Voyagers takes place about forty years into the future, scientists have found a planet that can support human life in the Alpha Centauri system. With a planet on the brink, they decide to send a group of humans on an 86-year voyage through the stars to begin colonizing the new planet. Neil Burger‘s science-fiction flick sees a group of kids go complete Lord of the Flies as they hurtle through space in what is meant to be a multi-generational mission to continue life.
The following review contains small spoilers for the film Voyagers.
There are some major problems with Voyagers, but let’s start with some of the highlights, of which there are very few. One major light in the darkness is Colin Farrell‘s role as Richard, the singular adult on the ship who manages to instill a bit of morals, ethics, and personality into the group, no matter how short that time is. Notably, his parental relationship with Lily-Rose Depp‘s Sela is one of the more heartfelt and genuine relationships in the film.
The production design is slick, as is required when it comes to science-fiction movies. Though there’s something left to be desired when it comes to costuming and putting all of the young actors in boring black t-shirts and black pants. Still, the moments of tension when the cast is bathed in red or shadows remind you of the space horror that this movie could have been before it throws you back into the inter-personal drama.
It’s clear early on that this entire mission on the ship Humanitas feels immensely flawed. If it hadn’t been for Richard’s eleventh-hour decision to join the ship, would the situation on the ship have taken a turn for the worse sooner? It’s unclear why there can’t be adults on a ship other than a vague explanation of conserving resources, though regularly held feasts by the kids don’t seem to have put a strain on their lives. The story doesn’t hold up very strong to close scrutiny, especially when it comes to the logic behind why the government would send so many children up into space. Also questionable why all of these children seem to be American, and racially light-skinned.
But okay, let’s move on to the major issue of Voyagers. This has less to do with Tye Sheridan‘s consistently flustered face or Fionn Whitehead‘s dramatically wicked villain role and more to do with the fact that Voyagers is simply too predictable. There is not a single mystery you don’t figure out the answer to. You pretty much figure out the plot of the story way before these teenagers do because the answer is so obvious. From there, it becomes a tedious, hormone-fueled slog. Much of the story feels like we’re going through the motions.
Although Voyagers is not based on a young-adult novel, it feels very much in the wheelhouse of YA stories, and not in a good way. It falls in the same sort of world as Chaos Walking or Passengers or any number of science-fiction films that present a lot of potential but painfully fall flat when it comes to executing a powerful story. There are hints of hope when it comes to philosophy and sociology, but most of it gets drowned in an uninspired plot with a milquetoast epilogue. Ultimately, Voyagers might appeal to a very specific YA crowd, but even they might poke their holes through this one.
Voyager is out in theaters now.