MAD: Passengers: The Awoken Cut

(2017/ Alex Shaw/Watched in MP4 Format)

This is an interesting project I’ve undertaken. After watching the video “Passengers Rearranged” by The Nerdwriter, (who is fascinating to watch and I’d love to get him on the show) I set out to re-edit Passengers into a better movie.

Spoilers, and this will only make sense if you’ve seen it.

And all credit to Doug Walker and Chris Stuckmann whom The Nerdwriter cited as having this idea while they reviewed the movie. If you divide Passengers into five pieces, five movements, five stages, the simple story easily becomes modular in nature.

1. Chris wakes up and spends 30 minutes agonising over loneliness, eventually waking up Jennifer.

2. Jennifer meets Chris in the lobby and asks what’s up. He says he doesn’t know and they spend a while getting to know and like one another.

3. Jennifer finds out and freaks out (entirely justifiably)

4. Ship in danger. They join forces to save the day.

5. Chris dies. Then comes back to life. Happy ending.

OK bear with me, because this is what Walker said and he’s right. Take segment 1… and put it AFTER segment 3.

Suddenly your focus character, the one you begin with is Jennifer. You go on her journey, you don’t view the story through Chris’ eyes. The ship becomes a crime scene. Then after she finds out the truth and you hate Chris along with her THEN you see his story and slowly begin to understand his terrible predicament. Rather than being complicit in his crime and hoping she will forgive him/us, we are in her shoes finding the empathy and humanity to forgive HIM.

The join is the scene where Jennifer is swimming in the pool, mere seconds before the ship goes wrong and everything gets moved onto the next cause of concern. This next section is the weakest bit of the film. It’s a little boring and predictable, and Lawrence Fishbourne was a slow-walking bracelet delivery system, and Chris dies and then comes back to life and everything is awesome!

Unless you cut to credits the second before he comes round. At the exact point Jennifer has her hands over her mouth in shock, and you know that if he dies she’s going to be left with the same choice he was. Will she wake someone else up? Will his noble sacrifice sway her to live out her long life alone? Is that even sensible? Because she needed his help to save the ship, this could happen again in  the next seventy years. It is on her to decide whether the ship needs a crew and who they should be. And all of this occurs in the final second when Chris is apparently dead.

And then I added my personal flourish. The end credits music is far too bouncy for a truth bomb of an ending like this. I considered Sing for Absolution by Muse, but it’s a male voice and a little melodramatic. Still a great choice. I considered 1000 Oceans by Tori Amos, too sweet, too sad, too dependent on her deep connection with a man she could no longer trust. Hello by Adele, too focused on him again, too modern, too associated in my mind with Captain America, due to a cleverly mashed up trailer with that song. Icarus from Deux Ex Human Revolution is very intense, maybe a little TOO intense, forcing all the final baleful gravity in your face.

Then as I was going to bed and rendering the file with Muse the best music hit me in a flash. A song of haunting weight from my childhood that always needed a movie of equal impact to showcase it. It was tied together with a movie called At Close Range but the creaky old thriller with Christopher Walker sporting a weird moustache and Sean Penn looking more like Chris Penn makes for a truly underwhelming visual realisation of this song. It’s Live to Tell by Madonna, from the album True Blue. Listen to the tone and lyrics, consider their ramifications with the events of the film and what now befalls Jennifer, and believe me when I tell you that THIS version of Passengers is now officially better than the one released in theatres.

To test it out I screened it for Sharon and Lyra, who hadn’t seen it at all, although Sharon knew the story.

Both were very much engaged and both were a little blasted by the ending. Lyra began making up more conclusions, including my editing in a house built on whatever planet she was supposed to get to, and Sharon pointed out that to give it less of an abrupt feel it needs a slower pullback from her with long shots of the empty halls of the ship to emphasise how alone she is now. I’ll be adding those to my final cut. I’ll also take out that bit where she says “You die, I die” because that makes her seem so much less considerate of the lives of other people than him, and we want to like Jennifer. However, I will hold back on Lyra’s idea.

Because the story is still the same, it just ends at a moment of ambiguity rather than definite happiness. That was far more powerful to me. I may never be able to successfully re-edit say the Star Wars prequels into something that actively defies the original stories simply because those are burned into my head so hard that I can’t successfully overwrite them. What I can do is change perspective and leave questions unanswered.

Author: Alex Shaw

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