Thursday, December 22, 2016

Passengers

I don't think I've done a meta-review before, but I need to rant about the press coverage that Passengers is getting, and dammit I have a blog.

This will involve spoilers. Lots of them.

Gizmodo's review of Passengers, for reference.

The plot point at the center of the complaint in that review (and others) is that Chris Pratt's character Jim wakes up Jennifer Lawrence's character Aurora. As the review says, this is a terrible thing to do, and robs her of the future she had planned for herself, and that's the entire point of the movie. It's not like the movie tiptoes around it.

Gizmodo's review says "Sometimes you see it, others you don’t. It gets a big moment, then it’s forgotten." No. No one ever forgets it. The romance plot, before Aurora finds out, is littered with Jim's guilt. They don't talk about it during the action sequences, because that's really not the time for it, but everything else revolves around his decision to wake her up and what that means.

It's possible that the author of the review simply wasn't paying attention - in the next paragraph, he asks "Why are these people taking this trip?" and "Why is anti-gravity swimming even available?" The first of those is addressed, though not in great depth, and the second - it's not, except when gravity fails due to critical system shutdowns, which is, you know, the driving plot of the movie.

Passengers is good sci-fi. It takes human characters, puts them in difficult situations, and imagines what they would do. Humans are social creatures, and while Jim's decision is clearly unethical, it is understandable, and asking the audience to think about that is the point.

The Gizmodo review further says "Waking Aurora up is tantamount to murder." It's true that Aurora says the same thing, but she changes her mind later, and the reviewer doesn't seem to understand that, or why. We're all going to die. Your parents sentenced you to death at the moment of your birth. How we live our lives is what matters, and that's the other main point of the film. It's not like they were trying to hide that either - it's flatly stated more than once, by more than one character (which is impressive, since there are only four characters with appreciable speaking lines). I understand disliking the ending. I can think of a few other ways they could have handled the situation that might have allowed them a different outcome - but I also understand the choice the characters made, to live the life they had in front of them because it was a good enough life to live.

For the objection that Jim's a manipulative asshole - sure. He's also smart, charming, good looking, funny. I've seen people make worse choices. I do wish the filmmakers had had the vision and balls to pull a Clue and film alternate endings. That would have been spectacular.

Lastly, I'm shocked and appalled that none of the reviews I've read have pointed out the obvious - Jennifer Lawrence's character is named Aurora Lane. And she's a reporter. Aurora for Sleeping Beauty, and Lane for Lois Lane. It's so completely obviously referential. Jim even wakes her up from a glass coffin nonconsensually (in the Disney sense, not the fairy tale sense). Then they reverse the glass coffin scene at the end for closure. The writers clearly knew what they were doing here, and I'm ashamed of the movie critics who didn't get it.

Performance: 4/5
Plot: 3.5/5
Production: 5/5
Overall: 3.5/5
Bechdel: Fail (F - I'm not counting holograms)
Mako Mori: Pass - and this is where I have a problem with some other reviewers. Aurora did have her own motivations that didn't involve Jim, and that's the point.


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