Passengers (2016 film)

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Passengers 2016 film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMorten Tyldum
Written byJon Spaihts
Produced by
CinematographyRodrigo Prieto
Edited byMaryann Brandon
Music byThomas Newman
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release dates
Running time
116 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$110–150 million[3][4]
Box office$303.1 million[3]

Passengers is a 2016 American science-fiction romance film directed by Morten Tyldum and written by Jon Spaihts, partially based on the 1950s EC Comics story "50 Girls 50". The film stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, with Michael Sheen and Laurence Fishburne in supporting roles. The plot depicts two passengers who are awakened 90 years too early from an induced hibernation on a spaceship, transporting thousands of passengers, travelling to a colony on a planet in a star system 60 light years from Earth.

The script was written in 2007 by Spaihts, but was kept in development hell, with multiple actors attached over the years. In December 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment picked up the film's rights, with Tyldum attached to direct. Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence were cast as the two leads in February 2015. The film was produced by Village Roadshow Pictures, Start Motion Pictures, Original Film, LStar Capital, Wanda Pictures, and Company Films. Principal photography took place at Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, from September 2015 to February 2016. It is the last film from Columbia Pictures to have the involvement of Village Roadshow Pictures.

Passengers premiered at the Regency Village Theater in Los Angeles on December 14, 2016, and was released theatrically in the United States on December 21, 2016, in two dimensions and RealD 3D by Columbia Pictures. The film received mixed reviews from critics, with praise for Lawrence and Pratt's performances, as well as Newman's musical score, visual style, and production values, though it was criticized for its plot and characters.[5][6] The film has grossed $303 million worldwide and received nominations for Best Original Score and Best Production Design at the 89th Academy Awards.[7]


The Avalon, a sleeper ship transporting 5,000 colonists and 258 crew members in hibernation pods, is traveling from Earth to the planet Homestead II, a 120-year journey. After only 30 years, an asteroid collision damages the ship (although theoretically it is damage-proof), resulting in a malfunction that awakens mechanical engineer James "Jim" Preston, 90 years too early.

After a year of isolation, with only an android barman named Arthur for company, Jim grows despondent and contemplates suicide until noticing Aurora Lane, a beautiful young woman inside her pod. Jim views Aurora's video file and is smitten. He struggles with the morality of prematurely reviving her for companionship for quite some time; knowing doing so will rob her of a future life. Jim eventually does awaken her and lets her believe her pod also malfunctioned. Jim asks Arthur to keep the secret of what he has done. Aurora, devastated at having to live out her life on the ship, unsuccessfully tries to re-enter hibernation. Resigned to the situation, Aurora, a writer and journalist, resumes writing about her experience.

Jim and Aurora slowly grow closer over the next year, eventually falling in love. Jim intends to propose to her, but Arthur inadvertently reveals the truth when he hears Jim say there are "no secrets" between Aurora and him. Aurora berates, shuns, and even physically attacks Jim. She furiously rejects his apologies and avoids contact with him.

Sometime after, another pod failure awakens Gus Mancuso; deck chief officer. He discovers multiple failures throughout the ship's systems, despite the computer not revealing their origin. If not repaired, the mission may fail which would kill all the hibernating passengers and crew. Gus attempts to repair it with Jim and Aurora's help, but he falls critically ill. The Autodoc, the automated medical diagnostics and treatment pod, reveals that Gus has suffered a pansystemic necrosis caused by multiple failures of his hibernation pod, and he has only hours to live. Before dying, Gus gives them his deck chief ID, allowing them to access crew-only areas and try to repair the ship.

Jim and Aurora discover a series of hull breaches from the asteroid collision two years earlier. The computer module administering the fusion reactor powering the ship is critically damaged, causing the ship's cascading malfunctions, as the other systems divert computing power towards trying to maintain the reactor. Jim and Aurora replace the damaged module, but when the computer attempts to vent the reactor to extinguish a runaway plasma reaction, the exterior vent hatch fails. Jim is forced to spacewalk and vent the plasma from outside using the manual hatch controls within the vent tube.

