CONTENT WARNING: Spoilers (no, really, we're warning you now) for the slightly unexpected beginning of Passengers lie ahead.
In case you can't tell based on how infectiously #goal-y their press tour (opens in new tab) is, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt have chemistry. And while they give off purely platonic vibes in interviews, their dynamic in Passengers is so hot that even Nelly would be impressed. (You're welcome for that outdated "Hot in Herre" reference, guys!) The surprising (and possibly genius) thing? It's that very chemistry that makes the central arc of the film—AKA the passionate relationship between Aurora and Jim—so complicated and intentionally hard to digest.
If you walked into Passengers expecting to watch The Notebook of space films, think again. Yeah, the movie has tons of romance (boy meets girl on space ship, boy asks girl out on date via robot, boy and girl have hot space sex, etc.), but that romance is very purposefully—to use 2016's favorite word—problematic.
Without giving too much away (though be forewarned, some spoilers lie ahead), Passengers begins with Jim; one of many humans traveling to a brand new planet in the hopes of re-colonization. Obviously, traveling in outer-space takes time (light speed = not a thing outside of Star Wars, apparently), so everyone on the ship is in a deep state of hibernation during their decades-long trip. The problem? Jim rises from his slumber 90 years ahead of schedule, and is the only person awake on the ship for over a year. Naturally, he grows a massive beard and promptly loses all semblance of chill, which leads him to develop a cute-yet-borderline-weird obsession with Aurora, a fellow passenger who's happily hibernating in her pod.
Now, one could *maybe* get on board with a lonely bearded man checking out a pretty sleeping space lady (he's desperate for a human relationship, etc.), but lines are crossed when Jim makes the decision to wake Aurora up towards the beginning of the film. Naturally, they fall in love, which initially elicits a response of "Yay! Cute! Space sex!" Except, wait. Didn't Jim essentially just stalk a literal sleeping beauty (cough, her name is Aurora, cough), resurrect her for his own benefit, and ruin her life in the process? Why yes, yes he did.
Thus, we reach the inner struggle of Passengers. On the surface, the film is a romantic action/adventure that asks audiences to ship the main couple, and ship them hard. Just below the surface however, the film seems to ask viewers just how much they're willing to forgive the infectiously lovable and endearing Jim for his actions. The result? I, for one, spent the entire film—which is full of spaceship drama and intergalactic tension—having an existential crisis and pondering the following things:
Sigh, I know Jim is essentially a stalker, but ughhh, maybe he's just really lonely and misunderstood?
Wait, am I defending stalkers? Where are my morals?
But ughhh again, Aurora and Jim are so in love.
Oooo, they're having sex!
Weird that Jim's willing to sleep with her and she's basically a victim...but let's not think about that right now. Sex!
What if Aurora finds out the truth? I hope she forgives him. 😬 😬 😬
WAIT NO, DON'T FORGIVE HIM THIS IS TERRIBLE, HE'S A MONSTER.
But a cute monster who loves her. And look! He planted her a tree!
So yes: watching Passengers involves a lot of doubt and self-reflection. But given the amount of time viewers will presumably spend questioning Jim, and through him themselves, it seems clear that the film isn't endorsing or glossing over its handsome protagonist's actions. It's challenging us to confront our own impulse to unequivocally ship blockbuster movie couples—even when red flags are popping up right before our eyes.
To tell you whether or not Aurora forgives Jim for waking her up and essentially sentencing her to death (as she astutely says: "It's murder") would ruin Passengers' ending for you—but Jim's journey toward attempted redemption is certainly an interesting one. That, coupled with the fun space vibes, certainly makes this movie worth seeing over the holidays.
Passengers hits theaters on December 21.
Mehera Bonner is a celebrity and entertainment news writer who enjoys Bravo and Antiques Roadshow with equal enthusiasm. She was previously entertainment editor at Marie Claire and has covered pop culture for over a decade.
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