The INSIDER Summary:
• “Passengers,” starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, is a bad movie.
• The plot glorifies Stockholm Sydrome.
• It could have been great if it had leaned into being a horror movie.
Unless you’ve been hiding on a spaceship headed to a distant planet for the last 120 years, then the plot of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence’s new movie “Passengers” has probably been spoiled for you.
And if it has, then one thing probably sticks out to you — this movie sucks.
Critics have been brutal:
“Beyond the horrific, misogynistic setup that attempts to make Stockholm Syndrome sexy, the movie (which has been in development hell for the better part of a decade) is just plain dull,” Bobby Finger wrote for Jezebel.
“‘Passengers’ masquerades as a heartwarming story about the power of love — in space — but it doesn’t have a single fully formed thought rattling around in its glossy, sexy, inadvertently creepy head,” Alissa Wilkinson wrote on Vox.
“‘Passengers’ turns a likable guy into a mild stalker, then a de facto long-game murderer (think about it),” Robert Abele sums up for the Wrap.
After discovering the plot, I’ve taken Jezebel’s advice and refused to give my money to this movie, but thanks to the many and frequent plot spoilers, I have a good handle on how “Passengers” could have been fixed: The movie should never have been a romance, but a horror film.
If you haven’t read the spoilers yet, the movie follows Chris Pratt’s character Jim who is the only one woken up on the spaceship Avalon after a collision with an asteroid. He realises that though the journey was supposed to take 120 years while he was fast asleep in a suspended animation pod, he was the only person out of 5,000 woken up 90 years early and is essentially doomed to die before the ship can reach the next planet.
After about a year of living it up on the spaceship, Jim falls in love with Jennifer Lawrence’s character Aurora Lane (yes, Aurora like Sleeping Beauty — very on the nose) who is a beautiful writer. He watches her safely sleeping in her pod and becomes creepily obsessed with her.
He watches her pre-boarding interviews, reads her past work, and stares at her frequently. And then he decides to intentionally disable her suspended animation pod, essentially dooming her to be stuck on the spaceship alone with him for the rest of her life.
Now this is not what the previews made it out to be. Most people were lead to believe that Pratt and Lawrence’s characters woke up at the same time and had to figure out what was going wrong on the spaceship together.
I, however, did assume that one of them had woken up before the other, with one big twist — we wouldn’t find out until the end.
Picture this: Instead of focusing on Jim as the hero, the movie opens with both Jim and Aurora seemingly waking up at the same time. Together, they discover the amenities and feel a shared grief that they won’t make it to the planet. They become a couple — but Aurora starts to realise that something’s not quite right.
This is when “Passengers” could have switched from being a love story to a full-on psychological space thriller, and it would have made it so much better.
Aurora could have slowly realised over the course of the first act that there are signs someone else has been awake before them on the spaceship. Jim brushes it off, but Aurora, ever the writer, wants to learn what happened and why they’re awake. In addition to realising the ship is broken, she comes to the conclusion that she was never meant to wake up — Jim opened her pod on purpose and then lied to her.
The film then could have ventured into the territory of tales like “Misery” or “10 Cloverfield Lane” where Aurora not only must escape her increasingly unhinged captor, but try to save the ship — and humanity — in the process.
Perhaps in this story, the other passengers would have awoken to Aurora’s book about her experience vanquishing Jim and her time alone aboard the Avalon, protecting the 5,000 other passengers as they hurtle through space.
Instead of this thriller angle, the real movie follows Jim’s plot to wake Aurora up from the get-go, and when she realises what he did to her, she’s only temporarily angry with him. The ending implies that they continued their relationship and even had children together.
Even if they had fixed this central plot disaster, it doesn’t change a slew of other issues people had with the movie — including, but not limited to, why the suspended animation pods only work once and why the ship wasn’t prepared for asteroids — but it certainly could’ve made it more watchable.
But a psychological thriller is not what the movie studio thought people wanted. Instead, “Passengers” is just a bad, rape-y space movie about one woman’s Stockholm Syndrome and the man who ruined her life because he didn’t want to be alone.
“Passengers” is currently in theatres.
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