Rotten Tomatoes refers to this movie as having a “fatally flawed story” that not even Pratt’s and Lawrence’s chemistry can save. So as I was watching this movie, I was trying to keep a keen eye out for this flaw that kills the entire story…
There isn’t one.
The only thing that I could find was from later reading some… professional reviewers talk about this movie, and what they came up with was absolutely laughable.
In my opinion, Passengers is a great sci-fi movie that has a lot of common good elements, and it also has a few good elements that are uncommon to most movies, especially ones in the sci-fi genre.
For the most part, Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence are the only two characters in this movie, and not only do they work really well together, but they were able to differentiate their characters enough from previous roles. Granted, neither of them are particularly dynamic characters, and the majority of who they are can be described as “normal”. But they were unique enough to be interesting and engaging.
Out of the two, Jennifer Lawrence has the stronger performance (she’s consistently great at demonstrating strong emotions), but I was also happy that Chris Pratt wasn’t just a recycled version of Star Lord… like another movie that he was in recently (which I still liked).
Jim (Pratt) and Aurora (Lawrence) both have their humorous moments, but the vast majority of comedy comes from Arthur (Michael Sheen), the android bartender. His character is hilarious and he adds a lot to this movie.
The sci-fi elements in this movie have a massive amount of thought put into them. Nearly everything has a viable explanation to how it works, why it works, and what its purpose is. There was almost no moment in the movie where I wasn’t satisfied with an explanation to how the tech mumbo-jumbo worked, and I tried really hard to think of a criticism (all I could come up with was nitpicks).
One of the things that I really appreciated about the movie is Jim’s and Aurora’s thought processes about how they were going to fix their situation. There’s this thing that many movies, and not just sci-fi ones, do where they establish a problem, and the characters just accept it instead of trying every common-sense solution a human could think of.
Jim and Aurora constantly thought of ways to try to get back into hyper slumber, and it made their characters more interesting and relatable.
There’s another character that appears later in the story. The character’s existence is a bit convenient, but there was nothing about it that seemed forced or irritating about that character appearing.
The movie also has the stones to actually make some of our characters morally ambiguous. At one point, one of the characters makes a decision that was completely wrong. And the movie attempts to tackle this moral struggle.
They never end up tackling it in a profound or fascinating way, but that doesn’t mean that it was bad.
The soundtrack, while fine, was not exceptional and there were moments where I was wondering if it was trying to make me feel a certain way about certain scenes (especially considering the morally ambiguous choices).
The cinematography was fine, and the special effects were well above average in my opinion.
So what exactly are the flaws of this movie?
Well, the ending wasn’t bad, but it is certainly the weakest part of the story. I would go deeper into that, but it would probably spoil the movie.
There’s some dialogue pieces that are a bit cheesier than others, but there’s nothing that is particularly eye-roll worthy.
Basically, in order for me to talk about and explain the issue that many reviewers had with this movie, I’m going to have to spoil a lot of it. So if you want to hear my thoughts about it, they’re below the picture. The last paragraph is not a spoiler.
<SPOILER> <ALSO, LANGUAGE>
The movie is sexist.
Yes, the issue that many reviewers had about this movie is that it’s “problematic” as one reviewer put, and “blatantly sexist” as another reviewer put.
Pardon my Polish, but fuck the hell right off.
After reading these reviews, I tried to remember everything in the movie to see if anything about it could be considered sexist.
The first thing that I could think of is that perhaps the types of careers they both had were stereotypical to their gender: Jim is a male STEM worker who is enlisted as an engineer. And Aurora is a writer.
However, nobody that isn’t a gender studies major would give a shit about this. It’s not like the movie belittles Aurora for being a writer; she actually makes a lot more money than Jim does.
Sure, being an engineer does provide Jim with more opportunities to save the day than Aurora, but if you desperately need to have your female character be strong and independent, kindly fuck off to any of the dozens of movies this year that have the obligatory strong female protagonists, thanks.
The most serious thing I could think of is the fact that (and seriously guys, this is the biggest part that the trailers didn’t spoil) Jim decides to wake up Aurora on his own after living on the ship for a year without any sort of human contact.
He does this after weeks of looking through her ship bio and reading her literature. He then spends the rest of the time, between that and actually waking her up, arguing with himself on whether or not he should do it.
So he wakes Aurora up, and therefore ruining her future life on the planet they were going to, so that he can have a companion. The issue that mainstream reviewers seem to have is that Jim is sexually attracted to this woman as well.
Holy shit, this is so retarded.
First off, this would be a logical thing that this specific character would do. If the character’s actions are logical, but they just so happen to piss off your politics, then you are not an objective reviewer; you are just a movie-watching hack. Maybe I should have detracted points from Captain Fantastic or Swiss Army Man because their characters do and say things that I disagreed with.
Second, the movie acknowledges that this is a morally bad decision. The movie doesn’t act like Jim is doing something good. Does the soundtrack try to make you think this is a romantic thing that Jim is doing and not a bad thing? Occasionally, yes. Does Laurence Fishburne try to provide some justification to Jim’s actions at one point in the movie? Yes, but this movie’s in space!
It’s space, and there is absolutely no damn situational equivalent to this particular situation that you can make on earth. There’s no police force that can arrest him, there’s no light speeding to another planet so that they can punish Jim for what he did, and there’s no point in waking anybody else up to divvy out some sort of capital punishment. IT’S A FICTIONAL MOVIE AND THE EVENTS JUST SO HAPPEN TO BE UNIQUE TO THIS MOVIE.
Third, and I want you to read this very carefully: none of you would be upset if the roles were reversed. If Aurora was accidentally woken too early, spent a year by herself, driving herself crazy, and then saw Jim and decided she was sexually attracted to him, learned about him, and then argued with herself all the way up until she decided to wake Jim up, then nobody would be calling this movie sexist.
Hell, some of you probably wouldn’t even require the movie to insinuate that what Aurora did was wrong.
It’s not a detractor to the movie for a character to make bad decisions; it actually gives them CHARACTER! It makes them human. As long as the movie isn’t blatantly promoting his decision as a good decision, then you have no right deducting points from the film.
Passengers is a surprisingly competent sci-fi movie. It thinks its plot and details out exceptionally well, Pratt and Lawrence both do great in their roles, and the movie is relatively crowd pleasing provided you aren’t some easily-irritated loon bag. The ending is particularly weak, but aside from that, I would definitely recommend this film.