging sci-fi romance but also a controversial tale of questionable morality. There are countless interesting ideas swirling around in the screenplay, but it’s next to impossible to overlook the fact that this story is more than a little sexist. I won’t say more to avoid giving away any spoilers because yes, there are some big surprises that are eventually revealed.
Regardless of the sexism, the movie is quite entertaining. There are some original and nifty set pieces, including a spectacular CGI scene of a total loss of gravity in a swimming pool and a thrilling space-based action climax with some fiery explosions and edge-of-your-seat situations. Laurence Fishburne turns up in a far too brief supporting role as crew member Gus, and the two leads have substantial chemistry that makes the uncomfortable romance element of the story much easier to swallow.
I guess you can say I have a love / hate relationship with “Passengers,” but I do appreciate its passion and creativity. See this movie if you want something to talk about because I can guarantee this will spark many a heated discussion and impassioned debate with friends and family.