Title: Voyagers (2021)
Director: Neil Burger
Release Date: April 9th, 2021
Runtime: 108 min
Studio: Lionsgate / AGC Studios
In the year 2063 on an Earth ravaged with a classically ambiguous case of the “disease and droughts,” a group of skillfully and ethnically diverse test-tube kids set sail through space on the S.S. “HUMANITAS” along with father-figure Richard (Colin Farrell) to make lots of babies before they die on their 86 year journey, giving Earthlings a second opportunity to populate and destroy yet another planet. Rinse. Repeat.
Sound cynical? Wait until you hear the rest of the review for the New Release, Voyagers (2021).
Before we begin, let me just mention how thankful I am to be a resident of the Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada, where we have movie theaters that boast fully-stocked bars. This being the case, I was able to start my voyage into space with a $12 pour of the House Cabernet in an oh-so-classy little plastic cup—yellow legal pad in hand—for one of my first in-theater experiences since the start of the pandemic. Little did I know I should have smuggled in an entire bottle.
If you’re in a hurry, don’t worry; Neil Burger, director of “Limitless” and “Divergent,” doesn’t waste any time developing anything that might resemble a well-formed exposition. Instead, Voyagers opens with a full-screen petri dish of sperm (in case you forgot how this whole baby-making thing worked) and a rapid growth montage from zygote to fully formed human-child, with a quick voiceover urging us to believe that these kids were bred from the cream of the intellectual crop. Their vastly superior intellect is further demonstrated by a young girl dragging her finger across some kind of space-school tablet, successfully connecting one shiny blue hexagon with another shiny blue hexagon. If that isn’t the defining feature of a future-genius, I don’t know what is.
What Happens in Voyagers’ Space, Stays in Space
Regardless, in order for us to proceed, let’s say we’re on board with this; these kidlets are the brightest of the bunch. Oh, and don’t be too sad about the whole “being sent into space alone to go off and die” thing. It’s all good, because, as a few flippant remarks from peripheral characters remind us, they’ve been emotionally conditioned to… not have any emotions. Cool? Cool.
But wait—Woo-hoo!—the kiddos won’t be going alone after all. We cut to a scene where Papa Richard urges the mission coordinator to let him go with the children, “to protect them,” he says. And when the coordinator protests, Richard argues he “wouldn’t miss a thing” on Earth, alluding to some kind of super-depressing backstory which [SPOILER ALERT] is never fully explained.
Jumping forward ten years into Voyagers space-life, we are made to see that the young adults, now grown to some ambiguous teen-age, aren’t the emotionless robots we were previously led to believe. They goof off like any teen would, pranking one another by cranking up the volume on the carefully selected pieces of classical music they are all made to listen to, and they even crack a good-natured smile when one of the nerdier kids trips down the stairs. Amidst these harmless teenage antics, there is a general sense of harmony, with everyone busying themselves with their assigned tasks: growing food, staying fit in their identical navy uniforms, and tending to ship repairs. That is, until the nice-but-dull, Christopher (Tye Sheridan), and budding-bad-boy, Zach (Fionn Whitehead), figure out that the liquid supplement of vitamins and minerals that they’ve all been throwing back on the daily (“The Blue”) is actually laced with a drug engineered to suppress the basest of human desires (i.e. Sex and Beating The Crap Out of One Another).
Off “The Blue” Pill
Let’s pause there for a second. We agreed earlier that we’d buy into this whole idea that we’re on a spaceship filled with superhuman children, sown from the most brilliant minds on Earth, raised to fill the role of engineer, doctor, scientist way before they’ve sprouted an armpit hair… Yet it takes them ten whole years to suspect that the FLUORESCENT BLUE KOOL-AID they’re all drinking is maybe not just your run-of-the-mill vitamin supplement? Please.
Anyway, “The Blue” goes down the drain, and Christopher and Zach urge the others to follow them into a red-pill world full of rage and uncontrollable sexual desire.
After we get a stereotypical rapid video montage of constricting pupils, tigers eating zebras, arm hairs raising, and really-super-up-close images of dewdrops on leaves, Burger takes the term “running wild” a little too literally. Kids are sprinting up and down the halls in various states of undress, males are tackling each other to the ground, and we witness a few uncomfortable scenes of teens getting it on (made all the more uncomfortable because, regardless of whatever age they are supposed to be, they all look like they are about twelve). Over time, we tick our way all the way down the list of Seven Deadly Sins, watching kids shovel space-food in their mouths (which Voyagers apparently interprets as dog food, carrots, and popping boba), beat the crap out of one another, and get a little rapey.
Voyagers’ Zach Gets A Touch, Touchy
As the violence peaks, Christopher, good-girl and chief medical officer Sela (Lily-Rose Depp), and a few of the other more mild-mannered kids band together and leave the murderous rampage to those who fall for Zach’s fear-ruling tactics.
Ultimately, what is supposed to be “good” triumphs over what is supposed to be “evil” after Zach is defeated by Christopher and Sela in an entirely inane air-lock battle and things return abruptly to normalcy. We hang out in this cozy normality for maybe five seconds before—Huh?— another montage, and—Woah!—we’re in Year 86 and—What?—we’re at the end of our Voyagers mission?!
In the end, everyone has grown gray hairs, made babies, and has decided to do exactly what they were bred to do after all.
I think the conclusion was supposed to be happy. And maybe it could have been if I’d had that bottle of wine.
VERDICT: Voyagers left us wanting in overall plot development and emotional buy-in. The testosterone-and-jealousy-fueled main characters portrayed archetypes long since beaten to death, and—lacking in any sort of character development—created the conundrum of a talented pair of actors forced to fit into exceedingly unlikeable roles. As other reviews suggest, there is certainly a thinly-veiled parallel between life on the Voyagers’ “HUMANITAS” and life on the island in William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies. It’s this comparison that amplifies the implausibility of the course of events, with the entire point being that these young adults were raised to be far more intelligent and mature than just your average pre-teens. While attempting to drive home a thought-provoking moral message about one’s purpose in life and the dangers of political power-struggles, Voyagers spends too much time spiraling off into fits of petty violence to fill its intended purpose.
Nerdy Nugget: According to IMDb, Voyagers nearly got an R-rating from the MPAA. This probably means that we were mercifully spared of any additional teen groping.
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- Talented cast of actors
- Visually interesting
- Non-existent exposition
- Unoriginal characters
- Hollow moral message