Friday, April 14, 2017

Passengers (2016)


The beginning was deceitful albeit out of desperation; the chemistry between stars is suspect; and the ending just cuts off suddenly which they meant to be heart-warmingly positive but ended only to make story too good to be true even for a sci-fi flick.

Passengers failed on all those points because it was angling for romance – and thus judged in that light – instead of focusing on the sci-fi aspect; that of leaving earth, making life on a new world, and the hardship of space travel.

As far relationships are concerned no one wants to be deceived. Deceit got the ball rolling, as it were, with the characters Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) and Jim Preston (Chris Pratt). Maybe if circumstances of their meeting had been something else, or if the circumstances could have been kept hidden until a final reveal, then maybe I could have gotten in the mood.

I cannot feel the jokes, the sweet nothings that mark the start of two people getting close to each other with deceit hanging in the air . I cannot feel the passion in the kiss unless they get fully naked and graphic but they are not that kind of actors and this is not that kind of movie. Why? Because I expect them to slug it out at a later point in time. How then can I feel the love?

Jim Preston is a Mechanical Engineer but for some reason over the course of the story is referred to as a mechanic. Aurora Lane is a writer, daughter of a Pulitzer Prize winner, but the story never mentions her achievements. They are just two of five thousand passengers on board the Avalon, an interstellar ship travelling from Earth to Homestead II. 

Interstellar travel based on the movie involves hibernation: passengers are put to sleep and awaken almost point to point. Aurora and Jim woke up too soon.

Based on eating scene I have surmised that what the filmmakers were going for was a rich and poor kind of angle like Jack and Rose in the Titanic. It’s probably why the mechanical engineer became just a mechanic. I don’t know what mechanical engineers do but when I hear mechanic my thoughts are only of a small car shop at a gas station.

The writer is just declared as a gold class passenger. Aurora was allowed a far tastier breakfast than Jim, to which of course Aurora uses her pass to get meals for Jim.  But besides that there’s no overt reference to money or class distinctions.  The mechanic is always seen tinkering around, making do with what he has. He wants to build and create. The rich writer thought of the big adventure because she has the luxury.

It would have been better if I knew what books she or her father had written to gauge how much she makes or what she thinks. There’s also no hint of Jim’s life on earth much less earth civilization itself.

What cemented the rich-poor vibe to my mind is that Jim is always trying to look docile and intimidated at the presence of Aurora. There are other underlying circumstances of course explaining Jim’s behavior but bases on who they were on earth and how they see the problem they are in I thought of the rich-poor vibe.

Who I think could be better for the role is Josh Hutcherson who is better known as Peeta Mellark of Hunger Games. Anyway, Chris Pratt is built like a super hero and he’s in a Marvel movie. Intimated; unsure with girls; sad to say even being an intellectual or a dreamer, I don’t see Chris as that.

Passengers also tries to angle itself with one quote: “You can't get so hung up on where you'd rather be, that you forget to make the most of where you are.” So it’s romance first then about life second, sci-fi takes a further step backwards, almost as empty as an old western movie set.

The depiction of life can be quite literal. Not everything in life can be controlled like the Avalon, the ship that carries Aurora and Jim. Shit happens but getting off is not an option, like waking up from hibernation 90 years before schedule. Life goes on, good can still be made.

Two people awake is like two people in love. Jim even literally took a fall seeing Aurora for the first time. It can also be reasoned that deceit is always part of life and love’s equation.  We meet strangers and potential mates with our best foot forward, the not so best is hidden.

Still that’s not an excuse for the movie’s hurried ending. Because the story and the marketing focused on romance; the good feels that they can sell; Aurora and Jim both lived. It’s a happy ending by declaration.  Both said that they have a hell of a life. Problem is they said just two scenes away from the crisis part so time has not passed by. What life could they have? I’m all for leaving it to audience’s imagination there has to be a good setup for my imagination to be even remotely positive for the ending of Passengers.

While it’s not impossible for just two people to make something out of life, keep in mind, they are in a metal box travelling through space.  Since the story focused on romance therefore there’s the unwritten rule, sometimes expressed, that if one dies it’s all over for both.

The story boxed itself out of a solution. Waking up another passenger is out of the question. They can’t have children since the question of incest is unavoidable. Why shouldn’t it be? Adam and Eve is not a feel good romantic concept no matter how much they can say they were made for each other. Avoid the question then eventually the line dies out perhaps in misery.

The solutions the makers of Passengers came up with, is farming. Symbolically it can work. Shit happened. A bad situation is symbolized by a cold interstellar ship in space that is transformed into a living green environment – with livestock.

I could probably see it if it’s on a deserted island but on metal box in space, not really. The Martian had a better setup on that regard.