A malfunction forces Jim to stay within the tube to manually keep the hatch open, while Aurora initiates the venting from inside the ship. She admits being terrified of losing him (whom she still dearly loves) and being left alone as a result. Jim uses a door as a shield, but is blasted out into space and his tether snaps on top of his damaged spacesuit rapidly losing oxygen. Aurora retrieves a clinically dead Jim from space and manages to resuscitate him in the Autodoc while the Avalon, its reactor repaired, returns to normal operations.

Afterwards, Jim learns that with Gus' clearance, the Autodoc can function as a makeshift hibernation pod for one person. He offers to put Aurora back in hibernation for the remainder of the voyage. This gives her the chance to live her desired life on Homestead II; with Jim willing to become alone again. Realizing that she would never see Jim again on top of finally understanding of what Jim was going through when he decided to wake her up, Aurora chooses to remain awake with Jim. He presents her with the ring he made earlier, which she accepts.

Eighty-eight years later, the ship's crew is awakened on schedule, shortly before arrival at Homestead II. In the ship's grand concourse area, they discover a huge tree, many trailing vines, much vegetation, birds flying, and a cabin. Aurora's voice-over is reading her story, describing the wonderful life she and Jim had together on the Avalon.


Emma Clarke, Chris Edgerly, Matt Corboy, Fred Melamed, and screenwriter Jon Spaihts perform as the voices of the Avalon, InfoMat, video game, observatory, and Autodoc, respectively.



The original script for Passengers was written by Jon Spaihts in 2007, and had been in development hell for years. In this original script, character Aurora's original surname was Dunn.[8] At one point, the film was set to star Keanu Reeves and Emily Blunt.[9] The film's production budget was a relatively low $35 million, and at various points in its development, actors attached to it included Reeves, Reese Witherspoon, and Rachel McAdams.[10] Brian Kirk was originally scheduled to make his feature directorial debut with the film, with Reeves in the lead.[11][12] On December 5, 2014, it was announced that Sony Pictures Entertainment had won the rights to the film.[13] In early 2015, Morten Tyldum was chosen to direct the film.[14] Tyldum had always wanted to do a massive sci-fi action movie, but also stressed the importance of a character-driven sci-fi film, rather than a cold and distant one.[15]

Metro described its plot as bearing a strong resemblance to the EC Comics story "50 Girls 50" by Al Williamson, first published in the July–August 1953 issue of Weird Science,[16] in which two passengers of a colony spaceship are awakened from hibernation early and fall in love.

The cast - Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, and Laurence Fishburne – was announced between February 2015 and January 2016.[17][18][19][20] Lawrence was paid $20 million against 30% of the profit after the movie breaks even, and Pratt was paid $12 million.[10][21]


Principal photography for the film began on September 15, 2015 at Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Atlanta.[22][23] Filming occasionally took place for full days, with a bulk of the shooting involving the two leads only. Rodrigo Prieto was cinematographer, and Maryann Brandon was film editor.[24][25] Filming wrapped on February 12, 2016.[26]


Thomas Newman composed the musical score for Passengers.[27] Spaihts said that he wrote Passengers while listening to Newman's previous scores.[28] Also, Imagine Dragons recorded a song "Levitate" for the film's soundtrack. It was released on November 29, 2016.[29] The Chinese theme song for the film is "Light Years Away" composed by G.E.M., for which the music video surpassed 200 million views in September 2019, becoming the first Chinese music video to achieve the feat.[30]


At the 2016 CinemaCon, Passengers was featured by Sony Pictures chairman Thomas Rothman, alongside Lawrence and Pratt during Sony's presentation. A teaser trailer of unfinished footage was presented afterwards.[31] The first official images of the film were released on August 12, 2016.[32]



In August 2015, Sony Pictures Entertainment set the film's release date for December 21, 2016, in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. The film was concurrently released in three-dimensional and RealD 3D formats,[33] with the international rollout running through Christmas to January 12, 2017.[34]

Home media[edit]

Passengers was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Ultra HD on March 14, 2017, and was made available on digital HD from Amazon Video and iTunes on March 7, 2017.[35] On March 14, 2017, Passengers: Awakening, a virtual-reality experience based on the film launched for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.[36]


