Passengers accomplishes something reminiscent of Cast Away and I Am Legend – the need for fellowship. While audiences felt sympathy for Tom Hanks and Will Smith being secluded on islands – one a tropical island, the other Manhattan island – Passengers increases this feeling on the final frontier.
When we first meet Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) he’s just waking up from hyper-sleep…90 years too soon. Not only is that just a tad too early, but he’s the only passenger, out of five thousand, who woke up too soon.
As he slowly gets acclimated to life on the spacecraft, Avalon, he quickly realizes he’s all alone. His terrified reaction to this realization reminds us of the importance for community and fellowship. Not only is this feeling enhanced when it’s set against the backdrop of the vastness of space, but it’s increased by the understanding that other humans are aboard the Avalon. This presence of humanity only seems to taunt Jim’s solitude.
Jim gets a glimpse of humanity as he encounters a bartender named Arthur (Michael Sheen), only to discover he’s a robot. To Arthur’s credit, he does a superb job of acting human. Just one example, Arthur constantly polishes glasses at the bar, even though Jim is the only customer aboard the ship. When confronted with this truth, Arthur explains that it’s designed to comfort those he’s talking to. Instead of staring into the eyes of Jim as he shares deep struggles, the distraction offered by polishing the glass comforts the patron.
Arthur even offers some advice to momentarily alleviate Jim’s predicament, “Quit trying to control everything.” While this could be interpreted as a biblical truth – pointing to rest in God’s sovereignty – it becomes license to indulge. Jim is all alone, but he has carte blanche access to every restaurant and drink available to Avalon guests. Arthur’s advice grants reprieve to Jim’s loneliness, but it is short lived. The emptiness of self-indulgence is on full display as Jim’s party comes crashing down.
The Moral Dilemma
As Jim reaches the end of himself – and the partying he enjoyed – he discovers a passenger that catches his eye. He learns her name and tracks her down through the ship’s video log. What begins as curiosity, becomes infatuation. Jim watches the videos Aurora has left and begins to fall in love with her. Sitting beside her sleep chamber, watching videos of her – simulating something of a date – Jim realizes his curiosity has only left him in greater misery. He’s so close to human contact, and yet, so far away.
As he seeks advice from Arthur, he realizes the dilemma he’s created for himself: Wake a woman up too early and ruin the life she desired on another planet or continue to live and eventually die in isolation. One thing is for certain, neither is an appealing conclusion.
Movie-goers with a heartbeat understand this to be a true challenge for Jim. Perhaps there are many who would claim, I’d never be that selfish. The filmmakers, however, present such a clear picture of isolation and loneliness, one can’t help but feel Jim’s dilemma.
One of the most poignant scenes in the film occurs from Jim’s discovery of a spacesuit. As he sees the headless suit, he beings to embrace it and try to hold the hands of the suit. For a fleeting second, he’s reminded of what it’s like to embrace another. It is a powerful illustration of our need for community and displays the inner-wrestlings of Jim’s heart.
The Unintended Truth
This film does such a good job of communicating mankind’s innate desire for community. Being created in God’s image necessitates community. As Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in perfect community with themselves, humanity is created with this desire for community – it’s hard-wired into us (Gen. 1:26-27).
An equally deep truth, and stronger theme in the film, was seen in Jim’s choosing of Aurora. On the one hand, we understand that perhaps he was drawn to her beauty and then her personality through the video log, therefore, his choice of passenger is easy to grasp. On the other hand, why didn’t he choose another man? A buddy to hang out with? A guy he could have played basketball or lifted weights with (he does both of those things on the Avalon)?
I was fascinated by the fact that Passengers unintentionally, most likely, illustrated one of the earliest truths of Scripture – It is not good that man should be alone (Gen. 2:18). Just as Adam spent some time in the Garden of Eden and discovered he did not have a helper fit for him, Jim discovered that he needed – not just another image bearer – but a female.
Jim’s portrayed as a capable man in the film. He’s a mechanic so he can fix things, he seems to be in good physical shape, he’s athletic, but he’s still incomplete. He needs a woman. Yes, another man would offer him community and fellowship he longs for, but there’s something about a female that’s unique. There’s something she offers that man doesn’t. The female is an image-bearer that bears the image of God in a manner man doesn’t.
In light of the differences between genders, I must tell viewers that there is some sexual content in the film. While nothing is explicit, the film illustrates the sexual desires males and females have ingrained into their being. I want to be sensitive and warn others of this content, and, while nothing is too explicit in this film, I wish they would have toned it down a bit. At the same time, we are talking about one man and one woman secluded in space for a long time. While Christian viewers may quickly look upon those scenes with understandable disdain, we also – I would suggest – should recognize the biblical truth of sexuality that’s being communicated onscreen. I’m not condoning the content, but the truth.
As the film approaches its ultimate climax, Jim looks at Aurora and says, “I need your help.” Jim, a very capable man, needs the woman and, as the film illustrates, Aurora needs Jim. The man and the woman need one another to accomplish the task before them. Ultimately, it is one man and one woman that keep civilization aboard the Aurora continuing. Without the two of them coming together, the entire crew would not survive.
While so much of our culture wants to distort Scripture’s view of biblical manhood and womanhood, I feel that Passengers gives viewers a pretty accurate portrayal of what we find in God’s Word. God created humans to be in fellowship. God created male and female after his image. God taught Adam he needed Eve. Adam recited poetry as he first lays eyes on the beautiful creature he calls ‘woman’.
This side of heaven, our community and fellowship is imperfect. Sin brings division among males and females, it brings division among races, and sin brings death which ushers in the most painful form of isolation to those left in its wake.
Truth be told, we are all passengers. In this grand narrative called life, we are reminded that we aren’t the main characters. The life we’re now living is not ours, but Gods. He owns all things, even our stories. While we are significance because we bear his image, we are merely passengers along for the ride.