Sunday, 25 December 2016

Passengers

Every time I’ve seen Jennifer Lawrence on the Graham Norton show she has been drunk and obnoxious. In The Hunger Games she wasn’t exactly a charismatic resistance leader. I’d heard bad things about Passengers and that coupled with the fact it had Jennifer Lawrence in it wasn’t giving me any hope, but the trailer made it look like an interesting sci-fi, so I went to see it anyway.

I’m glad I did. It wasn’t amazing, but it was good. I don’t think I’d need or want to see it a second time. If you put aside the fact that it’s set on a spaceship in a universe where hibernation for long distance travel is possible, there isn’t a great deal of science fiction in the this film. It’s a film about morals.

What’s more, Jennifer Lawrence is actually quite good in it and not at all annoying. Chris Pratt is also very good in this predominantly straight role (I’ve only seen him in Guardians of the Galaxy before) and of course Michael Sheen is, as always, amazing even in a supporting role.

The special effects are good, but don’t make the movie. They’re as they should be, there to tell the story not to outshine it. The climax is your usual last minute saving of the spaceship and characters just in the nick of time. Some of it is difficult to suspend belief for, but then it’s a sci-fi film.

Go see it, it’s many times better than Arrival.

2 comments:

  1. Amusingly, I found myself disagreeing with pretty much every sentence in this review :-) The exception being the opening one about the Graham Norton show, which I've not seen for a while... I should also say, I've not seen “Passengers”, but I took a conscious decision to avoid it, which I'll come to in a bit.

    Let's start with "The Hunger Games". Katniss Everdeen is independent-minded and -spirited, having spent most of her childhood looking after her mother and younger sister; this is how she ended up in the Hunger Games contest in the first place. Katniss not a leader, recognises that, and doesn't want to be held up as a leader, as detailed in her reluctant participation in the Propos produced by District 13. In the first two books/films, Katniss is driven by her morality, and that is in conflict with the ideology of President Snow. In the third book and third/fourth films that proves to be in conflict with Alma Coin as well. So, I'd argue Jennifer Lawrence played the part of Katniss very well... :-) I thought she captured the nuance of the character in those films, and think her a talented, capable and competent actor.

    On to “Passengers”. As I say, I've not seen the film, but I have read about it, and the description of the plot raised serious concerns. You say it's a film about morals, and I agree with you on that point, but perhaps we're reading it rather differently.

    *** SPOILER ALERT ***

    As I understand it, both Pratt's and Lawrence's characters are in deep hibernation for long-distance space travel, but Pratt's character is woken up early due to a system malfunction, with no way to go back into hibernation and knowing he will die on board the ship before it reaches its destination. Initially, he enjoys the freedom of the ship, but later starts to become bored and lonely. During that time, he encounters Lawrence’s character, still in hibernation, and starts to pay her recurring visits. You could say he develops a bit of an obsession over this woman. Ultimately, he decides to bring her out of hibernation, knowing full well that he is dooming her to the very same fate he will suffer. They form a relationship from there.

    My problem with this plot is that is basically reads as follows:

    1. man sees woman
    2. man falls in love with woman
    3. man feels entitled to woman
    4. man dooms woman to a fate she did not choose *and could have no say in*
    5. man and woman enter relationship

    How much is the woman under duress in this situation? Does she really have free will to enter into a relationship with this man, when he has already placed claims on her body she did not consent to? Why does Pratt’s character have the right to wake up _anyone_ else on that ship, just because his hibernation pod happened to malfunction?

    It boils down to “man sees women as property, treats woman as such”. That is a film about morals, yes, but not a morality I wish to give any of my time, let alone money, to.

    *** END SPOILERS ***

    And finally, your final sentence. It’s a shame you didn’t enjoy “Arrival”; I found it one of the most enjoyable and thought-provoking films of any kinds I’ve seen for some time. To my mind, it’s well-crafted and *beautifully* layered: big bangs and what-not, but also deep and subtle themes that question the very nature of language and communication. I loved how the Heptapod language was circular, matching their view of time, and that they were given a name derived from ancient languages. I loved how by the end of the film we were left as muddled about the beginning as the central character. I loved how tenderly and sensitively Amy Adams played the part of Louise Banks. This is a film I want to see again to revisit the beginning with the end already in mind, because, like the Heptapod language and their perception of time, it too is circular.

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  2. So, in my defence, I've not read The Hunger Games books, so you're probably right and I just don't like the Katniss character.

    I agree with 99% if what you've said. However, you should see the film. The concerns your raise are exactly what the film addresses. I wasn't saying it was a moral film, just that it addresses the morals of the situation.

    As for Arrival, yes it's a shame I didn't enjoy it. And you're right, it's a film for people who love language rather than sci-fi. You'd think as a software developer I'd be more interested in language...

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