Passengers, Rearranged

Passengers, Rearranged

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Here’s a question for aspiring screenwriters: Is it possible to make the movie “Passengers” better with some relatively minor changes? You know, I don’t think this is a really bad film. After hearing reviews from friends and online, I sort of expected it to be. But I think that feeling was mostly disappointed expectation. Passengers is by no means a train wreck. It’s just really, really predictable. The plot goes like this: After the interstellar spaceship, Avalon, malfunctions, Chris Pratt wakes up from hyper sleep ninety years before he’s supposed to. Ninety years before anyone else on the ship. He can’t go back to sleep. He can’t contact earth. He can’t get to the ship’s controls. He tries to do all of these things and fails. As a year passes, he grows increasingly sad and hopeless. So eventually he decides to wake up another passenger, Jennifer Lawrence, condemning her to the same fate, essentially death. In order to give himself some more company. He acts like it’s another malfunction. He doesn’t tell her. After a while, they fall in love. She finds out the truth, gets really mad, and then the ship begins to really malfunction. So Pratt sacrifices himself to save it, but in the end, she saves him. They fall in love again, and spend the rest of their lives alone on the ship, happily ever after. Oh and Laurence Fishburne’s in it, too. “How long have I got?”
About twelve or thirteen minutes in, Act III. But, you know, count your blessings, it’s way better than what oscar-nominated actor Andy Garcia got. *audience disappointment*
So you can break this plot up into five basic turning points: 1. Chris wakes up.
2. Chris wakes Jennifer up. 3. She finds out.
4. Chris sacrifices himself. 5. She forgives him.
The most acute tension in the film happens between parts 2 and 3. When Jennifer starts to fall in love with Chris, but doesn’t yet know the truth. We know the truth is coming; there’s a little dramatic irony there. And so we wait with increasing anxiety until it does. And when it does, predictably, Jennifer freaks out, predictably, and we feel a little sadness. Predictably. At this point, exactly an hour into the movie, the script has sort of written itself into a corner. Because Pratt is the real main character, because we spend 30 minutes alone with him at the start of the film and see everything through his eyes, There’s really only two paths to take regarding the central relationship. Either he dies, or she forgives him. In both ways he finds absolution for the sin he committed. Because you’re not going to be able to turn him bad, not a character like this. Not unless you have five seasons to do it. And yes, I know there are some allusions to “The Shining” here, but “The Shining” spent pretty much no time at all endearing us to the character of Jack Torrance. Passengers spends the whole first act endearing us to the lovable, scrappy Chris Pratt. It’s clear the creators, or the studio, were intent on this being a love story, so they chose to go with the schmaltzy ending. But they could have chosen either. The last 45 minutes would have been the same; a movie pretty much devoid of real tension or suspense. Which requires a completely new plot device in the third act, the total malfunction of the ship, to juice the ending with some adrenaline. You know a couple weeks ago, I was watching Chris Stuckmann and Doug Walker’s joint review of “Passengers,” and Walker said something interesting. “If they told this in a different order,
it would have been ten times more interesting.” The thing I began to wonder is what if you rearranged the movie. So that Jennifer Lawrence was the point-of-view character, not Chris Pratt? What if the film began with her experience? Well I couldn’t stop thinking about it, So I re-edited the existing footage-see what would happen to the story “Good morning, Aurora. How are you feeling? You just spent 120 years in suspended animation-” *malfunction* “Hello?” “Anybody?” “Hello.”
“Hi, are you a passenger or crew?” “Passenger. Jim Preston.”
“Do you know what’s going on? Nobody else from my row woke up.” “Same for me.”