Box office[edit]

Passengers grossed $100 million in the United States and Canada and $203.1 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $303.1 million, against a net production budget of $110 million.[4][3] It was the second-highest grossing original live-action Hollywood release of 2016, after La La Land.[37]

Passengers opened alongside Sing and Assassin's Creed, and was initially expected to gross around $50 million from 3,478 theaters over its first six days of release, although the studio was projecting a more conservative $35 million debut.[38][39] After making $1.2 million from Tuesday night previews[40] and $4.1 million on its first day, projections for the six-day opening were lowered to $27 million.[41] It went on to gross $15.1 million in its opening weekend (a six-day total of $30 million), finishing third at the box office behind Rogue One and Sing.[42] It became the third-biggest original live-action domestic release of 2016 behind La La Land ($149 million) and Central Intelligence ($126 million).[37]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 30% based on reviews from 286 critics, with an average rating of 5.00/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Passengers proves Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence work well together – and that even their chemistry isn't enough to overcome a fatally flawed story."[43] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 41 out of 100, based on 48 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[44] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale,[45] while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it a 77% overall positive score.[42]

Mick LaSalle of The San Francisco Chronicle gave the film 3 out of 4 stars. He stated: "despite the confinement and the limited cast, Passengers has moments of intense drama that take the actors to places of extreme feeling."[46] James Dyer of Empire gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, stating that the film is "as surprisingly traditional as it is undeniably effective". He described the film as "Titanic amongst the stars" and "a touching, heartfelt tale of loss and love for the Gravity generation".[47] Peter Keough of The Boston Globe gave the film 2.5 out of 4 stars, stating: "perhaps as a well-written play for a cast of three, Passengers might have been first class. Instead, it's just another mediocre thrill ride."[48] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian called the film an "appealing sci-fi romance", but criticized the final act as an "anticlimax". He gave the film 3 out of 5 stars.[49] Sheri Linden of The Hollywood Reporter said the film "concocts a sort of Titanic in outer space, with dollops of "Sleeping Beauty" and Gravity thrown into the high-concept mix." Linden praised the striking visual design and elegant costumes, but said that the "heavy-handed mix of life-or-death exigencies and feel-good bromides finally feels like a case of more being less."[1]

Rebecca Hawkes of The Telegraph described the film as not a romance, but "a creepy ode to manipulation", describing the action as a "central act of violence" that is softened and justified.[50] Andrew Pulver of The Guardian called it an "interstellar version of social-media stalking" with "a fantastically creepy start" that, contrary to romantic comedies that manage to "plane down" the nastiness of stalking tactics, presents them in a way where "it's gruesomely inescapable".[51] Alissa Wilkinson of Vox called it "a fantasy of Stockholm syndrome, in which the captured eventually identifies with and even loves the captor" and "a really disturbing wish fulfillment fantasy".[52]

Lawrence was proud of the film, but agreed with suggestions that the film might have benefited from a different edit and starting with her character waking up.[6][53] Producer Neal Moritz said he loved the film and thought the script was one of the best he had ever read. The film was well received at test screenings but shortly before release the media picked up on one review and it became a mantra. Moritz "thought it was a really unfair thing because I think it's a beautiful film I couldn’t be more proud of."[6]


List of awards and nominations
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients Result Ref.
Academy Awards February 26, 2017 Best Original Score Thomas Newman Nominated [54][55]
Best Production Design Guy Hendrix Dyas and Gene Serdena
Art Directors Guild Awards February 11, 2017 Excellence in Production Design for a Fantasy Film Guy Hendrix Dyas Won [56]
Golden Trailer Awards June 6, 2017 Best Action Sony Pictures Entertainment Nominated [57]
Best Motion Poster
Saturn Awards June 28, 2017 Best Science Fiction Film Passengers Nominated [58]
Best Actor Chris Pratt
Best Actress Jennifer Lawrence
Best Music Thomas Newman
Best Production Design Guy Hendrix Dyas


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External links[edit]