Skip to main content

The Ethical Dilemma Presented in the Movie ''Passengers"

Jan has studied philosophy. He is interested in ethical and moral questions, and he likes to view these from a philosophical point of view.

Ethical dilemmas are like crossroads – which way to go?

Ethical dilemmas are like crossroads – which way to go?

What Is Right and What Is Wrong?

"What is right and what is wrong" is a fundamental question that we humans tend to ask ourselves over and over on our current path through life. We often get faced with ethical and moral dilemmas that we are unsure how to address.

In the movie Passengers, one of the main characters gets to face a dilemma one would never want to experience. After a horrific malfunction, one man named Jim Preston wakes way too early on a massive spaceship traveling to a remote planet far away from earth. He founds out that the journey to the planet Homestead II will continue for another 90 years, thus leaving him with no hope of reaching the destination alive.

The spaceship is beautiful and offers a lot of luxury. There are people as well. Jim is on board this ship with another 4999 passengers and 258 crew members. Not too bad? Well, the thing is that the others are put in a deep sleep in a so-called hibernation pod that makes sure they do not age a bit during the 120-year-long voyage from the Earth to Homestead II. However, that works only if you're in a hibernation pod, and if you're not – well, you'll never reach Homestead alive, which is exactly what Jim's massive problem is.

Realizing that he has 90 years left of the journey during which he will become old and naturally die, Jim has to go through a terrifying experience, realizing that all those years left of his life will have to be spent on the Avalon starship.

Wake Her Up or Don't Wake Her Up

Jim Preston goes through a lot of stages during over one year of alone time during which he is awake. He can talk to a bartender named Arthur, an android that looks exactly like a human being but lacks that "human side" of being a human. However, Arthur is learning and turns out to be a crucial companion during the time Jim's alone.

Firstly, Jim is trying to enjoy his stay on the luxury ship. He doesn't have to bother about anything basically as there is plenty of luxury food, drinks, entertainment, et cetera. Life doesn't seem too bad at all, but of course, the lack of social interaction eventually founds Jim and bites hard. Jim stops to take care of himself and starts to be desperate, even thinking about committing suicide by jumping out into space.

One day he walks past a hibernation pod where a girl named Aurora Lane lays. He becomes interested in her and starts to find out information about this girl who turns out to be a writer. Jim becomes more and more obsessed with Aurora and gets the idea of waking her up. And here, the ethical dilemma starts.

The drowning man will always try and drag somebody down with him. It ain't right, but the man's drowning.

— Gus Mancuso

Reason for Jim's Wakening

To fully understand and analyze this from an ethical and moral sense of view, we need to fully understand the whole situation. Jim Preston got awake way too early. The reason for that was a malfunction that occurred during the voyage. It was a technical issue, as the starship was fully operated by autopilot at the time of the malfunction.

Scroll to Continue

Thus, no human has been the reason for Jim's unfortunate faith. Jim must also have known the risks of space traveling and the hibernation pods' functioning. Nothing is bulletproof, no matter what.

Say you were trapped on a desert island, and you had the power to wish somebody were there with you. You wouldn't be alone anymore, but you'd be stranding the person on the island. Would you make that wish?

— Jim Preston

Reason for Aurora's Wakening

With Aurora, it's completely different. Jim has picked her. Jim has chosen to wake her up manually by breaking her hibernation pod. He was facing a huge dilemma. He knew the consequences and a part of him understood that it was wrong.

However, he was all by himself (except the android Arthur), and had no other human company onboard the starship for more than a year. He must have got to a point where he couldn't make it anymore, couldn't resist the temptation of having another companion to share the journey with. An endless journey, leading to death before arriving at the destination itself.

Is decision-making that simple? Most often not.

Is decision-making that simple? Most often not.

Is Jim a Murderer?

Yes, the simple answer is yes because he chooses to wake Aurora without her agreement. His assessment that Aurora will like him is also utterly wrong because he doesn't give her a choice in the first place. Aurora starts to like him mainly because she has no options other than Jim.

However, the problem with this movie is that in the end, waking Aurora proved crucial for saving the thousands of passengers onboard the starship, as it, later on, is discovered that the starship is damaged. Jim would not be able to do the necessary repairs if he would be alone aboard the ship.

The pair would not have found out that the ship was critically damaged if not for a member of the crew Gus Mancuso, whose hibernation pod also malfunctions and he wakes up. It is also here Gus Mancuso's quote that you can find above in the article comes into the picture, as Aurora seeks justice for Jim's terrible choice to destroy her life.

It Led to Something Good, But Does it Justify Jim's Decision?

Easily explained, if Jim wouldn't wake Aurora, the starship would be destroyed and over 5000 life's would be gone. So Jim's terrible decision led to something good in the end. That is something that a lot of us can refer to in our lives whether we only have observed such a situation, or experienced it by ourselves. But we need to see past this.

At the time Jim decided to wake Aurora up, he was completely unaware that the starship was in a bad condition. He did not have any clue, nor had permission to access that kind of information at the time. It was all found out thanks to Gus, who was a member of the crew. If Gus would not wake up because of the malfunction of his pod, both Jim, Aurora, and, of course, all the other passengers would have died.

This means that Jim's decision cannot be justified by any means and that he is a kidnapper, a murderer that for his cause took someone else's life. He took away Aurora's possibility to reach and live on another planet.

© 2022 Jan Stepan

Related Articles