Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Icky Stalker Scenario Spoils Intriguing Premise Of 'Passengers'





This review originally appeared on SFist.com.

Passengers is being billed as an sci-fi action romance starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt as two passengers on an interstellar voyage who accidentally wake up decades before they're set to arrive at their destination, with no way of going back into hibernation. And it kind of is, but with one whopping plot point they're leaving out of the ads.

Some may say this is a spoiler, but I say anyone who intends to see this movie has the right to know that it's not actually a story about two people who are put into an impossible situation who then find love and the will to get through it together.

Instead, it's a story about one guy, Jim, who accidentally wakes up almost 100 years too early during a journey from earth to a new colony planet, and after spending a year alone going crazy, decides he can't take it anymore, so he stalks one of the prettier sleeping passengers by learning all about her life...and then decides to wake her up too.

Knowing she won't be able to go back to sleep. Knowing he will, essentially, be murdering her.

I can already hear the counter arguments. It's a desperate situation! He's going to be stuck alone for the rest of his life! What would you do? (I can answer that! As someone who has never viewed the hypothetical threat of solitary confinement as anything other than a  potentially welcome break from the bullshit of other people, I think I'd be fine with it. Especially when there's a robot bartender that looks and sounds like Michael Sheen that I can spend the rest of my life talking and drinking with.)

And perhaps it is a juicy ethical dilemma. What makes the film's handling of it so gross is that Jim doesn't pick an interesting sleeping guy on the ship to keep him company. He picks a beautiful woman, named Aurora (ugh, the symbolism), because if he's going to condemn someone to death, why not have it be someone he'd want to have sex with? Not considering for once, of course, the possibility that she wouldn't want to have sex with him.

Of course he lies to her about just why she woke up, convincing her they're both victims of some kind of weird ship glitch. And of course, because this a big budget movie starring two very attractive and popular stars, she falls in love with him. And of course, his secret is eventually revealed, and she then hates him for what he's done. And of course, a big threat comes along that forces them to work together and realize what really matters.

Just...please.

It's too bad, because Jennifer Lawrence and Christ Pratt are both extremely likable actors, and the situation they're in is actually a pretty interesting one. One that would have been just as interesting without the icky stalker scenario, especially since it's really nothing but a story device that just forces the plot into a typical middle act wherein the people in love with each other hate each other until the final act, when they realize they actually do still love each other.

The space ship Avalon is a lot like the ship in Wall-E, except devoid of its thousands of obese passengers, and full of everything you could possibly want — as long as you've paid for the gold star package. (Jim, of course, has not.) There's the aforementioned bar, straight out of The Shining, along with restaurants with robot waiters who have French accents; a basketball court; and a movie theater that serves popcorn. There's also a genuinely cool and exciting scene centered on what would happen to a swimming pool if the ship were to suddenly lose its gravity.

Less compelling are the ridiculous action sequences that fill up Passengers' finale, as the duo tries to figure out why the ship is falling apart, and realize their only hope comes in trying to fix something outside of the ship, (it's always outside of the ship, isn't it?), which leads to a scenario straight out of The Abyss, and a situation that should have had me on the edge of my seat, but instead just caused my mind to wander, and wonder why, on a ship full of 5,000 passengers and crew, the sick bay would have only ONE medi-pod.

It could have been fun watching Jim and Aurora explore the Avalon, taking advantage of its amenities together, like an interstellar Adam and Eve. But we can't because Jim's horrific act taints the entire goddamn movie.

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