Neil Burger, the director behind “Without Limit” and “Divergent,” shows in his new sci-fi film VOYAGER an ambitious space mission that goes brutally wrong. We’ll reveal in our review whether the film was a success.
OT: Voyagers (USA/CZE/ROU/UK 2021)
The future of humanity is at stake: Science recognizes that the Earth will be uninhabitable in the near future. Luckily, she discovers a planet whose data suggests that it could be inhabited by humans. However, this planet is so far away that it would be impossible to reach within a human lifetime using current space travel means: colonizing the planet would be a three-generation undertaking. So a group of men and women are bred who have a high chance of great intelligence and faithful obedience. In addition, this first generation (including Tye Sheridan, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Lily-Rose Depp and Fionn Whitehead) will be raised so that they will not miss life in nature, but will accumulate all the knowledge that the mission leadership considers essential for considered this operation. The scientist Richard Alling (Colin Farrell) initially accompanies the mission as the only person not specifically bred for it, in order to guide and support the first generation of recruits. However, this plan goes wrong shortly after setting off into space…
The science fiction film “Voyagers” opens quite promisingly. Just a few minutes into the film, director Neil Burger shows us (“No limit”) In an impressive time-lapse effect, an egg cell develops into an embryo in an artificial uterus as a result of artificial insemination and this embryo gradually grows. From then on, however, things go downhill for “Voyagers”: The group of artificially created children are isolated from the outside world and trained specifically for their mission, about which they are only vaguely informed. It becomes apparent very early on in “Voyagers” that the three-generation space mission is doomed to failure – due to the numerous idiosyncratic, amoral and/or fatally stupid decisions made by those responsible.
A top-class ensemble: In addition to various newcomers (here: Tye Sheridan), Colin Farrell is also on board.
However, director and author Burger does not open his film as the kind of thriller that gains tension by having a sword of Damocles hovering over the characters. The exposition of “Voyagers” is held in the aesthetics and style of a speculative sci-fi film that seeks to discuss whether the attempts to save humanity through daring plans depicted in the film would work and be morally justifiable. However, given how blatantly poor and ill-conceived the plan is that the science group led by Colin Farrell’s Richard Alling is, the answer to these questions is already clear before the mission even begins. And if that weren’t frustrating enough, this ill-thought-out thematic structure and all the preparatory work for the temporal and local setting are ultimately null and void: From the second act onwards, “Voyagers” changes from a film about a strange three-generation plan to the future Saving humanity to a dumb “Lord of the Flies…IN SPACE!” that would be better off without all the exposition. Ultimately, Burger just wants to tell a thriller about a pubescent spaceship crew who are left unsupervised and go crazy due to their hormonal drive.
“From the second act, ‘Voyagers’ morphs from a film about a strange three-generation plan to save humanity to a dull ‘Lord of the Flies…IN SPACE!’ that would be better off without all the exposition.”
This “spontaneous, individual decisions versus setting social norms, deciding carefully and together” conflict lacks tension and ambition – both of which are due to how flat and interchangeable the characters are written. Since they don’t have any significant personality traits, they can always be twisted into whatever shape Burger wants to keep the plot moving. There are little to no points of reference (depending on the character) as to what corrupts characters or, alternatively, keeps them level-headed. Due to the shallow characterization, all characters can be trusted to do anything or nothing (if he had used the exposition differently, Burger could have avoided this), and so “Voyagers” can neither create suspense nor make profound statements about human nature and social influences.
Johnny Depp’s daughter Lily-Rose is also part of the cast.
So it should come as no surprise that the dialogue in “Voyagers” is often hair-raisingly stupid (“Decreased receptivity to pleasure.” – “Reduced receptivity to pleasure? I want it increased Sensitivity to pleasure!”) and the cast can’t possibly perform given this script. All of the actors play their roles completely pale, as if they were sedated – and although this can be justified in terms of content up to a certain point, there is still a difference between “acted boring” and “acted bored”. For example, while Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson in Michael Bay’s “The Island” still play their slow-acting characters in an appealing way, the “Voyagers” cast acts boringly bored – even when everyone is crazy: the characters suddenly act selfishly and irrationally, look but still like mannequins out of the laundry. The fact that “Voyagers” at least has solid production design on its side (the interior of the spaceship is believably functional, if not the least bit original) doesn’t help this sobering film one bit. It’s a shame that “The Illusionist” director can sink even lower in the sci-fi genre after “Divergent”.
“All of the actors play their roles completely pale, as if they were sedated – and although this can be justified in terms of content up to a certain point, there is still a difference between “acted boringly” and “acted boredly”.”
Conclusion: “Voyagers” is a flat “Lord of the Flies” variant in space that lacks suspense and pretension as well as interesting characters or answers to the questions they initially asked.
“Voyagers” is available now on Amazon Prime.