‘Voyagers’ Proves That In Space, No One Can Hear You Roll Your Eyes (FILM REVIEW)

Rating: D+

Watching a movie like Voyagers is frustrating. This is a film that, on paper, sounds like it should be good. It has kind of a lot going for it in terms of premise. Yet at every level, from the script up, it’s executed so poorly that you almost can’t help but feel burdensome amounts of pity.

Adding to this is how badly the film wishes it had anything to say. Rare is the film that puts in this much effort to be deep while missing the mark so spectacularly that it redefines shallow. What’s most unfortunate is how great it might have been.

Voyagers takes place in a world where humanity is running out of time before the ecological damage done to earth is so great that it can no longer sustain life. A plan is hatched to create a group of people perfect for the generations-long journey to a planet that offers our best hope of survival. Hoping to breed humans who won’t miss wide open spaces or families, a group of scientists, led by Richard (Colin Farrell), genetically engineers 30 humans raised for the sole purpose of this journey. Reaching adolescence, Richard and his 30 would-be children leave the planet for hopefully better grounds. When disaster strikes, however, the unsocialized kids descend into madness and paranoia.

The film reads like the efforts of someone with a seventh grade understanding of Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm, making grand ideas about the nature of humanity seem about as deep as an inflatable pool. Along the way, the film makes attempts at creating insightful commentary about man and science, human nature, and authoritarian regimes but, in the end, it all feels so half-baked that none of it really matters.

Voyagers largely focuses its narrative on the characters of Christopher (Tye Sheridan), Sela (Lily-Rose Depp), and Zac (Fionn Whitehead), the three of whom are all so flat and one-dimensional that it’s difficult to identify or care about any of them. There’s an argument to be made that their flatness is a result of the calming drugs given to the children to curtail their emotions and sexual urges (future generations will be genetically engineered like they were) but that argument falls to pieces when they all stop taking the drugs and never get interesting.

Which isn’t to say that writer/director Neil Burger doesn’t try. Burger has never quite equaled the success of his breakout film, 2006’s The Illusionist, however that film proves he’s capable of craft. His attempts here, however, are all so silly and pointless. Attempts at claustrophobia by showing an endless series of hallways fall flat. Attempts at commenting on human nature by showing quick cuts of animals are laughable. Attempts at building tension fail at every turn.

The frustration comes from how many times Voyagers almost accidentally stumbles into interesting territory. I lost count of how many times the film introduces and quickly dismisses interesting directions for itself. One minute it seems like they’ll take this a horror route a la Alien, the next it stumbles through a solid exploration of sexuality and consent, and then the next it feels as though they might muse upon the finer points of nature and nurture.

And yet, at every turn, the film takes a lazy route eventually settling itself on a shitty, uninteresting version of Lord of the Flies…IN SPACE! In the end, Voyagers feels like a narrative in search of a point without ever managing to find one. It never even has the good measure to be so bad it’s good. Instead, even in its badness, it’s simply a mediocre waste of time.

Voyagers is now playing in theaters everywhere.

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