Thoughts on Passengers and Arrival

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Passengers’ release here in Malaysia bumped Arrival to a later date, which bothered me immensely, as I was anticipating Arrival much more. I assume that the Malaysian film industry buyers saw Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence and thought ‘gold’. But Passengers disappeared quickly, and Arrival, once it arrived, gain screens (more so after it started be nominated for awards).

But it’s not fair to force these two films to compete against each other, even though they are in the same genre, Science Fiction, and were released close together. One is Earthbound, one if spacebound. One is about solving a mystery, the other about making an ethical choice. One is a deep, serious movie, one is almost a romantic date film (almost).

Both are about loneliness, but take different approaches to exploring it.

Interestingly, according to Box Office Mojo, they’ve both made just under US$100 million (but Arrival was made for half the budget, Passengers hasn’t recouped its production budget yet).

I loved Arrival. I really liked Passengers. There’s room for both of them in my heart.

Arrival is the slow-moving film that doesn’t give you all the answers. The characters work hard for their victories, and there’s that twist (no spoiler) that makes you rethink what you’ve just been watching. Passengers starts with a bang and ends a bit too rosily, compactly.

Amy Adams, in Arrival, is cautious, intelligent, confused, subtle. Jennifer Lawrence is very emotive and engaging, but not challenging. Jeremy Renner didn’t make a big impression on me in Arrival. Chris Pratt is Chris Pratt. Seeing him in anything makes me long for the next Guardians of the Galaxy. Michael Sheen, as the android bartender Arthur, almost steals any scene he’s in. He does an amazing job of making the character not human.

Both are decent original science fiction stories (as opposed to franchises). Their existence should be embrace by fans everywhere, as they add to the spectrum of good original science fiction films being produced year-in year-out (often lost in the sea of Star Wars / Marvel / Transformer films that shout louder for your attention.

If you haven’t seen either, I’d recommend both: Arrival for when you want a patient, thinking film and Passengers when you want an evening of adventure/romance with stunning sets (even if it gets ethically challenging in the middle).