SPOILERS for Passengers (and Titanic) below
Passengers is a creepy, disturbing movie that’s different from James Cameron’s massively popular 1997 film Titanic in a lot of ways. But here’s the big one: Titanic features two decent characters who are consensually in love. Passengers features one decent character who is ripped from suspended animation (effectively dooming her to die of old age on a spaceship) by one terrible character who wants to have sex with her. Another difference between the two movies is that Passengers doesn’t have a Celine Dion song. Instead, there’s an Imagine Dragons song. It’s not great.
In some ways, though, Passengers is a lot like Titanic. For example, Passengers takes place on a spaceship that’s supposed to be an indestructible feat of engineering, but that turns out to be extremely vulnerable to holes. It’s a travel disaster movie that derides the hubris of human beings, and sets up a class difference between its leads to emphasize how men in power devalue the lives of poor people. It is sad. There is sex. A lady does voiceover.
But most importantly, the ending of Passengers is the same as Titanic, but worse.
the end of this terrible movie will become a meme
In the last act of Passengers, Chris Pratt’s character, Jim, realizes that the robot doctor thing in the ship’s infirmary doubles as a hibernation pod, and he suggests that Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Aurora, should get in it. Even though he’s the one who intentionally took her out of suspended animation, putting her back to sleep is supposed to be a selfless move. He’s consigning himself to be alone in space until his death and putting her back on track to reaching the new colony and continuing her career as a successful author. But she rejects the option, because she “loves him” (read: she has hyper-advanced Stockholm syndrome). We don’t see them die together many years later, but we’re generally aware that it happens, as we see confused people stumble out of their hibernation pods 88 years in the future, and Aurora and Jim aren’t there.
Do you remember the 1997 film Titanic? At the end, Rose (Kate Winslet) is floating atop the icy seas on a large wooden door. Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) tries for about two seconds to get on the door with her, before deciding there’s no room and allowing himself to freeze to death in the water. There is obviously room on the door. Everyone who’s ever seen Titanic is like: “There’s room.” Neither one of them has to die. What a terrible ending to an okay film!
In Passengers the ending is like that, but way worse. Jim and Aurora don’t both have to die, even though one of them kind of deserves to. Aurora should have gotten in the hibernation pod and taken her life back. She should have abandoned the captor who tried to steal her agency, her dreams, and her life, and gone on without him. But if that’s too much justice for you, there’s also a different happy ending in which no one dies alone on the spaceship.
There’s one robot doctor / hibernation pod, right? (Assuming there is only just this one even though Jim noted earlier that there’s an extra of everything on the ship.) We know Jim knows how to bring people out of hibernation. We know he has a plan for putting Aurora back into hibernation. He knows both things. Jim and Aurora have an ID number and security clearance bracelet from a deceased crew member, so they can ask the ship’s robots to do whatever medical things they want. Great! They have about 88 years left onboard this spaceship, long enough to easily run out their lives. Or, assuming they’re both about 30 or 35, they could split the time in the hibernation pod by taking turns. Aurora could go in for a month, and come out and chill with Jim for a day if absolutely necessary. Then Jim could go in for a month. They would each age 44 years, give or take those stray Ladyhawke days.
Under this plan, when the spaceship arrived at the colony planet, they would be in their late 70s, and in near-perfect health, given the advanced medical care on the ship and their total avoidance of exposure to the elements or communicable disease. They wouldn’t have a ton of time left, but they would have some — maybe even a couple of decades, given the constant lengthening of human life spans. They would get to see the place they’d spent their whole lives traveling to, and they would die in a house or a nice field. Aurora would get to write her book. Jim would do whatever boring space creeps do. Who cares? Why didn’t they do this?
Because this is Titanic, but worse. It’s a tragedy caused by selfishness, bad decision-making, and terrible luck. But unlike Titanic it’s not also a romance — it’s romanticized abuse with very little internal logic. Unfortunately, the ending has tied the two movies together in my mind forever, and I may have just done the same to you.