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Monday, January 24, 2022

Voyagers (Movie Review)


The Film


The young, initial crew of a multi-generational journey to a newly discovered, habitable planet that could be the last hope for humanity begins to descend into violence, paranoia, and debauchery when the sole adult meant to sheppard them partway is taken out of commission and they learn secrets about the mission initially kept a secret from them in this sci-fi thriller for young adults that plays like 'Lord of the Flies' in space with less symbolism and more pseudo-sex and teen angst.

Voyagers (2021) PosterWriter/director Neil Burger, known for YA film and Hunger Games copycat Divergent (2014) and high-octane sci-fi film Limitless (2011) and the Gothic magic thriller The Illusionist (2007) returns with another YA sci-fi thriller with Voyagers.

The easiest way to describe this film would be The Lord of the Flies in space with less symbolism and more sex. Set in the future, 2063, with the planet at stake after devastating effects of climate change, scientists endeavor to rescue humanity by searching for a habitable planet with sufficient water. When they find one a multi-generational mission is designed to send a young crew, genetically designed for optimal performance and raised in isolation from the rest of society so that over the course of the nearly one-hundred-year mission in the close and sealed off spaceship quarters, the initial crew will not miss Earth, family, and open spaces.

Colin Farrell plays Richard, a doctor who helps raise the kids on Earth and joins the crew in space to help continue raising them as adolescents and guide them through puberty, since the mission leaves when they are still pre-pubescent. Mission control makes the decision to help keep the kids under control by adding a supplement to their diet called ‘The Blue,’ a liquid mixture of enzymes, vitamins, and a drug that helps to suppress their emotions and sexual urges.

This becomes a focal point of the story when, now teenagers, two of the crew’s boys, Christopher (Tye Sheridan, Ready Player One) and Zac (Fionn Whitehead, Dunkirk) discover the real purpose of The Blue after hacking into the ship’s computer system. They stop drinking it, unbeknownst to Richard. At first, it’s all fun and games as Christopher and Zac start feeling the hormonal rush of teen emotions they have never felt before – racing each other around the corridors of the ship, having wrestling matches, but things begin to turn dark when they both begin to have sexual urges and their attentions turn toward Sela (Lily-Rose Depp, The King), and Zac’s urges become more than just innocent and verge into sexual assault. This causes a confrontation between Zac and Richard, but unfortunately, Richard is not able to get things back in order even after finding out the kids have stopped taking The Blue.

A mysterious accident while trying to repair the ship leaves the kids on their own and verging off into the realm of paranoia as they start to believe an alien entity may be onboard. The crew begins to splinter into two factions, with Zac becoming increasingly violent and antagonistic toward Christopher, Sela, and the few people siding with them.

Voyagers looks great, there’s no denying that. Burger’s film is what you want to see for a sci-fi thriller set in spaceship. The spacewalk scenes look amazing, and the confines of the ship look sleek and Burger mixes in multiple angles and colors to make it less repetitive. The story is where this all breaks apart.

It is difficult to deny that Voyagers is using well worn sci-fi tropes about a destroyed planet, a long space journey, a crew on edge, and even youngsters coming of age and developing their own society without adults and ending up in the same violent conflicts. What Burger doesn’t do is add anything new to this journey. He does give us some very mild pseudo-orgies and a lot of teen angst. The film does build nicely from a quiet, intellectual sci-fi, into a horror thriller and eventually a nearly maniacal actioner. The dénouement is more of a letdown than need be, but certainly not unexpected and the ending of the film is so unnecessary. Rather than leave us with a thoughtful ending, something uneasy, something to keep us guessing, Burger gives almost an addendum so sappy it feels as if it was forced upon the film.

Voyagers does provide some popcorn entertainment and the young cast does a god job with the material they are given. They’ll likely appeal to the Zoomers and younger Millennials that this film is squarely target towards, but this is ultimately a film that offers nothing new.

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Voyagers is in theaters April 9, 2021 (US)

  • Rating Certificate: PG-13 (for violence, some strong sexuality, bloody images, a sexual assault and brief strong language)
  • Studios & Distributors: AGC Studios | Fibonacci Films | Freecs Films | Icon Films | Ingenious Media | Nota Bene Productions | Stillking Films | Thunder Road Pictures | Lionsgate
  • Country: USA | Czech Republic | Romania | UK
  • Language: English
  • Run Time: 108 Mins.
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Director: Neil Burger
  • Written By: Neil Burger
  • 9 April 2021 (USA)

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