Review: Passengers (2016), A Sappy Romance in Space. (Spoilers)

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Passengers (2016)

The movie starts. That text tells us the setting makes me doubt that this movie is going to have any actual substance. A spaceship, that looks like something I've seen in a dozen other space movies already, is flying through space towards a planet with a name so generic you could not come up with something more boring if you were offered a million dollars, “Homestead II.” This movie is already looking like it's going to troll itself for me. What happens next? The ship, travelling through the vastness of space, enters an asteroid belt... Are you serious? I'm supposed to believe this ship is so technologically advanced that it can travel between solar systems on autopilot and has a force field, but it can't detect an asteroid belt and navigate around it? What is the point of having a two dimensional map of space, showing us that the AI can detect a collision course, and needs to give a warning when everyone is in cryosleep and no one is around to see the warning, and then the AI does nothing about it and just lets itself get hit by a giant asteroid. Why did you do this movie, Jennifer Lawrence? Didn't you read the script first and see how bad it was? I would have thrown that script in the garbage and fired my agent for even showing it to me. Okay, so let's get back to the movie. The AI can reroute power to it's force field, and auto repair, but it can't navigate around an asteroid. Let's see how much worse the writing can possibly get.

Note: I should point out that later it offers somewhat of an explanation for why the ship can't navigate around things, but it's not a very good explanation. I talk about it more later on. Also the ship slingshot around a star, so it was in a solar system. Initially though, without that explanation, the asteroid belt seemed pretty baffling.

Alright, so then we're treated to another layer of stupidity when we find out that the presumed protagonist, Jim, played by Chris Pratt, has woken up from his hibernation 90 years early. They're on route from Earth to a distant colony. They are 30 years into their journey and we're expected to believe there are asteroid belts in deep space, in between solar systems? And then there is no customer support and the AI is a complete retard? All of the things on the ship that are intended to be helpful to the passengers, explain what's going on, and interact with the passengers do so as if they are completely oblivious to anything going on. They act like they're pre-programmed voice recordings that aren't able to relate to present information, and yet they interact with the passenger and answer all of his questions. And then when he gets them in a psychological trap where they have to admit the truth, they just cut to the next scene and then interact with a different AI system and go through the loop again. Always cutting without showing you if the AI is actually processing the information he's giving it, and then acting like the individual components of the AI are not connected to each other. This so bad it's hard to bear. It's painful to watch. Like, what is the point of having a message system that takes fifty years to get a response and costs thousands of dollars to do so? That's the kind of thing an idiot puts in their story because they think it creates a funny dilemma, but it's mindlessly unrealistic. This is a movie that you need to literally take your brain out of your head and throw it in the garbage just to enjoy. Alright, let's get back to it.

So, Jim realises he's trapped on the spaceship all by himself, and takes the advice of an android to experiment a little with his situation. He takes this opportunity to become a drunk neanderthal. I'm watching as he barely skims manuals before attempting potentially life threatening endeavors and wondering to myself how funny it would be if he killed himself. I literally thought to myself, not in a suicidal way, but out of sheer stupidity. And then like fifteen seconds later he actually starts seriously contemplating suicide.

A short while later he starts getting a little obsessed over a beautiful woman he sees sleeping in her pod. This of course is Jennifer Lawrence who plays Aurora Lane, ironically she's the daughter of a Pulitzer prize winning author. That's just the kind of generic thing a writer with no self-awareness would write in their talentless script devoid of any notion of creativity or originality. And then we have a scene where Jim is sitting on his bed, listening to her interview, and looks over at the Stasis Pod manual on his bedside table. The camera zooms in slowly and dramatically, and you can see the wheel turning in Jim's head. Is he actually going to read it and learn something useful from the manual that's been sitting there as long as it's taken him to grow a giant lumberjack beard. You would think that anyone with half a brain would have thought of this within a few hours of realising they were alone stranded on a spaceship in which everyone else was sleeping, the AI was useless, and all of the manuals were accessible. The wheel is finally turning in Jim's head, but isn't the hamster dead?

