Screenwriter Jon Spaihts is fast becoming a key player in the contemporary sci-fi genre, so it's worth highlighting his contribution to Passengers: an original drama - set aboard a futuristic spacecraft - that he scripted. Wayfare Entertainment (Sanctum) is producing and financing, with Keanu Reeves headlining, as the actor has been developing the project through his Company Films banner.
Passengers is now set to become the feature-length directing debut for Brian Kirk, an award-winning television veteran who has directed episodes on such acclaimed series as Dexter, Luther, Luck, Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones (with the addition of the Primetime Emmy-winning 2011 mini-series adaptation of Great Expectations).
Deadline, which has the exclusive on Kirk being hired, is reporting that Passengers takes place on an enormous spaceship, which is transporting thousands of humans to a distant planet. Everyone on the vessel is kept in a perfect state of suspended animation, untl one of the sleep chambers malfunctions and its inhabitant (Reeves) finds himself awakened 90 years before the journey will be finished.
Reeves is no stranger to the sci-fi genre, but Passengers is a departure from his famous sci-f/action titles (insert Bill and Ted joke here), like The Matrix, as well as the somewhat infamous Johnny Mnemonic and Matrix sequels. Something like The Day the Earth Stood Still remake is probably a better comparison, just in terms of Reeves' previous films.
However, there's potential for a more emotionally-satisfying, thoughtful, and meditative sci-fi drama with Passengers than Day the Earth Stood Still (something like Duncan Jones' Moon comes to mind), even before you take into account for how Reeves' character decides to wake up a female passenger (the role hasn't yet cast yet) for company, which begins "a unique love story."
Movies like Solaris (both the 1972 and 2002 versions) have established that the space odyssey sub-genre can be a useful tool for telling a rich human story. The same goes for Moon, in addition to other recent films that have utilized fantastical sci-fi elements to explore a more authentic and emotionally-grounded relationship drama (see: Monsters); so, that bodes well for Passengers.
Spaihts, as it were, scripted the original Alien: Engineers script draft, before the relatively straight-forward Alien prequel was transformed by Damon Lindelof into the more ambitious (but less cohesive) Prometheus screenplay. Indeed, Spaiht's big ideas haven't been smoothly translated into excellent genre fare yet (see: the poor reception for The Darkest Hour, which Spaihts co-wrote), though, by having someone like Kirk at the helm, that might change with Passengers.
Moreover, his screenwriting to date shows promise, which accounts for why Disney recently decided to hire Spaihts to rewrite The Black Hole remake for director Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion); not to mention, Universal having recruited him to write The Mummy reboot, which is being put together by director Len Wiseman (Total Recall). Hence, if Passengers turns out well, that would bode all the better for the developing tentpole projects being written by Spaihts.
We'll keep you posted on Passengers as more information becomes available.