Monday, 8 May 2017


Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, and Andy Garcia

Director: Morten Tyldum

116 minutes (12) 2016
Widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Sony blu-ray region B

Rating: 6/10
Review by Christopher Geary

A shipboard romance in space? Yes, sci-fi trappings provide refreshingly cool backdrops to this otherwise insufferably corny adventure of, as the old song goes - ‘if you were the only girl in the world, and I was the only boy’. The boy is a mechanic named Jim (played by the ‘Star Lord’ himself, Chris Pratt), while the girl is Jennifer Lawrence as Aurora, and, perhaps, no other name screams ‘space-girl’ as loudly; not even Stella. Directed by the Norwegian maker of thriller Headhunters (2011), and Alan Turing bio-pic The Imitation Game (2014), Passengers is basically Titanic (1997) with twiddle knobs on, where one rogue asteroid from the cosmic depths replaces an iceberg in the North Atlantic.

While another couple in a movie like Arrival have to deal with first contact problems, this drama has only social contact problems, while it promotes the great human myth of love. Romance is fiction, not fact. Love is the greatest fantasy fixation of literature and cinema and TV, and the stories that we tell each other - to survive life in an indifferent universe. Love is a dream, that we all dream of; but nothing more than that. Love is the singularly perfect thing that cannot be true because all of humanity shares the flaw of an imperfect reasoning bound to our feelings of gross inadequacy. Love is like god because one has to believe in something, and big love makes sense got any pointless life, because it appears to be selfless when, in fact, it is merely evidence of selfishness. That’s why Jim wakes up Aurora when he knows it’s wrong. 

Jim’s awakening from hibernation is an unfortunate accident, just a glitch in the starship systems, but his decision to select a female companion from the trope of sleeping beauty in space is quite premeditated and yet an obvious act of desperation. Passengers is a sci-fi amalgam of various familiar plot details and genre visualisations. Its blatant borrowings include some classics - 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Alien (1979), The Cold Equations (1996), Sunshine (2007), and Prometheus (2012), and not to mention an heroic tragedy stolen from Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Kahn (1982). The only way forwards for Jim and Aurora is to adapt to their circumstances and accept the curse of their lost futures apart, and tolerate the necessity of a second chance together.

Explosive decompression is another instance common to space opera cinema, and here it might be applied as a metaphor to a cross-genre plot mixing lonely stalker themes with a united-we-stand, like it or not, against impending catastrophe - when the starship seems doomed by failing tech. Can the hero fix it, saving thousands of wannabe colonists and so gain redemption for his betrayal? Passengers is not the worst sci-fi production of this type to appear since Alien Cargo (1999), but the 21st century’s new big-budget space movies should really be aiming higher in terms of concepts than this passable genre-tourist fare.

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