For folks like me who love niche genres and venues in the world of entertainment, it’s surreal to watch a trailer for a big budget mainstream film when one is actually a member of the target audience for said film. That was the case with me when I watched the first official trailer for Sony Picture’s PASSENGERS, a romantic space opera adventure starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt.
Here’s the trailer in case you missed it:
I’ve been covering the development of PASSENGERS for a few years now because as we all know, it’s extremely super rare for Hollywood studios to release a blockbuster sci-fi romance (especially one that has been described as such in the media). This one will have a December 21, 2016 release, just in time for the holidays.
However, there’s still a caveat since we don’t know if the romance’s ending will be upbeat and fall within romance genre conventions. That probably won’t be an issue for non-romance moviegoers, but for romance fans it will mean everything. I wrote a post about this issue for Heroes and Heartbreakers called Passengers and the Questionable Promise of Sci-Fi Romance Films. Here’s the gist of it:
Sci-fi romance books are great, but many of us enjoy an SF flavored romance on TV or in theaters as well. Unfortunately, these types of shows and movies are rare, at least in terms of the stories’ adherence to genre conventions. Not only that, many are helmed and/or produced by men—hardly the same folks who know genre romance inside and out. So when news of a blockbuster movie like Passengers emerges, it creates a conundrum for romance fans.
Even if it’s necessary to still keep our expectations in check, the PASSENGERS trailer certainly reveals a strong integration of SF and romance elements. This story looks like it would fall apart if you removed either one. So that aspect shows promise regarding what to expect story-wise even if there’s still no definite indication about an HEA/HFN.
The trailer features pretty sets, sparkly technology, and attractive stars—aggressively attractive, in fact, but this is Hollywood so what else is new? The trailer also sets up a mystery as to why the hibernation pods malfunctioned and we can clearly expect some action sequences as well.
I’m disappointed the filmmakers didn’t use this story as an opportunity to feature a diverse couple, or at least an interracial one. Nothing about the couple in the trailer indicates that they had to be white. Furthermore, what we know about the story so far only contributes to the harmful narrative that in the science fiction genre at least, diversity doesn’t seem to exist in the future.
As a female viewer, I’m also a little wary about how the romance will be handled as well as whether or not director Morten Tyldum will rely on the male gaze when it comes to the depiction of Jennifer Lawrence’s character. When I settle down to read SFR books, I feel pretty safe because most of the genre’s female authors frequently tell their stories through the lens of the female/gender inclusive gaze. I haven’t had the same such luck with male directors/screenwriters, so currently the strongest emotion I can commit to regarding PASSENGERS is cautious optimism.
I’m delighted that a movie like PASSENGERS has been made, but I also feel sad I can’t muster more excitement for it, especially since it’s a tentpole movie, will open during a time that studios reserve for films with Oscar potential, and will likely be released in tons of theaters. That’s not to say I won’t keep an open mind. For SFR, I always do.
Thanks for reading! We’ll meet here again during my next round of coverage…!