Quick Thoughts: Passengers (2016)
On an over-a-century long voyage to a new planet, two passengers are woken up decades too early.
Passengers was a surprisingly good film. Whilst the characterisation was a weak support to this high concept that is somewhat cliched, the execution was quite all right – and this was in spite of a few initial things that were annoying. As implied, Passengers is not a very original film; it very openly uses aesthetics from 2001: A Space Odyssey (which almost every space sci-fi movie feels it has to), as well as elements from The Shining. In fact, there are many aspects of the opening which suggested that this was going to be a re-working of Kubrick’s classic horror film – and in certain respects it is, but not to the jarring degree I initially suspected. Layered onto this are also clear inspirations from WALL-E and every other ‘last survivors’ movie. However, the greater and more damaging problems that this narrative faces all reside in the second half. In short, everything to do with structure and conflict (script, direction, characterisation, editing) was juddered, jumpy and frenetic in a poorly calculated manner – which reduced the overall quality of the film. Passengers is then not a masterpiece, but is probably worth the watch if you haven’t seen it yet.
One of the most expressive ideas within this film that served as a hugely redeeming element is the meeting between some pretty non-reflective humans (a consequence of their weak characterisation) and some seemingly equally ‘conscious’ computer programs. The only real difference between these two beings, between our main character and the computer programs that serve them, is that the humans have to give themselves purpose whilst the robots are given purpose. Despite this major difference there is a significant connection between the two and that is, once they have some given purpose, they follow it blindly. And this is the core conflict at the heart of this movie that is captured by themes of romance, isolation and connection; the ‘passengers’ are then not just confined to the ship they are on, but are confined to the bodies and minds they exist in. Without purpose and clear reason it is not the thousand foot long cage that they then have to worry about – it’s the meat sack prison that they have to live through that is their main problem.
Passengers is then a pretty traditional allegory that uses its space ship as a slight metaphor to suggest that our main characters have to embrace their ‘auto-pilot’ together once they have secured and repaired their vessel through life – both the abstract idea of their relationship as well as the ship taking them through empty space. Though there isn’t an incredible amount of depth provided beneath this subtext – seemingly because the writers and director didn’t fully grip the profundity belying their story – Passengers is quite an interesting, arguably somewhat rare, blockbuster thanks to this subtext and re-affirmation of classical ideas.
The last thing I’ll end on is then that Passengers is essentially The Shining re-imagined to depict a narrative centred around things not going so horribly with Jack, the axe, the knife, the snow and so on. With that said, have you seen Passengers? What are you thoughts on this movie?
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