When I made this change and just watched from there, some interesting things started to happen First of all, the first act changes its tone entirely. With the original first act, you’re wandering around the ship with Chris Pratt. You learn cool things. You see him come to terms of the situation, have fun, get depressed, and finally reach the ethical dilemma that’s meant to animate the movie. What you see is what you get here. Which makes for somewhat passive viewing experience. It’s an amusing sequence, but that’s mostly down to cool production design and Pratt’s always charming performance. “Guess I am going to die of old age on this ship.” But in the new first act, the story is infused from the start with mystery. When I made the editing changes, I was genuinely surprised by just how creepy Pratt’s character is when you take away his point of view. We don’t know whether to trust him or not, believe him or not. And that makes the audience’s experience an active one in every moment. “Do you know what’s going on? Nobody else from my row woke up.” “Same for me.” As he leads Jennifer around the ship, locations become crime scenes where the viewer tries to figure out what’s happening. This, of course by the way, is what makes Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Solaris” so great. So much has happened on Solaris by the time the lead character arrives that he and the audience have to piece the fragments together themselves. I mean, just look at how creepy he is. I actually think that Pratt’s performance takes on more dimensions from this angle. You’re not always forced to see him as sympathetic, so his darker side comes out in greater relief. More important than that, the dark choice that sits at the heart of this film hits with greater impact when seen for the first time from Lawrence’s perspective because we feel the cruelty as she feels it. “Did you wake me up?” “I tried not to.” *gasp* Now we’re at the point where the original story hits that dead end. But with this new edit, you have some more options to play with. Namely, with this configuration, you could actually turn Pratt into the villain, the original film suggests, But can’t follow through on and make “Passengers” into the thriller horror film that so many critics wanted to see. You can even cut back in that whole first section of Chris’s time alone on the ship, but put it after the revelation without the need to justify his good guy-ness. You could show a deeper, more desperate side to his loneliness. Something that I think actually would make him more sympathetic in the end and the choice he makes more agonizing. *gasp* Of course, this simple cut and paste doesn’t solve every problem in the script. The ending, for example, is still an issue. I think you’d want to remove the malfunction McGuffin, but it might be just as trite to close the story in true horror fashion. It could be cool to give it a twilight zone ending as Peter’s last film suggested and have Pratt die and Lawrence gets so lonely that she begins to contemplate the same horrible choice. Brainstorming like this is obviously really fun and much easier than actually writing a movie and making one. For all its faults, “Passengers is a big-budget movie with a completely original script, and that should be celebrated because it’s a dying breed. But a film like this is a good opportunity for would-be screenwriters to think about story. Because you can learn just as much from films that don’t work as you can from those that do. Hey, everybody. Thank you so much for watching. This episode was brought to you by Dollar Shave Club. You might have noticed that I have a beard. Everybody with a beard will tell you that if you don’t keep things clean it can get really scruffy really quickly so I use dollar shave club razors to make sure all the lines on my neck and cheeks are smooth and even. And it’s the smarter choice because they send everything you need right to your door At an affordable price. You don’t have to go to the store. You don’t have to spend money on unnecessary technology. And for a limited time you can get the executive razor with a tube of Dr. Carver’s shave butter for just five dollars. No shipping fee, and razors are only a few bucks a month after that. Here’s what you get in the box. You get a nice sturdy handle, you get your four razors and of course Dr. Carver’s shave butter, don’t leave home without it. Makes shaving really easy, no commitments, no hassles, And if you go to dollarshaveclub.com/nerdwriter you can get that first month for $5. The link’s at the top of the description, that’s dollarshaveclub.com/nerdwriter Thanks guys, I’ll see you next week.

