Voyagers review: Interesting premise wasted on pseudo-intellectual plot

Bryan Tan
·4-min read
Tye Sheridan and Fionn Whitehead in Voyagers. (Still: Courtesy of Golden Village Pictures)
Tye Sheridan (left) and Fionn Whitehead in Voyagers. (Still: Courtesy of Golden Village Pictures)

Rating: NC-16
Length: 108 minutes
Director: Neil Burger
Cast: Colin Farrell, Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp, Fionn Whitehead, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Archie Madekwe
Release: In theatres 8 April 2021 (Singapore)
2 out of 5 stars

What happens when you let 30 horny, pre-pubescent teenagers loose aboard a claustrophobic space ship with Colin Farrell in it?

Another potential box office bomb, that’s what – and this comes after Chaos Walking, another disastrous sci-fi bore made for the young adult audience.

Voyagers takes itself way too seriously and tries but fails to answer serious questions with a one-dimensional teenage cast, with mother hen Colin Farrell leading her chicks into yet another failed box office coop (pun intended).

Basically, Earth is doomed blah blah, too hot, too polluted something, something and we need a new planet. What’s new right?

In swoops director Neil Burger to save the day with another tired and overused premise of finding another earth to ruin, by entrusting 30 teenagers on an 86-year mission to reach the new planet and populate it to ensure mankind’s continuity.

Yes, you heard me right. An 86-year voyage to reach another planet would mean that the initial voyagers would be dead by the time they arrive at their destination. The fancy idea is that these 30 kids will grow up on board this space ship, and make babies whose children will then reach the new planet to populate it.

You know, if humanity has ignored all the repeated warnings of how our actions are killing the earth, maybe we deserve to just die out and not go on to destroy other planets. After watching the Netflix documentary Seaspiracy, I am quite convinced that if we’re gonna kill our planet, I will just stuff myself with fish before watching the world burn. Don’t watch that documentary if you love seafood.

Anyway, back to cruelly breeding humans like livestock to save humanity. In order for the 30 voyagers not to get homesick and screw up the mission, they are raised in sterile environments exactly like what it will be like in their intergalactic prison for the next 86 years.

What could possibly go wrong? The biggest, fattest red herring of them all, that’s what. Without much preamble, the children start their journey in space and experience constant sporadic extra-terrestrial rattling sounds coming from outside the ship.

They are seriously spooked, and when mama hen Richard (Colin Farrell) goes out to repair the communications modulator the alien supposedly destroyed, something happens to him. Mainly the fact that the kids have grown tired of having him as an ineffective mentor and counsellor, and have decided to take matters into their own hands. Just to be clear, there are no aliens in this movie at all.

To keep the teens docile and compliant in order to complete their mission, they are put on a diet of drugged water called ‘The Blue’, designed to suppress their basest impulses. Of course, born of the smartest people on earth, Christopher (Tye Sheridan from Ready Player One and X-Men: Apocalypse) and his buddy Zac (Fionn Whitehead) quickly discover this and encourage the rest to stop taking ‘The Blue’.

The spaceship descends into chaos as its young inhabitants succumb to their base human urges. It's basically Lord Of The Flies in space.

Voyagers has actually tremendous potential to answer the more complex questions of human nature in the larger scheme of things, to flesh out ideas of how to colonise a new earth and hopefully prevent its demise through learning from history.

The film could have also potentially explored the State of Nature, where rules and laws are established and born from chaos; how the weak formed self-preserving pacts with the strong to create groups, settlements, towns and then cities. How are these kids supposed to teach their grandchildren to colonise a new earth if they themselves have no basic understanding of such concepts?

Voyagers is just full of clichés and loopholes, not helped by the sterile and claustrophobic hallways of the set, despite being filmed in such a large ship. If this were to be the fate of humanity, heaven help us if we let Neil Burger lead the charge.

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