Despite it having been released less than a year ago, Passengers was a hyped, big-budget sci-fi romance starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt that you probably don’t remember. It currently sits at a 31 percent not-so-fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was widely considered a box office flop (though it fared better overseas).
The story is this: Jim (Chris Pratt) and Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) are ensconced in hibernation pods on a 120-year journey to another planet. Jim’s pod malfunctions, waking him up 90 years too early, and after a year of wandering around alone he causes the same to happen to Aurora’s pod, thus allowing him to have a (beautiful, female) companion. It’s creepy by any measure, but the film’s approach to it is bizarre. Our take, which aligned with many others, was that “the effect of Passengers is to turn frothy sci-fi romance into an astonishingly retrograde statement on autonomy and consent, and to turn one of the most likable actors in Hollywood into a total fucking creep.”
The real problem, it seems, is the film’s first act, which strains itself to make Pratt’s Jim a good guy. A new video essay from Nerdwriter recognizes this, and asks what the film would look like if it were filtered through the POV of Lawrence’s Aurora. Unsurprisingly, it makes the movie a lot more interesting. (Spoilers below.)
What if the film began when Aurora woke up? What if we, the audience, had no clue as to the intentions of Pratt’s Jim? Nerdwriter decided to find out, reediting the footage and discovering that it resulted in a film that was infinitely more engaging. “We don’t know whether to trust him or not, believe him or not,” he says, “and that makes the audience’s experience an active one in every moment.”
Of course, that doesn’t solve every issue, but it allows for an edifying exercise for any aspiring screenwriters out there. As Nerdwriter says, “You can learn as much from movies that don’t work as much as ones that do.”