Passengers (2016)
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Passengers (2016)

The myriad of achievements humanity has created over the eons there were those that are the crowning achievement of our species, proving our superiority over impossible odds and nature itself. On the other end of the spectrum, people have devised some of the most heinous, revolting and debased methods to inflict pain and suffering on another human being. While undoubtedly physical torture is impossible for a sane person to imagine without being overwhelmed by disgust but to truly most insidious of those that attack the person on the psychological level. Among those assaults intended to undermine the psychological stability of a person one of the worst is considered by most to be isolation. Solitary confinement may superficially seem to be far from the worst thing that being can be inflicted on an individual but recognized as one of the worst. There are laws on the state federal and even international level proscribing the use of this is a form of punishment. Humanity is a social animal; we require interaction with others about kind. When a person is placed in a situation that precludes the use of isolation as a means of punishment their mind quickly spirals inward eroding every remnant of sanity. As honest as may seem these observations were crucial for consideration of a recent sci-fi/romantic film that has just been released on Blu-ray and DVD, ‘Passengers.' Before delving into the particulars of this film is critical that the established destructive properties of isolation are the very foundation of understanding the themes and motivations that drive the story presented in this movie. Science fiction has utilized this theme in a multitude of formats. The familiar trope of an individual trapped on a deserted island or alone in an empty city after a civilization ending apocalypse. The variations on the topic are straightforward as presented in this movie. A man on a spaceship heading deep into the void to colonize a planet, inadvertently awakened from hyper sleep, a necessary component of the mission the journey to the colonial world would take 120 years. After only 30 years technical failure results in a passenger awakening to face the remainder of his life completely alone. Many critics of the story feel that the actions taken by the leading man unforgivable completely negating any semblance of romantic plot points.

Over 5,000 colonists are hibernating for the spaceship Avalon embarked on 120 year journey to the new home planet, Homestead II. Only a quarter of the distance covered the Avalon encounters an asteroid field very massive rock collide with the ship causing severe damage to its onboard shielding systems allowing a smaller asteroid to pierce the hull of the ship. The result of this catastrophic chain of events is one of the hibernation parts is damaged resulting in its passenger, mechanical engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) prematurely awakening. The Avalon is one of the several ships owned by a massive corporation specializing in extraterrestrial colonization. The ships are state-of-the-art as far as lecturing and amenities are concerned with the price of a first-class ticket exorbitantly beyond the financial reach of most people on earth. As an engineer, Jim was able to obtain a ticket under the classification of required specialist necessary to establish a fully functional and independent colony. His pragmatic professionalism is fully engaged as he searches the ship with some means to return to hibernation. The critical areas of the ship are off limits to anybody except high-ranking members of the crew, all of which are still in hibernation. Making do with the access he has Jim manages to find ways of obtaining the necessary food and water he requires. He also breaks into a sweet intended for a ‘Gold Level Passenger Capital, affording him access to some of the ships recreational facilities. With everyone else still asleep the only source of conversation that Jim has his Arthur, the cybernetic bartender. How the director chose to frame this scenesin the bar provides a means for Jim to verbalize his growing dispair. As Jim clings his sanity by talking to the non-human bartender, Arthur (Michael Sheen) it is visuually and contexturaly highly reminiscent of a similar situation. You cannot help but cpmpare this immagry with the iconic barrom found in the Stanley Kubrick film, ‘The Shining .' Several other details in set design and the color scheme were reminiscent of the same film subconsciously giving the audience an uneasy feeling.

