Sunday, April 30, 2017

I am a Passenger

We watched Passengers (2016) because that's the kind of SF we watch, but we had been warned.

It starts with Chris Pratt waking up in his hibernation pod in a great spaceship. He expects to find the crew and the rest of the passengers getting ready to arrive at the colony. But no one else wakes up - there was an accident, and they still have another 90 years to the voyage, and he would be dead before that.

He goes a bit crazy then. He takes a little solace in the ship's bar, talking to the robot bartender (Michael Sheen). He takes a space walk, then contemplates doing it without a suit. He happens across Jennifer Lawrence's pod, and falls in love with her. He knows he mustn't wake her up - it would be a kind of murder. She is a "writer" (we never learn what kind, but I think journalist/essayist most likely) and he obsessively reads all her writing. The parts we hear him read out loud sound kind of corny, and it's not clear whether we're supposed to think she's a shallow airhead (but we kind of do).

After a white-knuckle year, he gives in and wakes her up, and lets her think it was another accident. Soon, they are making love. So, a life in solitary and sex under false pretences: not quite rape and murder, but very close.

This is what so many viewers couldn't accept, and it's not downplayed. Both Pratt and Lawrence know it is unforgivable. The movie's job is now to make Lawrence forgive Pratt. More importantly, to make us forgive Pratt (and not think Lawrence is an idiot if she forgives him).

I'm not going to spoilerate, but I'd like to mention a few things. For instance, there's a critique of corporatism in the movie: The spaceship is like a big shopping mall, or a resort with a rigid class structure. Pratt is a blue-collar machinist with a subsidized ticket. The robot mess hall won't serve him the caramel macchiato, just plain coffee. He spends his time tinkering on the ship, while Lawrence mainly jogs and works on her journal. This also explains why there's no adequate automated backups - stupid corporations. I don't think it really goes anywhere.

Also, I should mention that Laurence Fishburne shows up for a little and watch for Andy Garcia's big part.

In the end, we liked this. The outer space setting was very cool even if it made very little sense (why was the robot bar operating when everyone was in hiberbation? Never mind, robot bartender was our favorite character - and an homage to The Shining.). And the romance, though creepy, worked for us. So we got carried along, like passengers, even if everybody else just slept through it.

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