Main cast: Chris Pratt (Jim Preston), Jennifer Lawrence (Aurora Lane), Michael Sheen (Arthur), and Laurence Fishburne (Chief Gus Mancuso)
Director: Morten Tyldum
Now, imagine that you are on a 120-year space journey from Earth to a planet called Homestead II, and you are placed in a hibernation pod to snooze off during the journey. The pod puts all metabolic processes into near-standstill, so aging and everything else will be halted. Now, imagine that your pod malfunctions and you wake up – the sole conscious person in the whole blasted ship, and you will only reach Homestead II in 90 years. Your distress call to customer support will receive a response in, oh, 55 years. What will you do?
For Jim Preston, he initially tries to live in a day by day manner, chatting with the android bartender Arthur, watching movies, and such… but after a year or so, he starts to go crazy from loneliness. In the meantime, he discovers a fellow sleeping passenger, Aurora Lane, and listens to her interviews as well as reads her writing (Aurora’s a writer). He really doesn’t want to… but in the end, he succumbs to the temptation and sabotages Aurora’s pod, getting her to wake up and keep him company while telling her that her pod malfunctioned too.
That is the crux of Passengers, a love story with such a polarizing premise that you will either loathe it or, well, feel a little conflicted about the whole thing while not loathing it that much. Some people may even love it, and I admire those people’s ability to do so unconditionally.
There are plenty to adore about the movie. Chris Pratt proves that he’s more than just a pretty face and a big set of guns, as he plays Jim with such vulnerability that watching Jim trying to keep himself together when he is all alone is heartbreaking. Jennifer Lawrence whines about the wage gap in Hollywood while receiving double the salary of Mr Pratt despite having far less screen time, but she… well, she’s Jennifer Lawrence, the same way she is in most of her roles, so that’s about it. Still, she has good chemistry with Mr Pratt, and in another story, I would have loved the romance between Aurora and Jim without hesitation or reservation.
But the romance is based on a very problematic premise. Basically, there is no moral justification for what Jim does to Aurora. Still, I feel that conventional morality cannot apply in black and white hues here. For someone in Jim’s shoes, desperation, loneliness, and insanity can push even the most moral saint over the brink, so yes, I can certainly understand what drives him to do what he did.
My issue lies in how the script handles this matter. For a while, I assume it is getting there, but late in the movie, it throws in a denouement that sees Aurora doing and saying things that could be interpreted as Stockholm Syndrome, and some people may not be pleased that Jim is never made accountable for the things he did. Again, I have no issues with this. If I were Aurora, I don’t know what else I’d do, but nursing bitterness and hatred in her situation only leads to another kind of isolation. It may not be easy, but if I were her, I’d have tried to let go and just make the best of the situation. And given how remorseful he is and how desperate he is to atone for his sins, I may even start to love him… and of course, a man who looks like Chris Pratt is always easy to love, if you know what I’m saying.
But my issue here lies in how the script tries very hard to present this love story in a bewilderingly conventional manner. For the whole thing to work, I feel that things need to be darker, more conflicted, more… I don’t know, I just feel that the movie ends a bit too abruptly, forcing a happy ending on me when I’d have loved to see the characters confront and work out their emotions more. Maybe if it had another hour or so, it would have been a more satisfying movie.
Still, Mr Pratt and Ms Lawrence are a lot of fun to watch, and I have no regrets paying for the ticket for this. I just wish the movie has been more fully developed so that I can buy the romance a bit more.