There is something mildly amusing about all of this, and I don't just mean in the so bad it's good variety. I can completely understand why people would make this movie this way, and why people would watch it and enjoy it. Mind you, not very smart people, but people who just want to feel good in a sappy way. It's a very sentimental movie. I think sentimental is the best word to describe any form of art made in this way. It's not talented, and it's not creative, which is supposed to be the whole purpose of art in the first place, but what do people with no talent or creativity have left if they still want to make art? Pretty much just feelings. Emotionally driven content that doesn't care at all about science, philosophy, psychology, math, history, geography, literature, language, or really anything of any intellectual or knowledge base. All that is left is feelings. They still want to feel good, and they've got millions of dollars, so why not hire some people who do have talent to make some feel good entertainment for them. And they can at least pretend to be intelligent. They can at least pretend it's scientific, and creative. And if it's ever exposed to them that the things they love aren't as valuable as their feelings led them to believe, well they can always just say it doesn't matter. It doesn't have to be. It doesn't have to intelligent or talented or honest. It just be fun and feel good. And that's why there are so many movies, and books, and stories like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. It's just easier to settle for sentimental feelings than it is to develop your mind.

Alright now let's get back to the movie because something interesting is about to happen. They've been building up the anticipation for Jennifer Lawrence to wake up, and we really want to know how it's going to play over. So, Jim, the baffling idiot who doesn't even think of reading the manuals to get out of his situation or learn about what's really going on and uncover the deep dark and potentially terrifying truth of the reality of his situation and find a solution, has reworked the circuit board and reprogrammed her stasis pod through wizardry. And sleeping beauty is about to awaken, to prince charming. I know, it's so horribly cliche, and yet I want to know what's going to happen next. You have to at least give this movie some credit, even though it is a pretty terrible movie. Maybe Jennifer Lawrence on set can improve it a little at least.

Well, I was enjoying myself for a while. Thanks to the relationship between Aurora and Jim, things were fairly compelling for a while. She was obviously smarter than him, asking questions and determined to find a solution, but then I guess all of that just got forgotten as the focus turned to romance. We waited for the bomb to drop, and drop it did. As expected, she was devastated and hated Jim for taking her life from her. Then the movie decided to try having a plot again, and failed pretty hard. An officer of the crew wakes up when his pod fails, and this gives them access to a lot of information they weren't privy to before. He informs them that turning around and going back to Earth would take just as long as continuing on. Why? He explains it's because they're travelling at half the speed of light. Right... so that explains why they can go and float out in space suits attached to tethers. Because they're going sooooooo fast... Why don't they slow down? Presumably the ship can do that, slow down, turn around, and go back to Earth. How are they supposed to arrive at their destination if this advanced technology doesn't even have the ability to slow down? The speed of light is 300,000 kilometres per second. That's 186,000 miles per second. Can you fathom that? If they're travelling at half the speed of light, then they're travelling at 150,000 kilometres per second. Yet, they're floating on tethers and walking around with magnet boots like they're travelling at a snail's pace, or in a zero gravity chamber. I mean, granted there is no gravity in space, but the laws of physics still apply. Every second they have traveled a hundred and fifty thousand kilometres, or at least the ship they're walking on and attached to by cables is. Anyway, I could go and talk about space stations in orbit of Earth and the fact that the planet is travelling incredibly fast through space, yet we float, but that's because of the planet's gravity, and the same thing goes for walking on the moon. So that would mean their space ship would have to exert enough gravitational force to generate the effect of an entire planet. Alright, well time to get back to the retardation.

And then something happened that actually made me burst out laughing. The lights go out, and the gravity system shuts down while Aurora is in the pool. An arbitrary ball of water levitates with her swimming in it. She tries to get out, but the water sort of expands or moves and she starts to drown. She reaches her hand out in a dramatic desperate attempt at something that is hypothetically conceivable, like as if she were reaching for a handle, and as if she was that close to getting out and reaching her hand out was somehow a better idea than continuing to swim towards air. Then she passes out, and drowns. She floats lifelessly, her body quivering as presumably water fills her lungs or she's still able to hold her breath while unconscious and it's just her body's natural reaction to try and breathe even though she's holding her breath. I've had similar convulsions when holding my breath for long periods of time. It's hard to suppress the body's natural impulse to take in air. So she's drowned. Officially drowned, and there's no one around to perform CPR, so she's essentially dead. Then the most whimsical plot armor you can think of saves her miraculously. It can't be called anything short of a miracle. The gravity comes back on, and the water falls back down into the pool. But guess what, she's still unconscious, drowned, and under the water. So what happens? She just wakes up, breaks out of the water, and gasps for air. You really can't call that anything but a miracle. I felt like I just drowned, in this movie's stupidity.

