Friday, January 27, 2017

OVP: Passengers (2016)

Film: Passengers (2016)
Stars: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne
Director: Morten Tyldum
Oscar History: 2 nominations (Best Production Design, Score)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

Trailers are meant to want to get you to a movie.  I mean, that's kind of the point-put the best parts of the movie into the trailer, and hope for the best, right?  It's weird, however, to go back to see trailers to movies you know by heart and see snippets or line readings that aren't actually in the movie, that clearly were part of a last minute editing decision that sliced a slower scene that might have had one snappy line out of the movie.  This is fine.  What's not fine is when a movie completely sells you something that isn't remotely what you signed up for, particularly when doing so also resulted in you knowing how the movie was going to end.  Thus is the case with Passengers.

(Spoilers Ahead) On the surface the film is a relatively simple love story.  You have lovable Jim Preston (Pratt), a sweet engineer smitten with a beautiful author named Aurora (Lawrence).  They are stuck on an intergalactic cruise ship to another planet, but they can't get back into their hibernation pods because the ship never planned for them to not work (which feels like a huge insurance issue, but whatever), and therefore are stuck for ninety years essentially spending their entire existence on a ship where they'll die before they reach their destination.  It's a cool concept for a story-Gravity meets Titanic, in a way, and we learn as the film goes on that there's something wrong with the ship that caused Jim to wake up.  It's not Celine and Julie Go Boating or anything, but it's a giant blockbuster starring two well-loved movie stars in space.  I mean, what's not to like?

Except, there's a problem here ("there's always a problem with you lately, John" says the world).  Jim woke up unexpectedly, unfortunately, but Aurora didn't.  It was only his pod that malfunctioned-hers was fine until he, after stalking her for months (you can't send a message that won't take 55 years, but somehow you have access to the entire back catalog of Wikipedia), decided to jimmy open her hibernation pod so that he would have companionship, essentially murdering her for his own selfish reasons.  In the trailers, this is not indicated, as it seems more like it's just the two of them that have woken up from this century-long slumber, but in reality he steals her for his own out of loneliness and hormones, and the movie never properly addresses this.  I mean, yes, she's upset when she finds out, but she still chooses to stay with him for eternity and forgives him extremely quickly even though he stole her life.

It's hard to recover from that without the movie feeling like it has deeply uncomfortable sexual politics.  For starters, it sort of forgives him for being lonely and desperate, and there are worse things in the world than getting stuck on a deserted island with Chris Pratt, but when he actually puts you on the deserted island, essentially robbing you of all of your dreams-it's hard to find a way to look at this in a feminist way and not want to smack him.  Honestly-I struggled pretty furiously with this in the back half of the movie, and there was really no way that this felt okay, particularly when she decides to spend her life with him (also-side note, was anyone else worried they were going to get pregnant and we'd meet when one of their kids when Andy Garcia showed up, wordlessly, in the final moments?).  What he did was unforgivable, and she was still incredibly angry at him right up until she changes her mind about spending eternity with him.  There is tons to dislike about the movie, quite frankly (there's some gaping plot holes in knowing that a ship can take 240 years to get to Earth and back, for starters-how many voyages has this thing taken that they have pictures of the planet-what year is it, exactly, that they still have journalists and the Pulitzer Prize?), but none is as creepy as the central one that Jennifer Lawrence spends eternity with her murderer.

The film received two Oscar nominations, one for Best Art Direction (which is actually really cool-I loved some of the touches they made, crossing an elegant spacial experience with a luxury liner) and one for Score (ehh, but it's Thomas Newman so I should have seen it coming), and none for Visual Effects, which was probably a miss as they're actually interesting, even if the only really "wow" moment is Lawrence nearly drowning in a pool of suspended water.  But it's a pity that messed-up sexual politics and an abysmal finale wasted what could have been a fun blockbuster starring two of our more charismatic working movie stars.

Those are my thoughts-how about yours?  Were you like me, unable to separate the creepiness of Pratt's character to get behind what otherwise could have been decent escapist fare?  Or are you a fan regardless?  And what do you make of these two Oscar nominations-any chance it scores a win?

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