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Monday, January 2, 2017

Passengers

PASSENGERS

** SPOILERS **

Passengers reassures all mankind that in the future, white privilege is alive and well in outer space. Aboard the corporate-owned starship Avalon, basically EPCOT Center if it was squeezed into a space ship, Chris Pratt awakens from his cryo-sleep 90 years ahead of schedule. The Avalon, transporting 5,000 souls to a new colony planet millions of lightyears from Earth, is an automated ghost ship with everyone else sound asleep. Except for little Roomba robots and an android bartender played by Michael Sheen, who is as if Dr. Ford from Westworld ran out of humanoid parts and just grafted a Segueway onto Sheen's torso and called it a day. Pratt is understandably distressed to be the only one awake onboard. With 90 more years of interstellar travel to go, and cryo-sleep being a one-way street, Pratt is doomed to spend the remainder of his life alone in a space mall. He handles it the way Will Forte does in Last Man on Earth. He spends a year getting all scraggly and slovenly and making a mess of the place. He is lonely and desperate for companionship, until one day, after contemplating suicide via airlock, he runs into the knocked out, cryo-sleeping form of knockout Jennifer Lawrence

Kif, Pratt has a conundrum: should he be a good, decent, moral person and accept his fate, or does he succumb to his asshole selfishness and wake Lawrence up (and lie to her about how she woke up), thereby dooming her chances at arriving on the new planet but strongly increasing his chances of getting laid? (There appears to be no porn on the Avalon, no sex-bots, no futuristic virtual reality spank machines. Thanks, Homestead Corporation!) Pratt succumbs to his assholishness, because he must. (Must he really? According to director Morten Tyldum and screenwriter Jon Spaihts he does, instead pursuing all kinds of better, less scummy story options.) And for a while, Pratt's plan worked. Lawrence indeed becomes his sexy time girlfriend. Oh, what a love story in space this is. (Pratt does "feel bad" about the whole thing, the movie is at pains to keep reminding us with regular hang dog looks and puppy dog eyes from Pratt.) Unfortunately for Pratt, he confided everything to his robot bartender, who's also programmed to be a robot snitch. Sheen drops the bomb on Lawrence just when Pratt was about to pop the question. Lawrence justifiably goes nuclear and stops just short of Hunger Gaming Pratt.

What Pratt Did is nigh impossible for Passengers to walk back from, but boy, does the movie try. When crew member Laurence Fishburne suddenly awakens and discovers What Pratt Did, Lawrence announces that What Pratt Did to her can be considered "Murder!" Fishburne agrees with her, but then actually tries to justify What Pratt Did using the ol' "but a man has needs" argument. Bros before hos. Also, it's nice to see a non-white face after over an hour of Passengers, but don't get too used to him! Fishburne is dying, see - of over 200 medical ailments no less! He's like Mr. Burns in space; he has every disease! Fishburne's dying moments are a bizarre and unexpected cosplay of Forest Whitaker's cyborg in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. All he was missing were cyborg legs and an oxygen tank. Fishburne should have wheezed, "Save the Avalon! Save the Dream!" to Pratt and Lawrence before dropping dead. Speaking of Star Wars, there happens to be one other non-Caucasian character in Passengers, the Avalon's captain inexplicably played by Andy Garcia, who appears for a few seconds right before the end credits. Garcia has no dialogue so I guess he and Mark Hamill have the same agent. 

Passengers is as empty as the space ship it depicts. There's no deeper theme, no grander commentary on the human condition. It isn't about anything beyond What Pratt Did and whether he's an okay guy anyway. The mystery of what's wrong with the malfunctioning Avalon turns out to be a simple, head scratcher of a reveal: even though the ship is meteorite-proof, it got hit by a bunch of meteorites. Thus the ship's systems are all wonky and about to kill all 5,000 souls aboard -- unless Pratt and Lawrence can combine their action movie hero prowess to save the Avalon (and save the Dream)! Pratt goes all in with an attempt at a Noble Heroic Sacrifice as Passengers does everything under the sun to literally spacewalk back from What Pratt Did and make him redeemable. As she must adhere to the demands of the screenplay and director, Lawrence goes along with this, declaring her love for him after all, and saving Pratt's life from the cold, cruel void of death in outer space after he manages to save the Avalon and all aboard (dressed in an Iron Man-like space suit and hefting a Captain America-like shield, mind you. Marvel represent!). So one must swallow disappointment and accept that these two deserve each other. Pratt and Lawrence live out their life of white privilege together, presumably shuffling off this mortal coil before the ship arrives at her final destination. The 4,997 other people aboard the Avalon awake on schedule from their cryo-sleep, unaware of What Pratt Did during their slumber. Pratt, however, did grow an entire park, complete with grass and trees, inside the Avalon, thereby doing at least one thing that would make his old boss Leslie Knope proud.

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