There was some enjoyable tension when the couple face a terrible catastrophe that threatens to kill them and everyone else onboard. There was a very feel-good moment when Aurora saved Jim, but at the same time it made me laugh because it was a bit absurd and very cliche. He's hurtling off through space, she rescues him, but he's dead. So she uses the captain's card to override the medical function to resuscitate him and spams all of the options because she doesn't know a single thing about first aid. It should have been a disaster, and he should have been still dead, but another miracle happens for our wishful audience so we can have the sappy happy ending. But that's not all. Oh no, there's more. They realise they can use the doc pod as a cryo pod and put one person back to sleep. He tells her that it's going to be her so she can go and live her life like she originally planned. But instead we get what this sappy audience wants, a cliche feel-good happy romantic fairy tale ending. They live happily ever after living out their entire life on the ship with only each other. Never mind all of the questions you may have. Like, what happened when one of them died and the other was alone for the rest of their life? What about all the things that could go wrong? Nope, just trust us, everything is fine. They lived long lives madly in love with each, the life that everyone who never contemplates the meaning of life wants. So incredibly boring. I laughed out loud at the end. A final bit of voice-over of Jennifer Lawrence saying they lived out their long and happy lives in the most cliche and sappy romance you can possible imagine. End credits. It's so bad it makes The Notebook look good.

Alright, well that's all for now. I didn't write everything I wanted to about the movie. There are more absurdities I could get into, but that's all the time I have for now. I didn't even fully proof read this because it's so long, so there are probably some embarrassing grammar mistakes and typos. But, I hope it was an enjoyable read for some people. I enjoyed writing it. I wrote it as I watched the movie, pausing to make comments and then resuming. Overall I think it was a pretty terrible movie, but it was visually appealing and had some entertaining moments. At least the acting wasn't bad. Some of the dialogue was decent too. I have to give the actors credit, even though I don't like Chris Pratt he did a decent job.

A system of cells interlinked
Good review. I once saw a video that compared this film to 2016's Arrival, making a comparison between the two to highlight what makes good science fiction good, and what makes terrible science fiction bad. you can guess which side of the argument Passengers was used for.

I think this film could have been salvaged to some extent if the film makers had dropped the lame Hollywood ending, and gone for something much darker and thought provoking...

Instead of Jim getting saved my the med table, he sacrifices himself to save the ship and just straight up dies while doing it. I mean, just burnt to a crisp and his husk of a body floats off into space. Then, the film ends with Aurora standing in the sleep chamber, staring at another pod with a pained look of ambivalence on her face. Fade to black, film ends.

I like that ending more, and the tables are turned and now she is in the same position Jim was in.

Of course, they didn't have the balls to go with something like that.
“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.” ― Thomas Sowell

Yeah well, to change the ending like that would conflict with the tone of the rest of the movie. I think they would have to change a lot of things and reshoot about a third of the movie to salvage it, but even then it wouldn't be a great movie. It looks like the actors had a good time though in some behind the scenes footage and interviews I watched. They really had good chemistry and that was the best part of the movie. Even though I don't like Pratt as an actor, he seems like a pretty likable guy.

A system of cells interlinked
Yeah well, to change the ending like that would conflict with the tone of the rest of the movie. I think they would have to change a lot of things and reshoot about a third of the movie to salvage it, but even then it wouldn't be a great movie. It looks like the actors had a good time though in some behind the scenes footage and interviews I watched. They really had good chemistry and that was the best part of the movie. Even though I don't like Pratt as an actor, he seems like a pretty likable guy.
Fair point. If the film makers were bold enough to cut an ending like that, I think we would have ended up with a very different film entirely. Alas, we did not...

It kind of pains me to see actors I like so much, like Jennifer Lawrence and Laurence Fishburne, make bad movies when I know they're capable of making great movies. I would expect a movie like this from Will Smith, but not Jennifer Lawrence. Is Fishburne having trouble finding work or something? He seems to be appearing in small roles in really terrible movies lately. What happened to Morpheus? That guy used to be so awesome.