Anthony's Film Review

Passengers (2016)

A science-fiction movie that nicely mixes drama, romance, and philosophy...

If you had the chance to travel to and help colonize another planet, would you take that opportunity? Would you do it if it meant being in suspended hibernation for 120 years and forever leaving behind your family, friends, and life on Earth? The price is no doubt a very hefty one, but what about its perks, like living in a new gorgeous life-supporting world, not to mention the luxurious amenities and options for leisure available on your spaceship when you wake up shortly before landing on the new planet? All of this does sound good to 5,000 Earthlings who agree to go into hibernation aboard the Avalon, a spaceship on autopilot (the human crew are also in hibernation) headed for the planet Homestead II.

Now let me throw in one more hypothetical question. What if, due to the Avalon colliding with space rocks, a brief malfunction causes your hibernation pod to wake you up 90 years before arrival? Well, that's what happens to Jim Preston, played by Chris Pratt. He wakes up thinking he's almost arrived on Homestead II, especially as various pre-recorded virtual reality assistants are welcoming Jim after 120 years. But soon, he realizes he's alone, because he woke up early. And that scares the hell out of him.

What do you do in a situation like this? What if you cannot go back into hibernation, such that you will spend the rest of your life on the Avalon without ever arriving on Homestead II? I know what I would first do: distract myself. After all, there are leisure options on the ship, and there is a robot bartender named Arthur, played by Michael Sheen, whom one can chat with. Even so, it's only a temporary fix. Jim does this for a year and ends up going crazy from having no real human interaction.

If only there were someone with him, perhaps another passenger who woke up early. Since no one has spontaneously woken up due to a temporary hibernation pod malfunction, the only way to have a companion is to wake that person up on purpose. He considers doing this for Aurora Lane, played by Jennifer Lawrence. Jim is captivated by her beauty and her occupation as a writer. After admiring her while she is still asleep and unable to fight the desire for human company any longer, Jim tampers with her pod to wake her up. From there, a friendship followed by a romance forms, and it all happens while Jim has to maintain his secret about waking her up against her will, essentially forcing her to abandon her dreams of arriving on Homestead II.

There are really just two kinds of stories from this point on. One is the romance story. The other is the sci-fi disaster story, because it is discovered that the Avalon has some critical malfunctions that are not evident until the ship is on the brink of destruction. You can sort of think of this movie as a science-fiction Titanic. Like that 1997 movie, this one has gripping suspense and heartfelt romance, either separately or simultaneously.

I saw this movie after a good friend of mine saw it and sent me text messages on my smartphone. He said it was an excellent movie and added that "philosophers will have a field day analyzing this one." It's true. There are moments in this film that will make you think about life not going the way you planned it, the ethics of ruining someone else's life chances for your own happiness, the need for human interaction, looking at the present versus the future, and making the most out of life regardless of what is expected to happen at the end. What's interesting is how the setting of being in space with no habitable planet nearby allows for such exploration of ideas.

There isn't anything in the story that is ultimately surprising or unpredictable. At least it's an emotional ride and a thought-provoking philosophical movie. The movie excels by being both of those things. If it were just one or the other, it would be a good to average movie, a reminder that a great film makes the most out of itself. This movie about passengers on a space journey is a nice ride to take for sure.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Passengers, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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