Even though there is something worthy in concocting a tale where the philosophical conundrums of free will versus determinism vie with a rumination on human nature red in tooth and claw, VOYAGERS is, at best, a moribund Kubrick redux meets The Lord of the Flies. It confuses slow pacing with gravitas, and whispered dialogue with profundity.
It is 2063, and Earth’s ecosystem has collapsed. Desperate times call for desperate measures, thus is devised a radical plan to save the species by colonizing a nearby planet that seems to offer safe haven. Nearby is a relative term when considering the universe, meaning that the voyage there will take 86 years, and that’s just for the scouting ship to arrive and report back on the suitability of the planet for further colonization. The radical part is that in order for this to work, the best genetic material on Earth is introduced to one another in a lab, and from this springs children raised as a group in and exclusively confined in the same environment that a spaceship will offer. The thinking being that they won’t miss an outdoors that they never knew. Neither will their children, nor the grandchildren that will eventually land the craft on the nearby planet. How those grandchildren will react to sunshine and vast open places after knowing nothing but the sterile interior of the spaceship is never explained, even in passing.
Shepherded by Richard (Colin Farrell) since their emergence from the plastic bags that served as wombs, the crew have been groomed to believe in the mission and to follow without question The Plan that governs their every waking moment. Their compliance is insured by a special drug administered daily via a blue drink that is designed to suppress their sexual urges, as well as the other troubling side-effects of puberty. The young men and women, though, being bred for intelligence, soon figure out what that blue stuff is and opt to stop taking it. The discovery also does much to erode their affection for, not to mention trust in, Richard.
From here things devolve along expected lines, with some of the most tentative and anti-erotic sensuality to ever grace a movie screen, before chaos descends and The Plan is discarded by a rebel faction dedicated to doing what they want to do when they want to do it. Naturally, most of what they want to do is remove parts of their clothing and strut around looking for a fight or a clinch, leaving the running of such support systems as food production to languish.
While The Lord of the Flies offers the framework, one can’t help but notice more than a few misguided call-outs to 2001. The communications panel, necessary to keep in touch with Earth, is located on the outside of the ship, necessitating a space-walk when it fails, resulting in predictable trouble. There is a sequence in an airlock that, despite adding a fistfight, is nevertheless the opposite of exciting. And then there’s that moment when the primate discovers killing and relishes it. Never quote the master when it makes for unflattering comparisons.
VOYAGERS disappoints at every turn; all wrapped up as it is in shades of blue and red that do nothing to alleviate the monotony of either story or set. Add performances from even Tye Sheridan as the voice of reason, and Fionn Whitehead as his antagonist that seems to have been inspired by the ci-mentioned blue drink and what we have here is film as dull as the expression in co-star Lily-Rose Depp’s eyes.