98 comments

  1. I totally get where this is coming from as a writer and am impressed by how little changes can shift a story. I liked the film though because I saw it through an existentialist lens. You are radically free. So free, you can jump into the void or do something horrific even if you are a good person. There is class, an indentured servant and a princess can have their lives radically altered and they have a choice, live or die. Yeah, it was predictable, but it worked for me.

  2. 0:57 – Missed her boobies when I watched the movie for the first time… Have to watch it another time! Thank you Nerdwriter1!

  3. I liked the movie as it was, but wish it was longer to explore what's it like to be the only two people alive, forever, trapped on the ship. Without any laws or help.

  4. Well, if you someone as beautiful as Jennifer Lawrence I'd sure wake her up…. Wait, no, I'd rather have her sleeping.

  5. Holy balls, watching it this way really emphasizes how good a performance Chris Pratt made. Not to mention the interesting theme of perspective; people need to see this so they can understand how their understanding of other peoples lives is so limited, so we should never judge.

  6. Haha this is exactly what I thought of once I finished the film. Like "hm not bad, would've been a lot stronger if we opened with her story and kept her as POV character the whole way through" haha. Because it actually does transition view from him to her which is not a great tool if it's just head hopping for the sake of head hopping. Cool analysis.

  7. 7:40 That is why The Room is a Masterpiece, learning from the mistakes and as entrepreneur I think The Room movie redefines what success means.

  8. Your rewrite with the new ending of her wanting to wake someone else us sounds like such a good mind blowing ending 😩

  9. I actually like the original more. The rearranged version is more intriguing and mysterious, but that turns it into a completely different genre of movie. If someone likes watching suspense and mystery, then the new version would be their cup of tea. But for someone who likes a sci-fi romance film without those creepy aspects, like me, the original is nice the way it is, just a bit too predictable.

  10. I imagine the end as just when Chris Pratt walks in like a hero from the airlock it opens again and Jennifer Lawrence flies out and then you see the despair on Chris’s face and it zooms out into the darkness of space and the movie just ends there.

  11. I enjoyed this movie because I was able to find her perspective even though I was introduced to Chris’ character first, which is why I thought his creepy acting was great and fitting.

  12. Omg I want this to be a movie. Where he's like is he a psychopath or not? It's just like the Zac Efron Ted Bundy movie. Made so you don't know FOR SURE. Moments make you doubt yourself

  13. Switching the points of views does bring a different tone to the movie. I would watch that. I liked the original movie because of the romance but by introducing Jennifer’s POV first and then the reveal, and have Chris try to explain his circumstances, while we get to view it brings such interesting aspects

  14. I never watch the movie, but this explaination is so mindblowing. We don't have to change or twist the plot a lot to make it more interesting, just rearrange the view point

  15. I never watched this movie and I was genuinely surprised it showed Chris Pratt waking up first, from the commercials I thought it was Jennifer Lawrence waking up alone

  16. God, now I wish they would’ve done this!!! I will take this lesson with me when figuring out the stories to my own script: keep the audience active in the story

  17. This was awesome! New to the channel but it would be awesome to see a series about rearranging bad movies to make them better.

  18. Awesome!! I thought that same thing… that what a twist it would be if Jim died and it fades to black with Aurora mournfully eyeballing another sleeping Male passenger!!

    Can we have a director's edition that been re-edited for these changes!!?

  19. Would have been perfect if it was by her perspective and made it a horror. Why glorify this guy who forced her to be with him for years…

  20. i think an interesting and incredibly smart idea that the film company/producers could have done would be to have released Passangers as is, with the perspective of Pratt’s character. then maybe a few months or a year later, to then release the exact same film, but from Laurence’s characters perspective. to have the two juxtaposed to illustrate that everybody’s perspective can be dramatically different would set a tone for how interactions work. instead of seeing him long for her and we feel sorry for him, to then see her fear at her life being taken and the film being from her point of view wherein she goes through stages of grief and fear over the loss of her future. to then end up alone, i don’t know, i wouldn’t be very happy to be in that situation.
    would be cool to see some film company try take advantage of that.

  21. This was an awesome edit, it made me crave the complete version of your edit, especially since I haven’t seen the original Passenger

  22. You could take another twist on this and make Pratt a serial killer and the audience doesn't find out until the very end. It falls apart and she won't forgive him and in a fight he kills her… and then he drags here into a room where we see 3-4 other bodies.

  23. I actually watched this movie on tv and I just saw Jennifer waking up so that was really interesting for me and should be in that order

  24. He should’ve just woken up as many people as he needs and the right people to bust into the control center/get to the crew.

  25. The best ending with the new edit would have been Chris saving the ship and Lawrence not saving him, just letting him suffer.

