The other biggest science fiction movie set in space this year — Passengers — might not have the Death Star in it, but it does have another beloved sci-fi trope: peril on a spaceship! When Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawerence wake up too early on a suspended animation starship called Avalon, they grapple with not only their own mortal survival, but also with how they are going to deal with each other’s nonsense. And though Passengers is an original screenplay and not part of science fiction franchise, that doesn’t mean it’s an entirely original idea.
Here are four books and four movies which Passengers draws inspiration from. They put you in the right mood for the latest star-crossed romance/please don’t die in space movie.
Get Into Trouble by Kelly Link
Published in 2015, this is a short story collection by a genre-bending master. And the short story “Two Houses” is possibly one of the best science fiction tales of the 21st century. Dealing with twin starships, the story primarily focuses on character who were in suspended animation and are worrying about what happened to their comrades on the other ship.
Dark Side of the Earth by Alfred Bester
Another short story collection, Bester published this one in 1964. While not as famous as his novels The Stars My Destination or The Demolished Man, this book does contain the short story “They Don’t Make Life Like They Used To.” In it, a post-apocalyptic New York City is occupied by just one man and one woman. Thought it’s not set in space, it is a something of a romance, which is rare not only for big science fiction movies, but for short stories, too.
Lightless by C.A. Higgins.
A contemporary science fiction novel set exclusively on a space ship, Lightless is the book to read if you feel like the nothing about the starship Avalon in Passengers made any sense at all. Higgins’s debut novel meticulously explains the ins-and-outs of its central spaceship: Ananke.
Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
Without spoiling Passengers completely, a good portion of the film deals not only with danger in space, but also, with personal guilt. In Polish author Stanislaw Lem’s famous novel, the guilt of central character Kelvin collides with a strange alien intelligence on a space station orbiting the titular planet Solaris. Though a direct English translation is rare (the only printed American version of the book was translated into English from a French translation of the original Polish) it’s still worth checking out what is possibly one of the most famous science fiction novels of all time.
Often regarded as a terrible sci-fi horror cult film, Saturn 3 pretty much looks like Passengers if you squint. Plus: Since it stars Kirk Douglas and Farrah Fawcett running around on a space station, it’s practically the Passengers of its day: a sci-fi movie that feels like an arbitrary vehicle for two huge Hollywood stars. Still, despite its many flaws, Saturn 3 is one of the movies space disaster/killer robot fans will love.
Love it or hate it, Sandra Bullock’s zero-gravity tears probably made a movie like Passengers possible in the first place. In a way, Passengers is what Gravity would be if Gravity were set in the future and hoping to attract teenagers to go see it on opening weekend instead of angry astrophysicists.
The sleep pods in the 1979 original Ridley Scott directed Alien are basically just borrowed by Passengers outright. Without question, this film changed the way screenwriters and filmmakers thought about making movie in space. And for all of her various costume changes in Passengers, Jennifer Lawerence’s Aurora in Passengers probably could take a few tips from Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in Alien.
Solaris (either version)
It made big splash in the print SF world and impacted sci-fi movies too. A movie like Passengers owes a debt to both cinematic versions of Solaris in a huge way. In fact, certain scenes in Passengers feel almost like self-conscious of the 1972 Tarkovsky film. From the hallways of the Avalon to the way in which Kelvin looses his mind, Passengers is a kind of visual knock-off of Solaris minus the soul-crushing depressing themes. And, despite the waves of hate for the George Clooney/Steven Soderbergh remake of 2002 Solaris, it could also teach Passengers a thing or two.
Passengers is out in wide release on December 21.