For Science Fiction, ‘Passengers’ Doesn’t Have Much To Say About Humanity

Passengers is an interesting idea executed passably but uninspiringly with unnecessarily famous actors.

Passengers is an interesting idea executed passably but uninspiringly with unnecessarily famous actors.

Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) are our protagonists, and they awaken from their hibernation pods 90 years too early on a colonization ship en route to a newly terraformed planet. For a technologically advanced space ship traversing lightyears and agelessly suspending its travelers’ lives, it’s astonishing that no consideration went toward giving passengers the capability of putting themselves back into hibernation in the event of a failure. The ship’s computer AI is adamant that failure is impossible, even as other ominous power outages begin to threaten the survival of the entire venture.

The story suffers from several seeming critical gaps in important spaceship technology, but if one ignores them one can get away with thinking this movie isn’t underwhelming or an excuse to get two of the biggest current stars together in one film for studio financial convenience. Virtually the entire film is green-screened, and Passengers is a case study in why that encourages frigid and stale performances from the actors.

Unfortunately for Aurora, Jim was woke up first and he may have been responsible for waking her up, an inherently selfish move that, perhaps not unexpectedly, has angered some social justice warriors concerned with women’s self-sovereignty and the empowerment of choice. This is where the film suggests its question of “What would you do?”, though the conflict’s resolution has also, perhaps again not unexpectedly, disappointed the advocates of women’s right to cinematic equality. This movie ain’t killing the patriarchy.

Consequently, Passengers struggles to find a theme or a raison d’être, and the conspicuous, if unintended, Adam & Eve-esque dynamic between Jim and Aurora is similarly blasé. There is not much in the movie that you’ll be considering on the ride home, though at least its sci-fi production emits a dim twinkling of futuristic spectacle to keep away the theatre-room sleepies.

Sadly, the most compelling characters are not the protagonists—whose blockbuster style of skim dialogue peacocks their cinematically destined attraction to the audience—but Arthur, the ship’s barman robot (a mechanically charming Michael Sheen). Arthur’s programmed gentlemanliness is the only other personality with whom Jim and Aurora can interact, and he has perhaps even greater complexity than them with subtle nods to his non-human co-existence.

That’s as deep as the drama gets, though, and the film unfortunately doesn’t dip its toes into very many subject topics of intergalactic travel or the science of human morality. For science fiction Passengers does not seek to explain very much about us.

The reviewer’s recommendation: Passengers is a missable movie. If you refuse to pay for it in theatres your small protest may encourage studios to focus their attention toward storytelling rather than enticing the current biggest actors to be in an available film together. If the patriarchy is getting you down lately, you definitely do not want to catch it.

CONTEMPTOR GRADE: 4/10

Cole Figus has a BFA degree in acting, and has experience in film and theatre both in the performing and technical arts.
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