I’ve been hinting for months that an element in the general marketing push for Morten Tyldum‘s Passengers (Sony, 12.21) has been misleading. The trailers have understandably been hiding The Big Secret (i.e., the fact that only Chris Pratt‘s character is accidentally woken up from hibernation) plus the fact that Pratt and costar Jennifer Lawrence have been flat-out lying about the basic set-up.
FAIR WARNING: A spoiler awaits…
Well, now that the film has been press-screened and two significant articles — one by The Telegraph‘s Rebecca Hawkes, another by L.A. Daily News critic Bob Strauss — have discussed the aforesaid element, the Passengers cat is totally out of the bag (along with the Peter Cushing thing in Rogue One).
And I mean especially with the Telegraph having asked its readers to take part in a Passengers poll, to wit: “If you were faced with living out your life alone on a cruise ship in space, would you wake up another passenger?”
SPOILER: This is what Pratt’s character does after a mechanical malfunction rouses him from hibernation after 30 years of slumber, and he realizes he can’t go back to sleep. The rest of his life will be spent completely alone on a huge space cruiser. (Except for the empty company of a robot bartender, played by Michael Sheen.) After a year he decides he can’t take the loneliness, and so he wakes up Lawrence’s character, a New York journalist.
In so doing Pratt condemns Lawrence to the same life-imprisonment terms, and an absolute certainty of death in space — no more terra firma, no more oceans or lakes or streams, no more community, no more internet, nothing except hanging with Pratt on a corporate luxury cruiser for the next 60 or 70 years, depending on the breaks.
When she learns the truth Lawrence exclaims that what Pratt has done is “murder,” and it is. But guess what? As of this afternoon only 41% of the Telegraph readers who’ve voted in the Passenger polls agree with her, or at least have a problem with Pratt waking her up. 33% think it’s okay to wake someone up on such a voyage (“Yes, why not?), and 26% have said it’s okay but “only if I really, really fancied them (and if I’d stalked them a bit first).”
A certain percentage are probably goofing on the Telegraph, but 59% have nonetheless stated for whatever reason that Pratt’s hibernation wake-up isn’t so bad given the lifetime of loneliness he’s looking at. In short, “murder” is okay.
Think about this for five or ten seconds. What a bunch of animals!
Here’s how Hawkes describes it: “Jon Spaihts‘ script feels more like a horror movie given the nasty acts of stalking, manipulation and psychological violence carried out by [Pratt].
“Driven half-mad by the prospect of living out his life alone, he peruses the ship’s passengers, and becomes fixated upon a sleeping woman named Aurora, played in the film by Jennifer Lawrence. He falls for her after reading her online articles — a faintly horrifying prospect for any writer — and then wakes her up.
“I kept waiting for the twist…the moment when the narrative’s ‘hero’ would be called to account for his actions. After all, he’d knowingly, deliberately condemned this woman, a fellow human being, to a horrifyingly lonely existence. Her only options would be to enter into some form of relationship with Jim (an emotional one, if not a physical/romantic one), or to remain alone forever.
“Instead, there’s a brief estrangement, before all is resolved after a big action set-piece finale.
“Effectively kidnapping somebody is fine, it turns out, because they’ll probably eventually come to love you anyway.”
Last summer Tyldum actually said the following to EW‘s Sara Vilkomerson: “Every generation has its love story. I feel like this is it. And [making it was] exhausting. It’s big emotions, it’s desperation, it’s love, it’s happiness, it’s fear, it’s anger. You will laugh and cry and hold your breath and be at the edge of your seat. It has chills. It also will make you smile and laugh a lot. We wanted a playful movie.”
‘Playful”? In fact Passengers is a hugely creepy film once the hibernation wake-up kicks in.
In Vilkomerson’s 8.12 EW piece, she wrote that Pratt and Lawrence, travelling on a luxury interstellar spaceship bound for the Homestead II colony 120 years away, are “two out of 5,000 souls traveling in suspended animation before they’re mistakenly awakened 90 years too early.”
Vilkomerson reported what Sony told her about the plot, but still…bullshit!
In a recent Vanity Fair cover story on Lawrence, author Julie Miller repeated the same vaguely misleading information, to wit: “Due to a mechanical malfunction, both characters wake up about 30 years into the 120-year voyage and struggle to survive while hurtling through space.”
Nope — both characters do not wake up “due to a mechanical malfunction” — only one does.
Here’s how Tyldum explains the ethical conundrum to Strauss: “In many ways, it’s taking things that can happen in a marriage to the extreme. The lie, the betrayal, all of that to the extreme, then starting over. That was so important, and I think Chris did such a good job. He’s an actor that you can really relate to, that you really identify with, and you can put yourself in that situation. I think a lot of people will say that ‘I would have done the same thing.’.”