Reelbadass Studios: Script Review-‘Passengers’

Spaceship

Passengers

by

Jon Spaihts

Genre: Sci-fi/Romantic Drama

Draft Date: undated/unspecified

Script Status: Green-lite

Production Status: Currently Shooting

Release date: December 21st, 2016

It must feel really good to be Jon Spaihts at this point, the guy has went from an underground struggling writer to one of the most sought after big screen science fiction screenwriters in the business, his big break perhaps, was when he was ask by Fox Studios is early 2009 to pitch them his take on an Alien prequel, for which he was hired right there in the room by Ridley Scott to write what would end up being a version of the movie Prometheus. From there, he got a gig writing the low budget, critically panned movie 2011 film The Darkest Hour, and then the release of Prometheus happened the following year to varied degrees of success.

Then in early 2014 Spaihts was giving his biggest gig when he was hired by Kevin Feige to write the script for Marvel’s upcoming film Doctor Strange, which will be directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister) and stars Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role of Doctor Strange, the movie is set to hit theaters late 2016.

But before all that, the script that got Spaihts on the map and noticed by Fox was the script I’m going to review for you guys today, his script Passengers. Which is a screenplay that has been floating around the exec tables of Hollywood for a while and has been in development hell. It was first picked up when Keanu Reeves read it and spearheaded the script’s production, hiring Brian Kirk as the director and Rachel McAdams as the female lead, but that production fell through.

It was resurrected when Sony bought the rights and Chris Pratt was brought on to star, after being in the box office smash Jurassic World, it was later announced that Academy Award nominated director Morten Tyldum was hired by the studio to direct and Oscar winning actress Jennifer Lawrence was then casted as Aurora, followed by the casting of Michael Sheen and Laurence Fishburne. It recently began production and is scheduled to come out around Christmas next year. Continuing the trend started by the film Gravity of space survival movies being released in the fall.

Pods
This still is taken from the movie Avatar, and it’s not in the movie Passengers.

Passengers, is set in the not too distant future where Earth has become over populated and the governments of the world have successfully began colonizing other planets habitable for humans to live on. So they send out a ship with roughly a few thousand people to populated one of the planets. Jim Preston (who will be played by Chris Pratt) is one of these people lucky enough to be going to one of the planets, but unexpectedly his hibernation pod opens due to a machine malfunction and he is awoken early, too early. Preston learns that his journey to the new planet is scheduled to take 99 years, his hibernation pod awoke 90 years early. After continuous failed attempts to get his pod work again, Preston fears he will die alone and after conversing with the resident robot bartender aboard the ship, (Which will be played by Michael Sheen), Preston decides to open the pod of Aurora (Who will be played by Jennifer Lawrence), and that’s where the story really begins.

If there is something to be said about this script is that it’s very simple, for better or worse the scripts premises is incredibly small. The basics of this script is to take the standard romantic drama formula of boy meets girl but set it in space and make it a bottle film, where they are the only two people alive. The result is not a clever as one would think, but it’s still a pretty original premises nonetheless, at least in my opinion.

What I liked a lot about Spaihts work is that he made the characters dictate the movement of the story, in doing so though the overall story itself is something that is very predictable and ultimately not really all that interesting, at times (Let me stress that). For the first maybe 60 pages though I thought the script was on fire, it had the air of freshness to it and it was really engaging, I found myself rooting for Preston and feeling his frustration, upon awakening so abruptly from his pod. However it’s when he decides to wake Aurora is where the script becomes a very predictable love story.

Aurora herself isn’t any different than your standard, third wave feminist female characters you see in modern romantic dramas these days, her reaction though realistic are all too predictable and drag the story down a lot, and their interaction throughout the second act is when the script begins to drag as it becomes victim of the standard tropes in any typical non fantastical romantic drama.

The dialogue doesn’t sparkle anymore, the character of Preston stops becoming really engaging and drifts into having this sort of off brand serial killer vibe about him, as he stalks Aurora and sends her various gifts of affection.The character of Aurora never really grew on me at all, I’m a big champion for female leads and characters. I feel that this year we’ve had a great deal of them, but Aurora while she is somewhat strong in her own right, never really clicked to me.

Found this online, it's not concept art.
Found this online, it’s not concept art.

I appreciate Spaihts approached to writer her, making her kinda the audience avatar for how we are viewing Preston and how manic he seemed at times, I also liked how he turned a standard romantic drama trope on its head, in which after the guy sees the girl in a romantic drama, the guy often begins fantasizing about the girl and building her up to the point where she becomes this fictional and almost mythic version of the real thing, in the script Preston does that, but  only to get knocked back down when after he awakes Aurora, not only does she immediately reject him but also the image he had constructed of her.

But that dynamic didn’t last long and their relationship proceeded to go the inevitable and highly formulaic route. Of guy meets girl, girl likes guy, guy likes girl, the date, something happens they break up and then they both realize what selfish and unreasonable pricks they were being and then they get back together, believe me guys I’m not spoiling shit.

HOWEVER, just when the second reaches pass the point of annoyance and groan inducing, the third act kicks in and that in itself was pretty damn cool, unfortunately I can’t reveal much but it’s a really cool and suspenseful third act, that had me tense throughout the read. It reminded me a lot of the third act of Alien, if I can say that without spoiling.

Overall Score: C+

+Character of Jim Preston             – Character of Aurora

+ Strong First Act                            -Highly Formulaic and Boring Second Act

+The Bartender Robot                    – Uneven Pacing

+Humor                                            -Weak Dialogue 

+Surprisingly Tense Third Act

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