Passengers (2016) And the Pursuit Of Realism

Passengers (2016) isn’t exactly a Rotten Tomatoes favorite.

Nevertheless, if there’s one thing it does get right, it’s the thought that’s gone into design of technology elements here.

1) The ship  and spacesuits
Practically every ship in sci-fi looks ugly. Functionality over form, yes, but if ship and building design is a clue, we will eventually get to the stage where actual designers come in.

Passengers seem to have worked that one out really well – the Avalon is beautiful. Here’s Wired on the inspiration behind the design.

2) Software – and those cleaning bots
One thing I genuinely dislike about some really popular sci-fi – including Firefly – is that NOBODY PAYS ATTENTION TO THE SOFTWARE.

Passengers did. Kudos to that. The help agent’s hex grid interface makes so much more sense than the square grid interface when projected on a sphere, since we can group icons / choices along multiple paths. The cleaning bots showed how remarkable pet-like you can make something using a few simple rules (maintain a clean floor) and flocking behavior. And do we even need to talk about how magnificent the bartender was?

3) That reactor
It looks like a Tokamak reactor – an experimental fusion reactor that channels plasma into a torus. It’s real science; we’ve been unable to hold one stable for more than six minutes – and even that fact lends to the movie. Wikipedia is a good place to catch up on the subject.

4) The pool physics.

The scene where the gravity turns off is spot on. Water forms a massive sphere that holds because of surface tension. Here’s how they almost ended up drowning Jennifer Lawrence in the pursuit of realism.