I feel like every single time I watch one of these legendary blockbuster bombs I find myself asking the same question: did I watch the same movie as everyone else? Make no mistake: this is not a good film. But once you’ve been told something is The Worst over and over again, your expectations get so low that you end up seeing positives, I guess. Passengers is a mediocre sci fi film – really it’s two sci fi films stuck together – but it is not the worst movie of the year. If you think it is, I suggest you go to Netflix and watch any number of terrible low budget films available there. SPOILERS if you care.
I have heard there were numerous re-shoots and I have a theory. The theory is that Chris Pratt is currently too big a star to be the bad guy. I think the initial film likely had a very different ending (an ending appropriate to its story, to its characters, and to its extensive Shining homage) but somebody – whether it was Pratt, his agent, or someone else in the Movie Industrial Complex – decided that Pratt had to be the good guy, so they wrote a new second half of the movie, which has nothing to do with the first half.
The first half is not awful by any means. It’s more than a little generic – we have seen this before, particularly recently in The Martian – but it’s not awful. The homage to The Shining sets you up to believe something is going to happen. Then that thing absolutely does not happen and you are confused.
The problem is that once Pratt’s character tells Lawrence’s character the truth, the film wants Pratt and Lawrence to still get together instead of what should have happened, which is for Pratt to go all Jack Nicholson on Lawrence, only to be saved by the black Captain (i.e. Hallorann in The Shining). I’m sure that was what was supposed to happen. I bet there’s film of it.
Instead, problems with the ship that have existed for years (literally) suddenly become critical once the black Captain joins them and is instantly sick (conveniently forcing Pratt’s character to save the day). So then Pratt’s character gets to save Lawrence’s character and then Lawrence’s character gets to save Pratt’s and everything is forgiven. It’s a pretty stupid second half. It might have been an okay generic science fiction plot in itself but instead it got tacked on to this Shining in Space film because someone didn’t want Chris Pratt playing a psychopath. Ah well.