When Passengers hit cinemas last year, it immediately generated a lot of controversy; I didn’t get a chance to catch it at the time, but people were very unhappy with the direction the film took, especially with regards to how it was advertised. I only recently got the chance to watch this film via Blu-Ray rental, and I was completely dumbfounded by what I saw. If you haven’t seen Passengers yet, this is your warning that I’m about to dive into spoiler territory….
Okay, so Passengers is the story of Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), an engineer from Earth who wakes up 90 years too early on a 120 year mission to a new world. Alone for over a year, he goes crazy, until Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) wakes up too, and the pair fall in love before things start going wrong on the ship. Now, this is a genuinely good movie; nice production design, great performances, good soundtrack, and the romantic scenes are all cute and wonderful. There’s just one huge, glaring, unmissable, unforgivable, unjustifiable, stupid thing that I forgot to mention….She doesn’t wake up by accident. He wakes her up. That’s right, Jim gets a boner for some beautiful woman he sees asleep in her pod, starts reading up on her and then actively wakes her up so he won’t be alone. He wakes her up 90 years early, which means that she will die before they ever reach their new home, where she could’ve lived a full, happy life as she was supposed to. What he did was selfish, disgusting and totally inexcusable, and just by far one of the most baffling story telling decisions I’ve ever seen. I’d be okay with it if the film actually took it in an interest direction, but no, it just carries on with this romantic subplot that’s really well done, but is entirely tainted by the fact that he has literally doomed her for the sake of a relationship. Eventually, she finds out, and spends a brief portion of the film very angry at him, going as far as beating the shit out of him in his sleep. But then Laurence Fishburne wakes up, and the ship starts going weird, so they have to work together and eventually she falls back in love with him and it’s absolutely pathetic. There is no good reason for her to ever forgive him, and nothing that happens in this film comes to that resolution logically. It just kind of happens. He doesn’t earn it back, nor does he ever even seem that guilty about it either. It’s bad writing for both characters.
It hurts that this film would genuinely be good without that one stupid plot point. And as I found myself re-writing the whole thing in my head while I was watching it, I managed to come up with three different directions this story could have taken to make this the great film that is clearly there. So let’s get started:
1. He doesn’t fucking wake her up
I don’t know his this wasn’t the obvious answer. Just have them both wake up without human influence, be confused together, fall in love naturally. Then things on the ship start going weird, Laurence Fishburne turns up, and they save the day. You could have every part of this exactly the same, just ten times better. And then when he sacrifices himself at the end, it’ll actually have some emotion to it. That’s all I can say for this one.
This is the shortest entry because it’s the simplest, most obvious and most logical. However, I get the feeling that him waking her up was always a part of this film, so for these next two, I’m gonna keep that in, and expand upon it.
2. Make Jim the villain of the film
Passengers doesn’t have an antagonist; unless you count the failure of the ship, or the unseen meteors that hit the ship prior to this film’s starting, we only have protagonists. So wouldn’t it be interesting if Jim was the villain? So he wakes her up, she finds out, but this time, he doesn’t regret it. He becomes a dominant, terrifying force to be reckoned with that Aurora has to stop as well as save the ship. Maybe Laurence Fishburne can die fighting him instead of just dying on the floor. And it can end with Aurora opening the air lock and sucking him out. The issue with this idea is that it could arguably be seen as even worse than what already happened; the idea of a woman trapped alone with an abusive boyfriend, might come off as cliche or problematic. It’s my least favourite idea of the three, but the point I’m trying to make with this one is that the film should demonise him for his actions. He never truly gets punished for stealing this woman’s life, and I think if the film could just find a way to highlight his shittiness, be it making him the villain or some other method, then it would be a huge improvement. Or maybe this final idea would work out better:
3. He doesn’t know that he’s done it
Jim spent an entire year on that ship before he woke Aurora up. He was seconds away from killing himself at one point. There was a clear mental collapse in him that really could’ve been exploited. So let’s say that he spends an entire year alone, goes crazy, and then suddenly, Aurora wakes up. He has no idea what’s happened, but he’s so relieved. They fall in love, and he gets himself back on track, but every so often he goes dark for some reason. Just becomes something else entirely, and it never lasts long, but you always notice it, and it becomes worse and worse. Then during the climax of the film, Jim gets sudden flashbacks to his alter ego, who has mostly been under wraps since regaining his mental stability, waking Aurora up. He’s had no memory of it up to this point, and the anguish and guilt he feels over it is unbearable, so it’s at this point that, just like in the film, he decides to sacrifice himself to save the ship because he feels it’s the only way that he can do right. I know I just said that I wanted the film to demonise him for what he’s done, but that’s when he actually did it on purpose. I didn’t believe his guilt in that context, but I could totally buy into the man ending his life and saving hundreds of people seconds after realising he ruined his lover’s life. There could be routes to explore with his other personality, like maybe he kills Laurence Fishburne – If you haven’t noticed, I’m trying to give Laurence Fishburne something far more interesting to do – and maybe Arthur the bartender knows both personalities really well, and plays to them both. Plus, Aurora’s distress at him dying would be completely warranted if she didn’t know, and even if he maybe left her a message before doing it to say that it was intentional, it would still be less aggravating than “I fancied you tee hee”. The issue that would arise with this one is with the depiction of mental health, though I honestly feel with good writing that could be avoided.
While I appreciate my latter two ideas have issues themselves, I still find both of them far more justifiable than sentencing her to a slow death for the sake of “love”. And I’m so utterly dumbfounded that the first idea was not the actual idea to be used. But the film has been made and there’s no changing it now, so all I can do is wallow in anger and keep on dreaming. These are just my ideas.
What did you think of them? Would you have done it differently? How would you fix this train wreck?
Do let us know in the comments.
…….I’m open to anything that isn’t what we actually got,
…….and I’m especially open to exciting subplots with Laurence Fishburne.