Three days ago, I saw Passengers, and I can’t stop thinking about it. I wish that there was a book to read so that I could experience it in greater detail. In short, it was so, so, SO LOVELY… As the plot grew, I sat in the audience wondering whether, in those circumstances, I would do the same thing. Two hours later, I walked out of the theater with so many questions revolving inside of my head, and they still haven’t stopped. This is masterful storytelling. Spoilers abound after this. You have been warned.
I didn’t expect to feel anything like this at all when I went into the theater. Truthfully, I expected very little. Maybe some good special effects and a few warm fuzzies at most. I mean, the trailer made the movie look like a straightforward rom-com/drama in space about two people who woke up 90 years too early on a spaceship bound for a remote new planet. But the trailers were hiding something far more complex; some complicated moral questions about hopeless circumstances and a life worth living.
I never read long reviews before I see a movie because I like the possibility of being surprised, but I did see on Fandango that Rotten Tomatoes had given Passengers a score of 32%. But here’s the catch. Reviewers didn’t like it, but I’m starting to think that it’s one of the most poignant movies I’ve ever seen, and it may have just made it into my top 5 movies ever. If someone doesn’t have the same taste as me, we probably won’t like the same movies, which is definitely what happened here. For another example, I loved Arrival, after all (it changed my life), and Thuy couldn’t stop complaining about how boring it was during the movie.
Passengers was definitely a movie written for people like me, the romantics in the world who like to think that they have good morals but are open for something to come along and test us. This movie did, in a way. It made me wonder about the plurality of morals, and whether I would do the same thing as Jim.
That’s the real question of the movie. It’s not whether you’d forgive him, or whether it was right for Aurora (or someone like her) to forgive him (though that, too, is complicated). No, it’s about whether you, too, would make the same decision as Jim in those circumstances, and how a wonderful, sweet person can make terrible choices.
Would I do something that would ruin someone else’s life in order to make mine infinitely better?
Of course not.
I mean, would I?
I still can’t decide, and I don’t think that I would ever know until I was in that situation. I can think of an alternative, but the pure fact is, that no matter how much I like being alone, I think that I probably would come to the point eventually that I just might.
And if someone did that to me, would I forgive him?
Passengers isn’t a ghost story. Instead, it’s the story of Jim, a mechanic who left Earth and his old life behind to build a new, hopefully better, life for himself on another planet. He was one of those in a “desirable trade,” that couldn’t live on a planet where automation and robots did everything for you, who saw a better chance in abandoning everything and everyone he’d ever known. Thirty years into his journey, with 90 years still left to go, Jim suddenly woke up, and groggily stumbled around into his sleeping quarters. It wasn’t until the effects of hibernation wore off the next morning that he realized that he was the only one awake on the entire spaceship, and if he couldn’t get back into hibernation, he would die there, having lived out his whole life alone.
After a year of cycling through all of the emotions and trying everything, he finally realized that he didn’t have to wait another 60 years just to die alone. He could just kill himself right there. But it was the sight of Aurora, a woman asleep in a pod in the bay, that pulled him back to Earth, so to speak.
And in his growing fixation on her, he eventually became her doom. In a way.
There’s a lot of criticism out there pointing accusing Passengers of being a really screwed-up, manipulative stockholm syndrome-type love story. But here’s the thing– the movie isn’t a love story. Love does grow, die, and grow again, but whether that is right or wrong isn’t the main premise. Passengers is a story about horrible circumstances, unthinkable choices, and what it takes for us make the best of what we’re given.
And I can’t stop thinking about what I would do. Can I really condemn Jim if I would do the same thing? Or Aurora when she finally realizes the same and forgives him?
Let me know how you feel, and listen to the ending theme, which has been on repeat in my phone for days.