Movie Review: Passengers, certificate 12A

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Heswall Today watched Passengers at FACT Liverpool and returned home to discover Titanic on the telly on Film 4.

Both movies focus on a romance between characters from different sides of the tracks, both feature a sinking ship holed by a giant object, both follow a couple’s frantic attempts to survive – and both feature sex scenes bordering on the awkward.

Aurora and Jim are the Passengers

Jim Preston is a mechanic bound, along with 5000 others, for colony planet Homestead II. Like Titanic’s Jack Dawson he is an artisan and artist traveling in a starship’s equivalent of steerage.

Aurora Lane is a wealthy New York socialite and journalist, a Gold Class Passenger, rich enough to make the journey, write about it and return home to an earth where everyone she knows will be long dead. Like Titanic’s Rose DeWitt Bukater she is running away in search of herself.

Jack and Rose

Titanic delivers an innocent love story and takes liberties with history in the name of drama, but is never less than entertaining and a masterpiece of control and vaulting ambition in the hands of writer and director, James Cameron.

Passengers attempts a modern love story, takes liberties with the future in the name of spectacle, but writer Jon Spaihts and director Morten Tyldum deliver a movie that has plenty to look at and precious little with which to engage.

Starship Avalon is self-repairing but can’t cope with an asteroid strike. Subsequent malfunctions include the awakening from hibernation of Jim 90 years before journey’s end.

Jim Preston wakes up 90 years too early

With fellow passengers and crew still firmly in the Land of Hyper Nod, Jim is alone, apart from barman Arthur, an android played by Michael Sheen. He is among one of several odd things about this future. Humankind can build spacecraft capable of half light speed but advances in Artificial Intelligence appear few – Arthur is not the sharpest positronic neural network you’d wish to meet. It also appears that attempts by contemporary companies like Boston Dynamics to make biped robots failed miserably – Arthur whizzes back and forth on some sort of monopod attached to rails.

He is legless.

Arthur is only half an android

Soon Jim is too. In his solitude he turns to the bottle for company. He is alone, light years from a habitable world in what looks like a Trafford Centre to come. Small wonder he takes advantage of the Avalon’s endless Happy Hour.

It’s an empty bottle that delivers the film’s central dilemma. When sloshed Jim trips over one he slides alongside the hibernation pod of a young woman of sobering beauty. This device is Passengers’ attempt to make the bringing together of typical Hollywood heroes appear random. It isn’t, nor is Aurora Lane’s choice of sexy PJ’s in which to hibernate.

Jim consults her Passenger Profile and indulges in a process familiar to anyone who’s used Internet dating. Video Aurora makes him smile, laugh, she moves him and, faster than a speeding photon, he’s in love.

But still alone. Does he dare wake starship Snow White? He’s a mechanic. An electronic kiss is all it will take.

A drop of the hard stuff melts Jim’s heart completely and he brings Aurora into his desolate world. Romance is set to blossom and fortunately Aurora remembered to pack her daring swimsuit, little black dress and high heels. He tells her her pod is faulty, just like his.

Jim reveals his artistic side. From spare parts he makes a scale model of the Chrysler building, a cute robot that delivers invitations to dinner, and a precious engagement ring.

There’s that awkward sex interlude.

Things turn frosty

All is happiness until android Arthur blabs and Aurora ain’t happy. Who can blame her? What Jim did seems irredeemably wrong. As she says, he robbed her of her life. He murdered her.

So now the film needs to serve up Jim’s redemption, to make him truly loveable, and to show Aurora that she should not run away from herself but to a man like him who needs her.

The starship Avalon

By now Avalon is doomed. Southern Rail would have more chance of getting to Homestead II. An impending explosion will blow the starship to atoms.

Many men have tried to use DIY as a means of winning affection. For Heswall Today this might involve putting together a flatpack chest of drawers, cleaning gutters or painting a room. Jim isn’t so lucky. He has to venture into outer space to vent a fire raging in a starship’s fusion reactor with only an old door to act as a heat shield.

Does he live? Die? Do both? Does he win back Aurora’s heart?

Find out by watching Passengers. It’s not a great movie, but stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are always highly watchable and, all things considered, Heswall Today reckons the spectacle it offers is worth the price of admission.

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