Voyagers is a forgettable sci-fi thriller. The film reminded me of the underwhelming Hollywood blockbuster Passengers (2016), both in its premise and mediocrity.
A distant planet that can support human life has been discovered but will take 86 years to reach. Instead of sending humans raised on Earth to lead the mission, genetically bred children raised in isolation are tasked with embarking on the long journey. For example, the sperm of a Nobel Laureate is matched with the eggs of an MIT Engineer to create some kind of STEM whiz kid. The only human to ever experience Earth and its open spaces on the mission is Richard (Colin Farrell), who sees nothing left for him on the ground. He only wants to be there to ensure the safety of the children until they’re old enough to take care of themselves.
When the children finally do realize the age of young adulthood, they start to become curious of what mission control isn’t telling them – particularly friends Christopher (Tye Sheridan) and Zac (Fionn Whitehead). They discover the crew is being served a medication to limit their pleasure and impulses, known as “the blue”, and stop taking it. As more people aboard the ship begin to refuse to be controlled any longer, chaos starts to ensue and there is a battle for control over the spacecraft. The mission and fate of humanity is now in jeopardy.
In the Bradley Cooper-led Limitless, writer director Neil Burger explored what would happen if we unlocked the full potential of our brains. In Voyagers, he tries to explore what would happen if we had limited access with less success. Burger also attempts to deconstruct the nature v nurture debate. Voyagersponders questions such as, “is it better these young minds are limited/drugged for their own safety? Or is it morally wrong? Should they naturally be allowed to experience life’s lows and highs? Or is it for the best their experiences are selected for them?” It is up to the crew’s commander and mentor Richard to give the answers. “We don’t get to choose the lives we’re born into,” Richard reminds a frustrated crew member who feels their fate is unfair, “it is up to us to live a good life”. For the young men and women we’re introduced to, also known as the “first generation”, living a good life means reproducing and being the grandparents of the “third generation” which will colonize their planet destination. Unfortunate for them, the “first generation” will likely die before they can see where they are going. Their annoyance is understandable, but never fully addressed, as the film’s focus redirects itself onto a fight for power between two prominent crew members and their followers.
If the poster for Voyagers is anything to go off of, the film is advertised as being a seductive space thriller that looks into man’s “primitive nature”. Those hoping for a hot, sweaty mess, will be sorely disappointed. Any thrills are short and pointless. There are a couple of awkward closeups where a guy caresses a girl’s face. However, the crew does enjoy eating extra rations, forming mobs, and running down hallways if that’s your sort of thing.
The film fails to capitalize on the allure of its young, up-and-coming stars including Tye Sheridan (Ready Player One) and Lily-Rose Depp (The King). The characters of the movie, even when off their personality inhibitor, are devoid of personality. Most of the crew is left nameless; I didn’t care about anybody. Fionn Whitehead’s (Dunkirk) Zac steps up as the film’s antagonist and is annoying. I couldn’t wait to see him die. (Spoiler Alert: He’s thrown out an airlock. How original).
Don’t let the Miami Vice color theme of the poster fool you, the film is as visually interesting as its characters. Voyagers is mostly set within the generically designed interior of the ship. Hallways and rooms all mirror each other.
The characters aren’t likeable, the visuals fail to utilize the film’s outer space setting, and any of the big philosophical questions asked by the director are overshadowed by a silly plot. It is perhaps best we allow Voyagers to drift from relevancy.