For a movie starring two of our most unanimously well-liked movie stars, Passengers has proven rather divisive. Some have called it creepy and problematic or worse, boring. Others, myself included, thought the complicated, morally dubious questions raised in the film provided interesting, meaty material for Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence to sink their teeth into.
Spoilers for both the script and screen version of Passengers below.
The titular passengers are Jim (Pratt), a man trapped alone in the loneliest place possible, having woken up 30 years into a 120-year journey through deep space, and Aurora Lane (Lawrence), who Jim decides to wake up. After that, even I'll admit that the movie climaxes in a too-cutesy ending that wraps up the psychological horror aspects of the film in a bit too happily ever after kind of way.
This wasn't always the ending. Written by Jon Spaihts, Passengers originally generated heat in 2007, when it landed on the Black List, a list of the "most liked" unproduced screenplays voted on by Hollywood power players. That 2007 version of the script has lived online for years since then and is quite easy to find -- should one want.
Spaihts' script unfolds a different, darker ending for Jim and Aurora's story. At one point as the Avalon is malfunctioning, the ship's systems are prematurely rebooted, which causes the pods containing the other 5,000 passengers, very much still alive although suspended in animation, to be ejected into space.
It's a cleaner way of redirecting the love story, but at tragic costs, continuing on the themes of the rest of the movie. This is absent from the film version, as directed by Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game), which opts to give Aurora a bit more agency, some choice in whether or not she wants to be awake. The screenplay finds a way to frame Jim's actions as not only a stroke of luck, but somewhat heroic. Aurora says as much:
"You know, if it wasn’t for you waking me up, I’d be drifting out in space right now with the others. And if you’d never awakened, the whole ship would have been lost while we slept." Aurora
Instead of the ship's infirmary containing a pseudo hibernation pod, in the scripted version, it contains a gene bank of frozen sperm and ova from all of the passengers onboard. Aurora finds it earlier on and tells Jim, "By the time we get to Homestead II, that little capsule in the freezer is going to be all that’s left of me."
The final scene of the script, however, sees the Avalon landing on Homestead II, decades after Aurora and Jim have passed, but they found a way to use the gene bank to -- somehow -- repopulate the ship.
At the aft end of the Concourse, a high wall. Here a long list of dates is inscribed. The last date is the ship’s landfall on Homestead II; the first, Jim’s awakening. In between: an accelerating tally of births, deaths, marriages, catastrophes and achievements...a century of shipboard life. At the base of the wall we find a table like an altar, where a collection of artifacts is displayed: The meteor pried from the Excelsior’s heart. Gus’s worn shipcard, his picture still visible. A beautiful hand-bound book. In the Blink of an Eye: Our Lives Between the Stars, by Aurora [Lane]. Beneath these printed words, a handwritten dedication: For Jim. In the center of it all, in the place of honor: the photo strip of Jim and Aurora from their first date. They laugh. They clown. She kisses him. Aurora looks into the camera’s eye. Jim looks at Aurora. Spaihts
Spaihts, who also penned Doctor Strange for Marvel this year, hasn't spoken extensively on the reasoning behind the changes, but called this the "right ending." "There were a couple of scenes at the end that were written during production to adjust the trajectory of their love story," he told ComingSoon.net. "But I always knew that it needed to end like it ends. That never really changed."