  26. Honestly this would have been a great movie with this direction. I would have enjoyed it 10 times more. It wasnt horrible in it's original sequence, it just needed more of a push

  27. The first time I watched passengers I kept thinking "this movie is the wrong way round" like I felt like they lead you right through the plot by hand, so there was no impact. I so badly wished I had seen the second half before the first.

  28. Honestly I can't stand people that believe Jim is a good person. You could understand and to some degree sympathize with his dilemma, but at the moment when he decided to take another's person life just so he could live a more fulfilling life or emotionally survive, he stopped being a protagonist and became an antagonist or a villain. Imagine this character played by a regular or less than average looking man and tell me again you would fall in love with him. People forgave Jim because he's played by Chris Pratt.

    Edit: one typo

  29. What I don’t get is how Jennifer Lawrences character wasn’t more suspicious like why would pratt have such good hygiene and not have a stronger reaction when they first met. If she really woke up on accident he would’ve been in a depressed state

  30. I reeeaaaly like the version where she wakes someone up after he dies. That would have been the movie of the century.

  31. Omg this made think on Eve's history (yeah, from the bible)
    Isn't fucked up the fact that she was made up for Adam don't feel lonely? (Sorry if the english is bad)

  32. damn. the studios were so invested in making pratt's character this goofy, likable guy that they missed out on this gold. makes me think how simple changes can sometimes drastically change a movie. also, i'm not against sappy, happy endings but the one you suggested was AMAZING. it would've changed everything for the better.

  33. The Twilight Zone ending would appeal to the younger generation of nihilists and "black pill" kids. While it would preserve the theme of betrayal it would remove the morally "messy" consideration of redemption, and in addition would introduce elements of tragedy. While tragedy is a valid art-form, and can in fact say important things, it isn't exactly fun summer fare, and also, Nicholas Sparks already seems to have that market securely cornered. I don't think "Nicholas Sparks in Space" would have had the same appeal that "Passengers" does. I think a lot of people were misled by the trailer and came to the theater expecting "Blue Lagoon in Space" where they presumed both Pratt's and Lawrence's characters were both victims of blind circumstances, and were surprised, or even disappointed when that is not the movie they got.

  34. Wowww the ending plot difference where she has to go through it too. Makes it come full circle and makes me almost wish it had been that way

  35. Not every movie suppose to be surprising. Anyone seen THE MEG? This movie was pretty popular but did anyone of viewers imagined (even for a second) that Jason Statham gets eaten by the effing fish! I don`t think so. THE PASSENGERS gave you chance see two beautiful actors having a romance and drama in space and it was pretty cool. CGI acceptable. What else do you need?

  36. What if chris Pratt dies without Jennifer Lawrence forgiving him at the halfway point, and it then follows her coping with her loneliness in a different way to how Chris Pratt did and eventually forgive him by seeing what he went through. Jennifer would eventually come to the same decision Chris did and wake someone up, creating a circular structure.

  37. When I saw this movie, I really didn’t have any problems with it. I really enjoyed it. But damn does the rearranged version sound awesome. I would love to see the full film from her perspective

  38. HOLY SHIT!!!!
    This is incredible, the movie would have been so much better, misterious and shocking with this POV!

  39. You know, with all the suspense movies, I really enjoy the anticipated ones, even if you know the end you want to see how it got acted out, the details that led to the conclusion. It's like history, and very good actors like those two make it a good relaxing experience.

  40. literally it could just be peter pan, even if they keep everything the same and put jen to sleep at the end then it works.

  41. Thanks Jack Dam for the link : https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-t_KS0wXW6aNmVNLV9zcFZDZ2M/view
    It's not rearranged at 100% like the video suggested but it's very good.

  42. It would have been interesting if instead of Chris Pratt they cast an actor who isn’t charming at all, cause of course she falls in love with Pratt but what if she woke up to a total creep and succumbed to circumstance by settling for him, we see their relationship where a completely off putting guy is trying to woo a hot woman, who is trying her best to see the good in him but you also see her disappointed with him and not developing real feelings, until the reveal and maybe she kills him, then wakes up a hot guy becoming the villain?

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