Scattershot thoughts about Passengers

Spoilers for the spoilt.

  • I guess we’re launching into 2017 having rediscovered that there’s money in sexism. The Trump and Sanders “forgotten white man” is the hero of “Passengers,” and he revives atavistic gender relations, almost troglodyte.
  • Let me spoil the ending completely. Jim, in a suit of armour, carrying a shield, challenges a firebreathing techno dragon to combat. Aurora helps by ripping off her blouse, a sheen of gauzy sweat across her tight, tight bossom. Give. Me. Strength.
  • But it’s not all horror. Is there anything Michael Sheen can’t do? I thought it was bizarre when he was cast as Lucian in Underworld until I saw the actual movie: he was hot, wild, mercurial, predatory. Similarly I thought he was weird casting as Castor in Tron until I saw the actual movie: he was epicene, lubricious, menacing. And so it is in Passengers, Sheen’s benign android lands its social skills squarely in the uncanny valley: too close for comfort. He is threatening and consoling, captivating to watch. Did he really think he had permission to share Jim’s secrets? I say no. This performance, coupled thematically with Alan Tudyk’s in Rogue One, and Thandie Newton’s in Westworld, show that androids in the Hollywood imagination have more interesting gender than people.
  • Because the gender relations in Passengers are repugnant. This is a kidnapping movie. A lonely white man, living in an empty shopping mall, decides to treat life pods like vending machines. He shoplifts a hot girl. It’s sort of like waking a sleeping princess, only with a dash more Josef Fritzl.
  • In fact, Jim shoplifts a whole lifestyle while everyone else is asleep. But it’s not home invasion, because he’s hot.
  • We don’t see much of that hotness though, and every teasing glimpse of Jim’s beautiful body is offset by five lascivious glimpses of Aurora’s, just to reassure the bros that they’re actually straight.
  • Aurora’s name means the dawn: she is ethereal, useless, pretty. Jim’s name means the American everyman: he is modest, handy, simple. Arthur’s name is associated with English servants thanks to Batman. And so it is, the wind-up toy characters do exactly what they say they will.
  • “He murdered me” screamed Aurora. The men in my cinema (who had all brought dates) laughed at her.
  • When Gus, the person of colour who serves the white people, is told of Jim’s kidnapping, he gently rebukes him, but then offers some bro to bro solidarity by complimenting him on his choice: Dayumn.
  • Aurora is a writer, but can’t write with only the glories of Space and an up close view of Arcturus as inspiration. Jim makes her a Chrysler building model to help loosen her up. I wanted her to shove it up his arse.
  • Even though they’re the only two alive, they still go swimming in costumes, still go on “dates,” still replicate the 20th century gender apparatus of white America. Please don’t tell me “Passengers” is a triumph of imagination. It’s a triumph of replication: replicating Oblivion, Moon, Sunshine, Ascension, Alien, the Shining.
  • The beautiful garden at the end represents a return to Eden — and the promise of environmental renewal despite white plundering. It’s a Judeo-Christian finger-gun to the bros. All the beauties of creation. All the conveniences of a strip mall.
  • 5000 sleep pods. 1 medi pod. JUST SAYIN.
  • If I had been Jim, I would’ve woken up a whole bunch of people. Or maybe just woken up all the dogs and been their High King. Or maybe written my own fuckin’ novel sheesh Jim it’s Groundhog Day get some skills already.
  • Let me tell you two more good things, though. First of all, the ship, a dark helix boring through space, is breathtaking to look at. It’s as fine a thing as Chris Pratt’s arse.
  • And Thomas Newman’s score sets the amygdala quivering: he always manages to take a very standard American sensibility and expose the queerness of it. The opening sounds of “Passengers” set a new benchmark.
  • Now back to the crap. Let’s talk about babes in their underpants in space: Sigourney, Milla, Charlize, Noomi, Sandra, even the late Carrie Fisher, stripped down to prurient vulnerability for male inspection while male directors and audiences watch. Sci Fi is too often made by straight white men, for straight white men. Saying this is not pooping a party. It’s asking why most of us aren’t invited to the party.
  • The trajectory of Passengers is the reverse of Rogue One. Rogue One starts with eyerolling but its final act is thrilling. Passengers starts thrillingly but its final act is an eyeroll. However, if you needed a reason to reassess the originality and temper of Rogue One, Passengers is that reason.
  • Does Passengers have some metafictional commentary? Yes, it has a lot to say about white colonialism — the myth that if nobody’s using it, it’s yours; men’s dishonesty with women — the myth that if a woman doesn’t ask the right question, then keeping a secret isn’t really lying to her; the dreariness of white voices including Aurora’s shitty bourgeois book and my shitty bourgeois criticism; the Lookism of male partner selection; the recrudescence of white self-pity in 2016; and, finally, the ways that a killer rack and a rich daddy is the only passport you need to American happiness.
  • I’m sure everyone who worked on this movie will do an even better movie next time.

xc