The story moves rather quickly through the next year of Jim’s life as he tries his best to remain sane is the only person on the ship that is awake. Jim is constantly tormented by the seemingly endless rooms of individuals safely still hibernating in their pods, awaiting a brand-new life on a distant world. The perennial favorite way of indicating the passage of time is used here as Jim begins to grow a thick, bushy beard. This is the same visual cue used in such stories as ‘Robinson Crusoe’ and Castaway.' The main difference is that even if one was available a coconut be unable to fill Jim’s need for social contact. Over a year goes by before the crushing weight of isolation is more than Jim can bear. One of the recreational activities he engaged in was an extra vehicular activity floating outside the spaceship safely tethered to the airlock. At one point Jim’s isolation approach is the point of being completely unbearable, and he nearly opens the airlock about wearing the protective spacesuit. At this point that it begins to consider awakening one of the other passengers for company seriously. Jim meanders to the seemingly endless expanse of hyperspace pods carefully e comes across examining the biographical synopsis associated with each pod. He comes across a Plexiglas enclosure containing a young woman, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence). The daughter of a well-known author she had gained considerable recognition for herself as she followed in her father’s literary career. Is a tongue-in-cheek not to be the company and the choice of name for this character. Always Aurora was the given name of sleeping beauty the crushing guilt of his action, unilaterally stealing the future, happy life of a passenger, at that moment is insignificant to the unbearable thought of spending the remainder of his life completely alone. There has been some conjecture among those who deem this action to be completely selfish and uncalled for that his victim was ultimately doomed not because she was a writer, excellent chances are she’d be an adept conversationalist, but because she was exceptionally beautiful. Many of the films the detractors note that Jim’s final criteria to select a victim focus on physical attractiveness compounded the unforgivable action of unconditionally removing a person’s potential life. Aurora suffered the complete objectification as a woman, openly judged and doomed by her appearance. After the angst ridden end to the first act, the essentials of storytelling demand a lighter sment to break the tension undoubtedly felt by the audience. The viewers are inevutably experiencing a reminder of the romance shown in the trailers, and pre-released press promised, arguably two of the most popular and attractive A-List stars, coincidently both heavily involved with science fiction/comic book films, the viewers demand emotionally compelling scenes. After Jim surreptitiously sabotages Aurora’s hibernation pod he has discussed his difficult decision with Arthur. After Aurora begins to cope with the reality of the situation, denied the new start she paid to have. As an author and journalist, Aurora has a naturally inquisitive nature, but that is subdued as she refocuses on the reality of her circumstances. She grows closer to Jim forging a bond that quickly morphs into a budding and natural romance. Jim does play into his role as the working class passenger there for his skill set and having limited access to the ship’s enmities. He has managed to hack into much of what he desired, but as soon Aurora realized her breakfast was extravagant while Jim had little more that hot cereal, she exhibits the guilt felt by the privilege when the encounter a member of the working class. Aurora quickly offers to buy him anything he wants. They spend days sampling the extreme form of entertainment leading to the inevitable sexual liaison.

Under the impression that Jim revealed the truth of her awakening to Aurora, casually mentions Jim’s direct and considered actions. Outraged, the emotional bond established over the last year evaporates as Aurora understandably rips into Jim that his selfish actions where tantamount to murder, taking away her life. They live apart dividing the resources, including time in the bar, among them. Aurora continues to write the book she has been working on since she awoke, but now the timber of the opus has changed from love story to an account of betrayal. Following the three act formula typically associated with romantic comedies, the blazing passion of th first story segment turns to the forced separation defining the second act which than flowing seamlessly into the intense external events that force cooperation in the third and final act. The customary way to introduce the drastic occurrence requiring the estranged lover to cooperate, introduced through a catalyst in human form, Chief Deck Officer Gus Mancuso (Laurence Fishburne). During their diagnosis of the ship they locate an inordinate number of systemic failures threatening to destroy the ship. Gus’s premature removal from hibernation servervly damaged him producing widespread organ failures. Gus is terminal with less than a coouple f days remaining. Before he dies, he gives Jim his administrative wrist band and access code giving him full override access. To all of the ship’s systems. As they continue with the repairs, Jim is injured forcing Aurora to contemplate a possible fate of facing the remainder of her life alone. Realizing she love him, you can fill in the conclusion accurately from experience. It is this unwavering commitment to following a well-established and predicable storyline that reducing the effectiveness of the movie considerably. It set out as a consideration of a moral dilemma. The story utilizes an ancient plot device, forcing a reasonable man into the most unreasonable circumstances possible. This degraded it into what amount s of a pulp romance novel.

A movie of this ilk is entirely dependent on the chemistry between the leading actors. Ms. Lawrence and Mr. Pratt have been close friends outside of their professional encounter. It is known Ms. Lawrence is also close friends with the comedic actress married to Mr. Pratt; the three of them have reputations for enjoying practical jokes and enjoying themselves on set. During the obligatory press junket surrounding the theatrical release, it was obvious they were unusually at ease in each other’s company and that the sex scenes were handled humorously with quantities of intoxicating beverages behind the scenes. Their interviews came across as hanging out with friends rather than a contractual obligation. This relationship overflowed into their performances creating a synergistic performance that contributed significantly to bring the audience through the issues with how the story was presented and the ponderously intense moral implication intrinsic to the circumstances.

bulletOn the Set with Chris Pratt
bulletcasting the Passengers
bulletCreating the Avalon
bulletOuttakes from the Set
bulletBook Your Passage: Looking for a New Life? Learn more About the Homestead Company. See What Awaits You.
bulletFirst Look at the Passengers Awakening VR Experience
bulletDeleted Scenes
bulletSpace on Screen: The Visual Effects of Passengers

Posted 03/24/2017

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