Despite its mega-budget and mega-stars, the critics trashed it. The film scored a lowly 36 on rottentomatoes, which tracks reviews.
“Passengers, a fairy tale set aboard a luxury spaceliner, has billion-dollar ideas and five-cent guts,” wrote NPR critic Chris Klimik.
“Wretched material,” opined Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal.
Indeed, the film is a classic case of Hollywood commercialism trumping creativity, a fate that sends so many potentially good films to the bottom of the barrel.
Columbia Pictures delivered a schmaltzy, predictable love story wrapped in high-tech special effects and tedious artifice.
But with a few simple plot changes, the movie could have been a real psychological thriller, on par with Jack Nicolson’s “The Shining,” and according to the insightful film analysis.
Basically, Chris Pratt plays Jim Preston, a passenger on the flight. He, alone, among 5,000 others, awakens 90 years early on the 120-year spaceship voyage to a distant planet.
The film dwells for 30 minutes on his efforts to cope with the solitude. Finally, he cracks and awakens another passenger, Aurora Lane (Lawrence), for companionship.
Realizing they can’t go back to sleep, the eventually fall in love and vow to enjoy their time together. But a robot bartender lets slip that Pratt intentionally woke her. She flies into a rage and refuses to speak to him for almost a year.
At that point, the plot hits a wall. To get the movie back on track, screen writer Jon Spaihts concocts a crisis. But since Jim and Aurora are just passengers, he must introduce another character, flight deck chief Gus Mancuso (Laurence Fishburne).
He also wakes up mysteriously on his own, but he’s clearly injected into the movie to explain the new plot direction. The ship is slowly disintegrating; Aurora and Jim must save it.
As anyone knows, two’s company, three’s a crowd. Once the new plot direction is set, Mancuso conveniently dies.
Aurora and Jim reconcile, and Jim sacrifices himself to fix the ship’s problem. Aurora saves his life, they fall back in love and live out their lives together.
The video mashup makes one key plot change to turn the film into a potential classic–it tells the story from Aurora’s viewpoint.
The film now opens with Aurora waking up and encountering Jim for the first time. He’s a totally mysterious character, and she has lots of questions.
She must try to figure him out, why she’s awake and whether Jim is sane or crazy. The plot change gives the film a sharp psychological edge that would have sustained the entire movie.
In the end, the combination of Lawrence and Pratt were enough to attract moviegoers. The picture grossed almost $300 million worldwide against a $100 million production budget.
By Hollywood standards, that’s a success, even if the film is easily forgettable.
Now, check out the video below to see what could have been.