PASSENGERS: Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt on the Spaceship TITANIC

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passengers-postersPassengers
Written By Jon Spaihts
Directed by Morten Tyldum
Produced by Sony Pictures
Copyright 2016

[Photos Courtesy of Sony Pictures.]

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. FOR THE NON-SPOILER REVIEW, CLICK HERE.

It might be more apt to say that they were playing a game of Starship Titanic. Even though we have a real life example of a gigantic luxury liner that failed miserably while carrying immigrants to a new world, it only makes this movie slightly more believable.

The moral of this story is that man can not do without woman. Even when the man, Jim (Chris Pratt) has an automatic cook to make all his food, an android bartender and cute little DRDs/Roombas to clean up his mess, he can’t hold it together without a woman.

He doesn’t seek out a pal or a mentor, or even someone who might be more technologically proficient or knowledgeable about medicine to fix the problem of getting back to sleep. He did try very hard to get to the crew but didn’t consider help from any of the five thousand civilians on board.

He fixates on the first pretty girl he stumbles across and falls in love with her sleeping self, which is a little creepy. Then, losing his mind, he wakes her up and strands her the way that he is stranded, which is about the worst thing you could do to someone. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that this is not exactly what they intended to portray. Their moral was probably a little more subtle than that.

Before I get into nitpicking, I should point out that I did enjoy the movie. It was promoted as Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence getting together. There is plenty of that, not to mention plenty of skimpy outfits and jogging, swimming and dancing. I noticed that future styles trend towards transparent clothes worn with black bras. The movie was fun and very pretty.

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Transparent clothes.

But… the plot was one big IT problem. The problem was caused by lack of foresight and the only possible excuse for it was arrogance, the kind of arrogance that sank the Titanic. Even though the sleeping pods were never supposed to malfunction, not having a way to put someone back to sleep is the same thing as not having any lifeboats. And only one autodoc for five thousand passengers who are going to be awake at the same time for several months? It would be the longest waiting room line ever.

Not to mention that a nuclear reactor should have an alarm that would wake the dead. I know the diagnostics were supposed to be offline, but there should be certain failures that cause key personnel to wake up to handle them. (With a way to get them back to sleep, of course.)

The fact that the compartment with the meteor hole is sealed off and then forgotten, because the diagnostics were out, is like the compartments on the Titanic that instead of keeping out the water contributed to the sinking.

I understand that complex systems have cascading failures, but I don’t understand how independent entities like robots could be affected by stress on the system.  We are either to assume that Homeland Corporation was as arrogant and shortsighted as the White Star Line, or accept that the writers set the rules the way they did for the sake of the story regardless of whether they made any sense or not.

One thing that does resonate is the way that the interaction with artificial intelligence frustrated the protagonists. I think we have all had conversations with automatic phone systems that have no options that are the option we need! The circular conversations are very familiar.

PASSENGERS
And when did you start feeling that way?

In fact, the artificial intelligence portrayed in the movie hasn’t advanced from our time. Even the non-directive counseling used by the android bartender, Arthur (Michael Sheen), has already been used by programs like Eliza and Barney. His was my favorite performance in the movie, by the way. Somewhere between Guinan and the bartender from The Shining.

They don’t get any real answers until someone else’s pod malfunctions and they talk to a human being who actually knows something about the ship. Lawrence Fishburne’s character, Gus, who is a Deck Officer, sets them on the right track. They might have gotten there without him if Jim (Chris Pratt) had not shown a deplorable lack of curiosity, especially for a mechanic, at the system failures on the ship.

After setting them in the right direction Gus promptly dies from multiple system failures of his own, brought about when his sleeping pod malfunctioned. I wonder when he says that he should have take the pills if it’s a reference to the Matrix.

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Looks like it’s getting a little warm in here.

Finally, with human intervention, a little sciencing, and a whole lot of hand-waving they save the ship. If Jim had been alone he would never have succeeded. One of them needs to space walk while one needs to pull the lever inside. Aurora then space walks to save him and drags him to the autodoc. You want a big, muscular boyfriend when you need to move boxes. You don’t when you have to get him onto a bed. I can’t believe she managed it, but it was great to see the female love interest rescue the guy.

They still face the problem of living their whole lives as passengers. Jim discovers that with Gus’s security clearance the autodoc can be induced to behave like a suspended animation pod. But for some nonsensical reason, there’s only one. It’s about as realistic as only Rose fitting on the door when the Titanic sank and Jack having to stay in the water. Aurora decides to stay awake with him and because it’s now a choice, it’s okay.

At the end the passengers awake to her telling their story, and the ship is full of plants and animals.

But couldn’t they have taken turns? Maybe saved one and just woke them up for a date once in a while? Obviously they can’t have kids as they will also be too old to make it to the planet.

Did they ever check out the other passengers? Fishburne’s character had six hundred some odd things wrong with him because of his pod failure. Were he and Jim the only ones?

Passengers

Passengers gets high marks for imagination and visual effects. The pool that floats in the stars is memorable. The four-character cast gets high marks for acting. Chris Pratt may be the only actor who could have done what the character did and NOT look like a jerk. He has the best hangdog face I’ve ever seen. They didn’t pass science or logic class, though.

Putting romance aside,  or maybe because there is a love story, the movie insists that human contact is necessary for life. You can’t accomplish anything alone. A person on their own is barely a person. Technology is a bad substitute for actual contact. Love is worth it. It’s not a bad message, and probably what was intended. It beats my first conclusion, that Eve was created for Adam to keep him wearing pants and shaving.

 

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Teresa Wickersham

Teresa Wickersham has dabbled in fanfic, gone to a few conventions, created some award-winning (and not so award winning) masquerade costumes, worked on the Save Farscape campaign, and occasionally presents herself as a fluffy bunny or a Krampus.

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