Saturday, January 21, 2017

Passengers

2016, Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) - cinema

**SPOILERS**

From the get go, you could tell the producers took a miss-turn revealing the core premise of this scifi drama and turned the wheel towards a more manageable romantic thriller. Do you remember the early trailers, where they reveal that Chris Pratt's Jim Preston wakes up Jennifer Lawrence's Aurora Lane because he is lonely? Once the Internet Outrage Machine took hold of that, it had to be hidden. And all subsequent trailers went the way of two people up against great odds while alone on a spaceship, a hundred years from its destination.

So, that. In a distant future, faster than light travel is still not possible. The big starship Avalon on its way to Homestead II, and will take about 120 years. The passengers sleep while the robots and massive computer keep everything clean and working. But the ship suffers a bumpy ride, malfunctions and wakes up Jim. Only Jim.

Jim is an economy class passenger. Breakfast is cereal, lunch & dinner are Mexican and AYCE sushi. His berth is tiny. But all it takes is a crowbar to find a bigger bed.  Those first few months on the ship are like the first few episodes of The Last Man on Earth minus the Margarita Pool. Jim does as he pleases, eventually succumbing to the no-shave, no-cleaning despondent lifestyle. Eventually Jim gets lonely and then fixates on Aurora, a writer from NYC, who is a first class passenger. After some months of painful deliberation, he wakes her up.

And there is the rub of it. In a more thoughtful movie, he might wake up a handful of people which would generate all the different opinions for and against what Jim has done. While the movie doesn't entirely shirk away from the moral implications of what he has done, but it doesn't fully embrace them either. This is a December-January release movie, which means it has to be accessible and likeable. So, we get enough to know Jim feels bad about what he has done, but not bad enough to not have done it.

And the movie is a romance. No, really. And it does a good job of realizing it, of allowing it to happen slowly, probably another year? They are alone, they entertain each other, the entertain together, they get drunk together (Michael Sheehan plays the programmatically affable robot bartender) and eventually they fall in love. C'mon, its a buffed up Chris Pratt and a gorgeous white blonde Jennifer Lawrence. Who wouldn't want them to get together.

And of course she finds out. And of course she freaks out.

Again, a better movie would have focused on the ramifications, both of what he had done, and the nature of what comes next. There is one scene where he wakes to find her on top of him, pounding away with fists. He lets it happen. Amusingly enough, I think Jennifer got an actual punch in there, as earlier in the movie, they do a bad job of hiding a black eye on Pratt.  But once the movie does a requisite amount of hatred and tears, it shifts the goal to saving the ship. As a Hollywood blockbuster, it does a good job of giving them a reason to be together, even after everything they go through, after everything he has done, and how she has reacted. But a better movie would have focused more on the, "This is our life now, so now what...."