Thursday, April 16, 2009


Genre: Sci-fi Dark Comedy
Synopsis: A spacecraft transporting thousands of people to a distant planet has a malfunction in one of its sleep chambers. As a result, a single passenger is awakened 90 years before anyone else. Faced with the prospect of growing old and dying alone, he wakes up a second passenger that he's fallen in love with.
About: Considered one of the best screenplays of 2007, this script was put on the fast track once Keanu Reeves attached himself to star.
Writer: Jon Spaihts

The reason I chose to review this script was twofold. One, Keanu Reeves decided to star in it. And two, of all the specs I discuss with people, this one seems to be the most universally liked.

One of the first things I ask people who read a lot is, "Have you read anything good lately?" The one title that keeps coming back over and over again is "Passengers". And I can see why. It's an entirely unique premise. It's a sci-fi film that's also a comedy. It's dark in ways that movies like this never are. It takes chances. It's interesting. It's different.

So then why didn't I like it?

Upon hearing so many people hype this script up, I actually went back and reread it, figuring I'd missed something. But even that second time around, I couldn't get over one major hole in the story: This would never happen.

A giant ship is flying to another world to colonize it. Makes sense. People are put in sleep chambers for the 100+ year trip. Makes sense. One of those sleep chambers malfunctions. Makes sense. There isn't a system in place in case this happens??? ........ Sorry, doesn't make sense. I don't care how you spin it. It's a huge hole. Because the whole movie hinges on you believing that Keannu Reeve's character, Jim, is in this situation.

What about cycling tech support people in and out of 10 year sleep periods so there were always men maintaining the ship? What about robots with the capability of waking crew up? Why wouldn't a system be put in place?

Okay, enough of Grouch Patrol. When Jim realizes there's no way to go back to sleep, he fears he'll end up living the rest of his life alone in this vast vacant ship. He does make a friend in Arthur The Robotic Bartender. But you can only take conversations with a robot so far - or at least I'm told - and Jim cannot escape his loneliness.

The only thing that keeps him going is the divinely beautiful Aurora, one of the other passengers still in her chamber. Jim begins quite possibly the biggest stalking case in history as he spends every waking hour watching Aurora sleep. This leads to querying the central computer and finding out everything about her. It's a seriously unhealthy relationship. After months and months, Jim gets an idea. A terrible idea. What if he opened Aurora's chamber? Knowing that she'll never be able to go back to sleep. Knowing that she will grow old here with him and die..... It's the ultimate act of selfishness. Does he do it?

Of course he fucking does it. You can only have a single character wandering around in a movie for so long (unless you're Tom Hanks).

So he releases Aurora on false pretenses, telling her her chamber malfunctioned. And because he's spent months and months researching her, he's able to be every thing she wants in a man. Not having any competition helps as well. Eventually though, Aurora finds out the truth, and the only two people left in the world become enemies. Jim is even more alone now than when Aurora was asleep.

The final act deals with a ship malfunction that threatens to kill everyone and Jim and Aurora are forced to work together. It's not a bad ending but like I said, I just wasn't into it.

This is one of the few instances where even though I'm giving Passengers a bad review, I encourage you to check it out yourself. It appears I'm waaaaay in the minority here and there's a good chance you'll like this. Here's the link....

[ ] trash
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Passengers: I think it's important that you approach all of your stories with a sense of logic. Ask yourself, "Does this make sense?" "Would this really happen?" A lot of times writers don't challenge their ideas because they fall in love with them. Crossover genres like Passengers are particularly susceptible because there's always one genre the writer cares less about. He/she simply assumes you won't give a shit (and you can argue that he's right - since this script is so universally loved). But I still believe you turn off a portion of your audience by not tending to the details and I think it will cost Passengers a lot of sci-fi fans. Don't ever underestimate your audience.