Passengers, one of the holiday season’s most hyped-up films, isn’t out until Christmas Day, but reviews are already in. As I wrote in mine, the sci-fi romance/drama is built around a reveal that its trailers tease heavily. I also wrote that Passengers is pretty bad, and while I can’t make your theatergoing choices for you, I’d advise against watching it at all costs.
That being said, you may still want to know about that big ol’ reveal. How did Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence’s characters end up as the only conscious people on a spaceship where they weren’t supposed to wake up for 120 years? If you don’t mind a whole bunch of spoilers ahead, keep reading.
So, what’s the twist?
Let’s watch this Passengers trailer first to get a sense of what we’re working with here.
There’s a few things here that are meant to throw viewers off the movie’s trail. Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) appears first, wandering the ship alone in search of someone, anyone else who may also be awake early. Eventually he sees Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), and the way the footage is cut suggests that this happens not long after Jim awakens.
Notice his shirt here, seemingly not long after he wakes up?
He’s wearing something very similar when he meets Aurora:
The implication is that he never changed clothes because, duh, the two of them only just started roaming the ship. Okay, Passengers. We see what you’re trying to do.
Except it’s not actually the same shirt, upon closer look. That first shirt has long sleeves; the second, short. Looks like Passengers’ trailer just played itself.
Dialogue pushes the angle of “they woke up together” even harder. The trailer ends with Jim saying, “I know why we woke up early.” Note: We.
With the benefit of hindsight, it all strikes me as some editors trying very, very hard to keep people wondering. The actual movie does the exact opposite, however: The reveal is made plain as soon as Jim gets up.
That’s because Jim wakes up completely alone on that ship, and he stays completely alone on that ship for a whole year. No one else wakes up when he does, and there’s no malicious reason for Jim’s hibernation ending 90 years too early. It’s the result of a faulty hibernation pad, an error that somehow only affects him out of all 5,000 passengers.
Jim spends that first year alone, losing his mind a bit, simultaneously indulging in the pleasures of complete solitude and thirsting for some human interaction. As he’s strolling through the sleeping passengers gallery, he comes across Aurora. He has no idea who she is, of course, since the whole ship is full of random strangers who decided to bail on Earth for a variety of self-absorbed reasons. But she’s really, really pretty, and that’s enough for him to get obsessed.
Let’s cut to the chase: Jim studies the hibernation pod manual to learn not how to fix his own chamber, but instead crack hers open 89 years ahead of schedule. And so he does, without telling her he was the culprit.
Yeah. It’s awful. It’s obvious, too, when you think long and hard about it and stare the trailer’s tactics straight in the face.
It’s less apparent that Aurora eventually figures it out, with help from the ship’s android butler, Arthur (Michael Sheen). She’s upset, because of course she should be, and she refuses to speak to Jim — who she’d fallen in love with in the meantime — on account of him essentially “murdering” her.
Murder is 1,000 percent the right word for what Jim’s done. Because he’s got the hots for this random girl, he chooses to rope her into his own personal hell to make things a little bit more comfortable for himself. It’s totally at her expense, and he’s hardly apologetic.
Hey, guess what? There’s still another half of the movie left after that all goes down. Passengers has a happy ending, by a relative measure. Jim and Aurora live out the rest of their days on the ship — even after Jim repairs a hibernation tank and offers Aurora the chance to go back to sleep.
Somehow, after just a year or so with this random guy whose sex drive led him to changing the entire course of her life, Aurora decides to stay with Jim.
As I said: It’s terrible, and it’s central to the entire plot of Passengers. This twist is enough to ruin what could have been a ... well, better movie. Maybe not a good one, but better.