Wednesday, July 18 , 2018, 9:45 am | A Few Clouds 69º


Cinema in Focus: ‘Passengers’

3 Stars — Thoughtful

Science fiction often has explored what would happen if there really were the “last man and woman” on Earth. Like Adam and Eve of biblical fame, we wonder if they would fall in love, or simply fall in some personal or spiritual way. Would they create a paradise, or would they create a hell? These questions are once more explored in Morten Tyldum’s film Passengers.

Written by Jon Spaihts, who also co-wrote Doctor Strange, the setting is sometime in the future where a private company has created starships that can take courageous adventurers to distant planets to homestead a new world. The problem is that to do so takes so long that even going half the speed of light, they have to put crew and passengers into a 120-year hibernation.

But on this journey with the Starship Avalon, something goes wrong and Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) wakes up after only 30 years in transit. This puts him in an unenviable situation of having to spend his life alone on a magnificent starship that puts any cruise ship to shame. He tries everything to remedy his situation for more than a year and is unsuccessful. But one day, he notices the sleeping Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence).

Accessing the passenger information, he watches her video explaining why she is on this adventure and, predictably, falls in love. It is this infatuation that causes him to consider purposefully bringing her out of stasis to be a companion and perhaps return his love.

The morality of such an act is central to the theme of the story. Even the bartending robot, Arthur (Michael Sheen), recognizes that it would be the perfect solution for Jim, but wrong to do to Aurora. He does, however, do so. But he lets her think that her awakening was an accident as well.

The relationship that ensues based on this lie is predictable and yet well told. With The Blue Lagoon-like romantic moments and tensions, these two marooned people find that life is not about where you are going but what you do with where you are. The providential fact that Jim is a mechanic and is able not only to protect and repair their home but that Aurora is an author who is able to record their experience to share with their fellow passengers upon their arrival is a fitting purpose to their isolated lives.

As most religious traditions proclaim, we are all passengers on a vessel moving through space, and we, too, can misunderstand that the journey is the purpose and love is the experience. In that way, Passengers is analogous to the life that every person lives. May we find the love and meaning that it brings to us.


» The starship is named Avalon, which in Celtic mythology is an island paradise. When you get to the end of the film and see what Jim and Aurora do to their mechanical home, you see how they re-created paradise where they are. How are you creating paradise in your journey?

» Aurora explains that the company that is homesteading these worlds is making an indescribable fortune. Do you think private enterprise should be given the responsibility of the space program, and would it be all right if they made an exorbitant profit? Why do you answer as you do?

» Why do you think Jim and Aurora do not have children? How would the story have changed?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is the retired pastor of Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara and lead superintendent of Free Methodist Church in Southern California. For more reviews, visit, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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