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Passengers (2016)

The Bible! Backwards! In Space!

Three quarters lukewarm water and one quarter a quite effective fish-out-of-water nightmare, Passengers suffers most from inconsequent Biblical allegory, and having its best quarter first. Not that it is an uncommon plague, excelling at the exposition of a high concept and being unable to convey it further than its inherent limitations, but this movie, through ingenious (not smart) use of multiple other sources, provides the viewer with one milquetoast experience which is as hard to hate as it is hard to like: the exact compendium of what Hollywood should send to space as a Rosetta stone, should it chose once more to elect Christian values over cinematography. Go figure what aliens will make of such a rewrite of the Scriptures.

So, do you remember the Fall from Eden, Adam being God’s masterpiece, until a woman, a tree and a snake precipitated the human race into sin, scourges and an endless life of misery? Good, thank you for that. Now project it backwards, starting from the Fall and rewinding to God’s green Earth, only adding space travel and romantic comedy in the mix? Here you are, watching Passengers.

So, Adam (Chris Pratt, vaguely attempting at emoting in at least in one and a half scene) and Eve (Jennifer Lawrence, for once in the Bible provided with a gorgeous wardrobe) live an idyllic life in an slightly dysfunctionning garden of Eden, namely the Avalon spaceship, en route for one of these terraformed colonies which increasingly appear as the only option out of our decaying world. Of course there is a tree, which you are left to chose is either the one of Knowledge of or Life, or both. Instructed as they are about previous mistakes, they do not procreate, in one of the most unwilling plot twists of recent blockbusters: no, they live a selfish life, contemplating the universe, eating gold class breakfast and having shared custody of the Snake, aka Arthur the Bartender. It’s kinda the Bible for the Z generation, the elected ones spending a life of leisure and boredom, not giving any thought about what will happen for generations to come.

The Snake (Michael Sheen on Mr Pistorius’ prosthetics and therefore by far the most interesting character onboard even though he’s ripped off straight, set including, from The Shining) is omiscient on cocktails and therefore in biblical allegory, so he knows when to step out of character, violate a couple of the laws of robotics and precipitate an extended romcom segment during which Adam and Eve falls in and out of love, including multiple wardrobe changes, happiness montages and a space dance straight out of Wall-E. Disaster ensues, but does it?

An extended action sequence includes Lawrence Fishburne for quota reasons, even though he has nothing to do there (which he does extensively, delivering a poor attempt at playing God, sorry “The Captain”). It’s not so much as the entire sequence is a crossover between Gravity and Prometheus, it’s… oh whatever. The ultimate “Open the door” suspense until next week, this action third act is clumsily edited, confusely dramatised and obfuscatingly directed. When is who emoting why, exactly?

Remains the first act, which, for ressembling the business class The Martian that it is, elicits more giggles that anything that follows. You know, at the beginning was the Word, then the Word became Flesh? Well, just imagine that in reverse and clutch your popcorn.

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