Earth is dying. In 2063 we have found a habitable planet. The voyage to colonize will take 86 years. Breeding 30 member for the voyage, this crew will birth the next generation onboard and their grandchildren will colonize the planet.
This story is about the first generation of voyagers, adolescents who discover that emotions, wants, needs and their humanity are what define them, but also endangers them.
“Voyagers” sets up a story of hope, but shows the hurdles that must be overcome to find that hope.
Some think that there is no goodness without the bad, there is no darkness without the dawn. This sci-fi thriller uses this concept as a lever for the story.
Richard (Colin Farrell) accompanies these young adults for he feels a parental kinship to them, but he must also keep some secrets from them.
Christopher (Tye Sheridan), Sela (Lily-Rose Depp) and Zac (Fionn Whitehead) are at the center of this story. As their journey begins they are docile, focused and emotionless. When Christopher discovers that they are being drugged to dampen their emotions and feelings, he and Zac stop drinking “the Blue,” and that’s when the story begins. As their adolescent hormones kick in, coupled with the close quarters creates tension and emotional angst.
This film is essentially “Lord Of The Flies” in space, following this classic narrative almost exactly. Christopher is the character Ralph in the novel representing civilization/society and is the level-headed foundation of the crew. Julie (Quintessa Swindell) is the character Piggy representing the rational side of humanity, speaking truth regardless of the consequences. And Zac is the character Jack representing savagery and raw power. As this crew struggles to stay together and control the fears that Zac throws at them, their lives unravel along with their mission.
Where this film falters is in its lack of subtlety. The nuance used to build tension and show a slow transition to anarchy is missing – creating the feeling of a rushed plot. In addition, the escalation of Zac’s actions signifying his shrugging off of societal norms is clunky and too direct, effecting the performances.
The climax is well-done, adding a smart twist and needed fuel to a predictable story.
“Voyagers” touches on several relevant themes with which we struggle today and although this film stumbles a bit, the destination is worth completing the journey.
In yet another exploration on how humans are wired and the inevitable devil inside, “Voyagers” is ultimately a stale old story, yet spruced up with fancy technology and a diverse crop of young actors.
Written and directed by Neil Burger, who uses some slick techniques from his cautionary designer drug science fiction thriller “Limitless” and borrows from the youth friction examples in his first “Divergent” movie. However, the narrative tropes and trappings are too generic and sterile for a different kind of space odyssey.
Sadly, as much as I liked this premise, think about it -- scientific experiments rarely seem to work out well in using the allure of the final frontier. We should know by now from previous far-flung film forays and “Voyagers” fails to set itself apart.
Thus, this coed hormones-gone-crazy outer space version of “The Lord of the Flies” winds up dour and depressing.
Colin Farrell is Richard, the benevolent caretaker of these test-tube kids raised in isolation. On the ship, he is a dutiful mentor, but some of the boys discover that the blue liquid they drink daily is toxic. Richard knows it keeps them docile robot-like minions for a reason. But oh, they want none of that – so they stop taking it in the name of freedom. Bad idea. ‘Let’s do whatever we want!’ doesn’t turn out so well and behavior goes downhill from there.
Now that they think Richard has betrayed them, Zac (Fionn Whitehead) becomes a monster. Angry that he is passed over as the leader after a horrible accident – or is it? – he gaslights the impressionable youth and targets the chosen leader Christopher (Tye Sheridan) as the one to distrust.
The pragmatic Sela (Lily-Rose Depp) sees through Zac and is loyal to Christopher, forming an alliance with a small group. It gets downright ugly and bloody – and tedious. Zac has also convinced his allies that there is an alien on board. So, there is that. Their dialogue goes from bad to worse, and there is no way to rescue these kids from this lackluster script.
Now, the stark setting of white corridors gets as monotonous as the characters, clad in uniform black t-shirts and pants, as they run around the ship. The monochromatic scheme is dull, even with all the bells and whistles of a spaceship prepped for an 86-year journey.
As the action descends into chaos, tension does build, but you know what the climactic battle will be. After all that, we see a montage of the next 76 years, which seems to be an easy way out (but no escape from all the cliches).
Cinematographer Enrique Chediak is fond of racing shots as the kids run through the halls either in flight or fight mode.
The ominous score by Trevor Gureckis does add to the creepiness of the claustrophobic setting.
Because the characters are destined to be conformists, the ensemble is rather bland – lacking spark and something to make them memorable. Only a handful distinguish themselves, including the principal triangle of Christopher, Zac and Sela.
Sheridan, who played Cyclops in the X-Men prequels and the lead in “Ready Player One,” is capable as a natural leader aboard the ship while Whitehead’s intensity deepens his sinister vibe as the boy --surprise! - who goes rogue. He was Tommy in “Dunkirk,” but as in that film you couldn’t tell the young soldiers apart either. He does stand out here.
Johnny Depp’s daughter Lily-Rose is just starting out, but this is not really a breakthrough role, although she is sympathetic and the link to Richard’s past life on earth.
“Voyagers” was an opportunity for a fresh look at a futuristic solution to our planet’s plight of drought and disease, but came up short.