Warning: There’s spoilers.
Sometimes you see a film that makes you really think hard about what you just saw.
You think about the characters and their actions, what it means and eventually you question choices you’ve made in life.
Passengers is one of those films.
It is about the aftermath of the breakup of Powderfinger, as well as the tragic failure of their attempt to reunite.
Powderfinger existed from 1989 to 2010.
They released a few albums.
After Golden Rule, their last album, they decided to end their tenure.
Passengers begins with their final performance of “These Days”, which was also the final song that they performed.
From there, we get to see what they’ve been up to over since their wrapping up as a band. Whilst it’s important to the narrative, it’s nothing overly amazing.
Where things begin to pick up is when the band decide to meet up together in the same place at the same time. Initially they just talk about what they’ve been doing over a lunch. It goes rather pleasantly, although considering that they ended quite amicably, this is not unexpected.
This leads to another meeting, followed by more meetings. Eventually they decide to have a few jams just for a bit of fun. Whilst some of the members are more resistant to the idea than others, this inevitably leads to them deciding to reform Powderfinger.
They decide to keep it quiet until the last minute due to wanting to make sure that they’re on the top of their game, ready to come out and play the best that they can as they don’t want to seem like they’re phoning in the performance. Also, due to some of the members being a bit more apprehensive, they want to make sure that everyone is definitely on board with the idea.
From here, there’s a bit of the usual drama that can happen. Things get a bit tense. It’s nice to see that no one yells at each other and everyone’s quick to resolve any issues that are had.
Some things do start to change a bit from here.
Jon Coghill had gotten a little too deep into thought during the downtime and begins saying deep and meaningful things such as “what if we are not atoms moving among other atoms, but actually a pattern that appears to be moving as we’re actually a bunch of signals that cause atoms to change immediately to give the illusion that there is a solid person moving around?”, and “If the mind is the refuge of our thoughts, then what happens when the mind burns itself into our hearts?”.
Darren Middleton and Ian Haug spend a lot of time locked in a lengthy, pointless debate over the rules of Trouble, trying to define where ambiguity lies when there is none.
John Collins decides that he needs to string his bass with the strings in random positions, then tries strings of many different materials before finally giving up and switching to a chapman stick for a while. Eventually his thoughts turn to John Paul Jones.
Bernard Fanning tries to make gloves out of oranges. It’s not cute.
This all leads to some tension that eventually explodes into a massive argument. None of the members remain composed. There’s a lot of aggressive yelling. It’s pretty intense.
They argue like this for a solid seventeen minutes when they hear something explode in the rehearsal space. They aren’t sure what it is, but it’s not long before fire breaks out and gets out of their control.
They all get out sans Bernard. Powderfinger decide to run back in to try and save him, but are unable to locate where he is. Back outside, they can only look on in shock, howl in pain and shed tears of sorrow.
Eventually fire fighters get there and end the fire. They then work quickly to unearth Bernard and take him to hospital, seeing that he had not risen from the ashes.
At the hospital, the other members of Powderfinger are seen in one of the halls, sitting and waiting for some results. They apologise to each other, acknowledging that they behaved like idiots. There’s silence for a few minutes as the camera pans over the members sitting there, looking broken and distraught, yet calm. It’s at this point in the rockumentary that both the conscious members and the audience realise that they weren’t able to move beyond Powderfinger, despite their attempts as, due to how much they allowed it to permeate their lives, they needed it to give their lives meaning outside of the ordinary.
Without any words or music being uttered from when the silence began, the documentary fades to black.
That would have made for a decent movie.
Unfortunately none of that happened in Passengers.
Chris Pratt wakes up in space, talks to a robot, goes insane, almost suicides, wakes up Jennifer Lawrence, then they start dating, she finds out what he did, justifiably gets angry, then Lawrence Fishbourne wakes up, says “Daaaaamn”, dies, then Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt save the day. Then there’s a garden on the space ship and there’s some chickens in the garden.
The film is shot well, but the dialogue and delivery of said dialogue is handled poorly. There’s moments when a character will suddenly start pausing awkwardly between some of the words that they’re delivering. Of note is Jennifer Lawrence’s orating (she plays a writer) at times. It’s really underdeveloped, somewhat-juvenile sounding dialogue.
Aside from Michael Sheen, the performances are mostly wooden, albeit passable. There’s little charisma and conviction from the actors comes off as low.
The soundtrack seems to be trying to dictate how you’re meant to feel during each scene.
If no-one is able to wake up on the ship, why are the lights, artificial atmosphere and artificial gravity left on for the entirety of the one hundred-and-twenty year journey?
Why is a bartender android in operation for the entirety of the journey?
Why is the pool ready to be used for the entirety of the journey?
It seems that the whole film was meant to be a romance in space and yet it seems to fall flat with that as there wasn’t enough work put into making sure that it was a believable situation. Almost everything’s ready to go on the ship, despite it not having a practical purpose for a long time.
Chris Pratt waking up Jennifer Lawrence is bad, but at least the film acknowldegs the action as being bad. He went somewhat crazy, then discovers her pod. Yes, he does stalk her. He struggles with the idea of waking her up for a while, then immediately regrets the decision to do so after he does wake her. It’s good that this is shown, but the problem is that the film seems to gloss over it slightly.
I don’t want to talk about the film anymore, but there’s something else that I feel needs to be mentioned.
After seeing the film, Ewe and I were discussing it for a while as we sat through the whole thing and were somewhat baffled at how sub-par we found it to be.
Ewe thought of something that would have made the film so much better.
During the climax of the film, Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence need to vent the reactor, but the venting door needs to be opened manually. Chris Pratt decides to go outside the ship and open it so it can be vented. When outside he finds out that the opening lever will need to be held. He grabs another door to use as a heat shield and then holds the lever whilst Jennifer Lawrence vents the reactor. Chris Pratt then gets blasted off into space (his tether was broken beforehand). Almost getting caught in the engines, he uses the door he grabbed to change his trajectory. Then he discovers that there’s a rip in his space suit and begins losing consciousness. He says something about how he wishes Jennifer Lawrence and he had met under different circumstances and that he would’ve read her book. She then goes out of the ship to try and save him. She almost fails, but the end of Chris Pratt’s tether suddenly rises up and she grabs it, bringing him back and then reviving him.
What should’ve happened is that, during that whole sequence, instead of the FEEL THIS WAY NOW music that plays, have the song “Passenger” by Powderfinger playing instead of the soundtrack music, then Jennifer Lawrence failing to catch the end of Chris Pratt’s tether, leaving her to go back onto the ship without him, then eventually making the stupid garden herself. A lot of the lyrics of “Passenger” seem to fit quite well and it would’ve added weight and poignancy. Instead we get a happy(?) ending that adds to the bad taste left from watching this film.