Though I don’t intend to see the film and am turned off by the “twist” presented within (and, based on the reviews, the very lame way its dealt with), I’m nonetheless fascinated with the Chris Pratt/Jennifer Lawrence film Passengers.
In part it is because of similarities to a portion of my novel Ghost of the Argus, which, because it was a big element of said novel, clearly is an interesting topic for me…or else I never would have included it in my novel.
Having said that, a clarification: The idea of someone trapped alone on a spacecraft with a long time to go before it reaches its destination is not some blazingly new or original concept. Indeed, if you peel off the sci-fi element, the person living all alone goes back at least to Robinson Crusoe. In sci-fi, there’s what is arguably Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, which featured two astronauts alone on a big starship heading to a distant location while the other crew members were in some kind of cryogenic sleep.
As for the Passengers twist, check this out, the cover to Weird Science #20, originally published in 1951. I vaguely remembered that particular issue (I’m a fan of the EC line of comics but shamefully admit the cover of this book and its similarity to the movie was pointed out elsewhere):
Pretty much the plot of Passengers, no?
Anyway, that’s about all I have to say about this film…unless of course something else occurs to me! 😉
Back in the stone age and when I was in High School, our English class was given a creative writing assignment. It went like this: Imagine you were on vacation on the TV show Fantasy Island , what would your fantasy be?
For those too young to know, Fantasy Island was a TV show that ran from 1977 to 1984 and featured Ricardo (KHAN!) Montalban and Herve Villechaize as the easy-going -and perhaps supernatural- hosts of Fantasy Island, a place where various guest stars -a revolving bunch of relatively well know actors- to the show came and spent a weekend living out their greatest fantasy. The fantasies/stories presented could be humorous, touching, action filled, etc.
In many ways, this was a more “benevolent” version of The Prisoner, where people wanted to be on the island rather than escape it. A new version of the show would appear in 1998 and feature Malcolm McDowell in the titular “host” role but the show went nowhere and was cancelled after a single season.
Anyway, I considered the assignment and what “fantasy” I’d like to enjoy. There are soooo many choices, many of which would never fly in a High School English class. So, removing the X-Rated ones and after thinking about it, I decided it would be really cool to spend a quiet weekend in a super-large spacecraft, far away from anyone and everyone and in a place I could unquestionably enjoy some peace and quiet.
As you can guess, at that particular moment in time I must have really had my fill of people!
Anyway, the idea remained in my head for years. Around 2012 or so and when I first began writing Ghost of the Argus, the fifth book in the Corrosive Knights series, I was finally able to use that concept in one of my novel…along with some new wrinkles: The person “trapped” in the super large spacecraft has 50 years to go before reaching his destination. Why was he on the ship? Who put him there? These mysteries were revealed in the telling of the story.
Earlier this year or sometime late last year I first heard about the Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence film Passengers and, once again, experienced that curious sensation of creative coincidence. The trailer below gives you a general idea of the movie’s plot.
Now, before you think I’m about to go into a “they ripped me off!” diatribe, nope. My understanding is that Passengers existed as a screenplay since 2007 or so, many years before the movie was finally green-lit. I certainly had no awareness of it until filming started, so I didn’t rip the story off and unless the person who wrote the screenplay also happened to be in my English class way back in 1981/82 or so and was so floored with my “spending time alone in a large spacecraft” concept, I very much doubt he took my concept either.
While a case of creative “coincidence” is certainly intriguing, it doesn’t amount to anything more than that.
Now that that’s clear, let me get on with what I did want to talk about: Passenger’s plot.
I will be getting into some SPOILERS regarding the story and not mentioned in the trailer above so if you’re interested in seeing the film, you may want to move along.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!!
Ok, so the trailer above shows us a super large spacecraft traveling over a hundred years to its destination. There are people aboard the ship, all of them in some kind of stasis, in theory sleeping until they reach their destination. However, two of the passengers (played by Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, natch), are awoken 90 years too early and suddenly they are the only “awake” passengers on this ship.
By the time the ship reaches its destination, they will likely be dead.
Again, going by the trailer alone, audiences are asked: What do these two very charismatic and beautiful people do? What awoke them? Can they somehow get themselves back into stasis or are they condemned to live out the rest of their lives and likely die well before the ship reaches its destination?
Though I haven’t seen the film or read the screenplay it was based on (so take some of my opinions below with that pinch of salt), certain elements of the story have been released.
The big twist not revealed in the trailer but which has been revealed elsewhere: Only one of these two passengers, Chris Pratt’s character, awoke too early. His character spends a year alone on the ship, slowly going crazy, until he stumbles upon Jennifer Lawrence’s character’s stasis chamber. Though he never met her before, he accesses her files and falls in love with who he thinks she is.
And then he does the unthinkable: He decides to awaken her.
Think real hard about that.
Our protagonist, who is essentially condemned to living a life in solitary, granted through no fault of his own, decides to condemn another person to that same fate.
By his actions, regardless of how “nice” a guy he may be, our protagonist’s actions make him, essentially, first a stalker (he doesn’t know Jennifer Lawrence’s character at all. He simply sees this beautiful blonde in a stasis chamber and, viola, knows he has to have her) and kidnapper.
While Chris Pratt’s character is a victim of circumstance, Jennifer Lawrence’s character is now a victim of him.
This, my friends, makes him a villain. A despicable one at that. He takes his own needs and places them above another person’s life.
Again, going by the reviews and what information I’ve gleaned about the screenplay, Chris Pratt’s character hides the fact that he’s responsible for Jennifer Lawrence’s character early awakening. The deception kept secret, the two grow closer and closer to each other until they are a couple.
The reviews further note that when Jennifer Lawrence’s character realizes what was done to her, the film promptly falls on its face and fails to properly address the horror of this situation. Instead, audiences are given Chris Pratt’s character “cute” ways of winning back the love of Jennifer Lawrence’s character.
Some have countered the “icky” facts of this set up and said people are being too “sensitive” or (heaven’s forbid) “feminist”.
To them I say, consider this: What if the Chris Pratt character had been, say, a homosexual and the person he awoke was a male heterosexual and over the course of the film romances this clearly uninterested party? How would we view his character then?
What if instead of dashing, handsome Chris Pratt, the movie’s protagonist was played by someone considerably less dashing and handsome and far older? And what would we think if this person awoke someone who was very young? Like way too young?
We shouldn’t have to think of all these things yet the film tries to cut off those considerations by presenting us these two beautiful mega-movie stars so of course they should fall in love which each other and work out whatever problems they have.
I mean, what’s kidnapping and sentencing someone to death between forced lovers, right?
I won’t be catching Passengers because while its plot is similar to something I came up with and since used in one of my books, the wrinkles placed in this movie, frankly, make my skin crawl.
Passengers comes out later this week. I wonder if others will find the story as distasteful as many of the critics so far have.