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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Passengers is a romantic sci-fi drama about two people (Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt) who find themselves on spaceship headed toward a distant planet with nobody else to keep each other company. It takes on thought-provoking themes like loneliness, agency, identity, and mortality (as well as courage), and it all hinges on a decision that one character makes without another's ability to weigh in, removing her ability to make her own life choices. A spaceship has a massive mechanical failure that threatens the lives of those on board. Viewers see it play out in large-scale accidents, including a scene in which a character nearly drowns. You can also expect sex scenes (naked buttocks shown, but nothing more graphic), kissing/making out, and some swearing ("s--t," "damn," etc.) and drinking -- sometimes to excess.
What's the story?
In PASSENGERS, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is an engineer who decides to join thousands of others on the Avalon, a spaceship whose passengers are supposed to stay in an induced state of deep sleep for 120 years while they travel to a deep space colony. But just 30 years in, Jim wakes up due to a mechanical glitch, effectively leaving him on a desert island, with the clock ticking toward death. He's alone and lonely, save for the company of an android (Michael Sheen). So when Jim spots Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), composed and beautiful in her sleep pod, he's smitten. He researches her and her life and grows more enamored by the day, ultimately arriving at the decision to wake her up. But this means taking away Aurora's plans to live out her days on the colony, forever altering her life plans and taking away her power over herself. Meanwhile, the Avalon seems to be in trouble.
Is it any good?
Pratt and Lawrence are wonderful and share decent chemistry, and Sheen adds wit, but, there's no mistaking the disturbing nature of this movie's premise. Positioned as a romance and at times offering insight into the nature of relationships, Passengers nonetheless tries to succeed while grounded in a plot that's frankly off-putting. Are we to see Jim as a harmless romantic, when his love for Aurora is based on expectations he placed on her without truly knowing who she is and his subsequent decisions are pretty much positioned as forgivable in the face of love? The special effects make for a visually stunning movie, and the film's complicated themes make it a knotty, interesting watch. But the film's problematic nature does distract from its strengths.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Passengers depicts relationships. Is Jim and Aurora's relationship healthy? How does the movie portray sex? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding these topics.
Why do you think someone would remove themselves from their present life to live one more than 100 years away?
How does the film handle a romance that's complicated and based on a pretty disturbing decision? Does it gloss over that decision? Does it find a way to justify it? Is Jim just "a hopeless romantic"? How would you feel in Aurora's position?
How does this movie compare to other sci-fi tales/dramas you've seen? Who do you think it's intended to appeal to? How can you tell?
- In theaters: December 21, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: March 14, 2017
- Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen
- Director: Morten Tyldum
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Space and aliens
- Character strengths: Courage
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexuality, nudity and action/peril
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