Note: Can I stress that this review is not a reflection upon the actor/actress themselves. This is my view of the film and the characters, not an attack on Jennifer Lawrence or Chris Pratt. Both of whom, I like.
Passengers was a strange film.
What started off as a film with Jim (Chris Pratt) waking up after the star ship he was in, Avalon, which was carrying 5, 000 people to a new planet, called Homestead II, malfunctioned and his hibernation pod opened, 90 years early. Of course, we as the audience feel sorry for him, being trapped in space, with no one else to speak to, except an android. He begins to drive himself insane, trying to find out why he woke up early, soon realising there was something wrong with the ship. Unable to get into the controls room, as he does not have access, as an engineer, he tries to break through to reach the ship’s command centre.
He fails and realises that he is going to die alone, while the rest of the passengers and crew go onto Homestead II. Unable to go back into his pod, he opens the airlock and attempts to kill himself. He is unable to and breaks down into tears, haggard and broken. Then, he discovers Aurora and starts to take an interest in the sleeping woman. He stalks her while she sleeps, reading up on her profile, developing an obsession with her. Jim wakes Aurora, a complete stranger, he has developed a sickening fascination for, without her consent, without her knowing him at all.
Jim took Aurora’s life from her – there is no way to go back to sleep and they’d die on the ship, or at least, grow old and die before much else. Jim’s decision is very troublesome, because while living alone for a year on a ship that he couldn’t fix, knowing that he’d die alone, would force someone to the brink of suicide, or attempting to wake another up, it is still not a choice that he should’ve taken from Aurora. Condemning someone else to his fate was not fair, even if he was slowly dying from isolation and despair. To bring someone else down with him, is unforgivable.
What is even worse, the film seems to romanticise this, as they fall in love with each other and he does not tell her about waking her up. Not only was her life taken from her by a stranger, the love arch of the film seems to try and rectify that, by showing Jim as a good, kind man.
But that does not excuse the very awful decision he made – to wake her up.
When she does find out that he had woken her up, she tries to kill him but finds she cannot. Unlike Jim, she is unable to take another’s life, but shuns him, telling him that he’s sentenced her to death, because there is no other alternative. However, when a crew member wakes up, he gives them his access band, before dying of internal injuries (his pod malfunctioned too), and Jim and Aurora are forced to work together to fix the ship.
They manage to but Jim dies in the process and Aurora resuscitates him. She decides that instead of using the infirmary facilities as a hibernation pod for herself, that they’d live together and she finishes her book, for the passengers when they wake up 88 years later.
In all, I agree with many critics who have called the film “a creepy ode to manipulation” (Rebecca Hawkes) and that Jim’s decision was a “central act of violence”, which the film tries to justify, by the companionship formed between the two. It is stalking – he finds her pod, sees her and then reads up on everything he can find on her, all the information the ship has of her background, to the point where he feels as though he knows her.
Alissa Wilkinson called it a “fantasy of Stockholm syndrome”, where the captured person, in this case Aurora, “eventually identifies and even loves the captor”, due to forced mind manipulation among other things.
Once more, the obsessive actions of a character, seem to be brushed over by painting their intentions as good and wholesome ones. By presenting the character’s obsessions and actions as ‘love’. Not for what they truly are which is abusive, manipulative and frightening.