It’s a futuristic Titanic with some features of Robinson Crusoe with a dash of The Shining. It’s a fun movie, but begins to unravel at the slightest scrutiny. But it is one of those rare cases where the film’s criticism, instead of wilting under this kind of picking of nits, begins to make the film more interesting. In other words, the reason the film doesn’t work is the reason that it works. I read Passengers as an exemplary demonstration of the American Self that reveals something about the tradition of the myth of the American hero, its vulnerabilities, and its projection into a future space to indulge the American settler mythology that is an ideological cornerstone of American society.
Jean Baudrillard once made a startling claim, or perhaps it was more a kind of desecration of our shared illusion, when he stated that it is banal to claim that the apocalypse is in the future. Rather, the apocalyptic event is something that occurred in the past. It’s a kind of statement that is like tossing a rock into the middle of a pond, it’s ripples will find every edge of our social reality. The apocalypse is everywhere around us, we just have to be able to call it for what it is: the dystopia of the present. Much of our movie culture, as evidenced by the domination of Disney and Marvel blockbusters, is enthralled with fantasy, rosy hopes, and glossy, polished reflections of our spectacle. It takes a special motion picture to tear the veil away and have the courage to find the dignity within the desert of the real.
Basically, people are paradoxically engaging in a consumer take ethic in order to be great in a give ethic, which is, of course, the gift giving virtue represented by the largess of Santa Claus. It’s this precise ironic dualism that our sudden contemporary fascination with the lesser known tradition of Krampuslauf finds its proper and welcome home.