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‘Voyagers’ Movie Review: Space Monster or Savage Teenagers?

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This review contains spoilers for the new science-fiction thriller movie “Voyagers.”

Space travel films all tend to share a similar goal of finding a habitable planet for human life, which makes Neil Burger’s new science fiction film “Voyagers” seem a little too familiar. We’ve seen this in the form of many different films from “Lost in Space” to “Pandorum” to “Interstellar.” In a direct nod to Morten Tyldum’s 2016 sci-fi “Passengers,” “Voyagers” dishes out a similar plot — a group of individuals left floating into the abyss of space on the course to another planet. These films equally appear to expose the consequences that occur when a man trapped in space becomes infatuated with a woman. So what separates Burger’s film from its predecessors?

Photo provided by Voyagers @Voyagers/Twitter

The film is set in the year 2063 when — you guessed it — Earth is no longer able to sustainably inhabit the lives of humans. To prevent the human race from going extinct, a group of scientists genetically breed the perfect set of offspring to be sent into the void of space in search of a new planet capable of carrying life. It will not be them who reach the new planet, rather their soon-to-be grandchildren. To remain compliant and prevent the 30 children from missing the outside world, they are kept completely isolated in a space-like station until they leave Earth and embark upon their 86 year long journey. Richard (Colin Farrell), the scientist in charge of watching over the children, decides to take his chances and join them on their trek, almost serving as their therapist and surrogate father. 

Flashforward to the point when they’ve all grown into attractive young adults, the crew aboard the ship begin to question what the purpose of their journey is truly for. Christopher (Tye Sheridan) discovers an unknown chemical they’re all ingesting that may be toxic. From further exploration, he and his friend Zac (Fionn Whitehead) find that the toxin is a concentrate in “The Blue,” a water-like substance that works as a medication to decrease pleasure and keep them feeling numb. With this knowledge, they both decide to quit drinking “The Blue,” which unearths the lust they equally share for chief medical officer Sela (Lily-Rose Depp). As word spreads and the crew wreaks into chaos, the true nature of the 30 passengers is revealed. 

Photo provided by Voyagers @Voyagers/Twitter

Referred to as the “Lord of the Flies” in space, Burger’s adaptation of the future reveals that, despite having the same mission, the craving for power and popularity diverts humans to their most primitive state. In this case, “Voyagers” uncovers that the crew may be living among a psychopath. The moment Zac stops taking “The Blue” is the moment all hell breaks loose. More so, his psychopathic tendencies come to light. With the communication systems down, Richard must journey outside the ship to repair the damage. Yet moments before, he catches Zac sexually assaulting Sela. Rather than apologizing and showing any form of remorse, Zac flees to the control room where he sabotages any and all efforts at fixing the communication system and electrocutes Richard, which ends up killing him. With the rest of the crew clueless and scared, Zac uses the death of Richard to control everyone on board and makes them think a body-hopping space parasite is among them. 

Whitehead’s portrayal of Zac as a psychopathic killer was so realistic that it was terrifying; yet, the deliverance of his character was simply foreseen — the bad guy manipulates the crew and the crew backs him because they’re too afraid to speak up. Then, there’s the typical small group of characters who serve as the heroic figures and kill the bad guy. This was actually proven at the end when Sela and Christopher send Zac floating off into space and everything goes back to how it was in the beginning. After following the crazy person into oblivion, the mission is somehow reestablished when the crazy person disappears — very predictable. 

Perhaps the events and portrayal of fear and power were meant to reveal the very definitive and relevant theme of nature versus nurture. Without guidance or adult presence, the teens find themselves living violently and brutally like the boys in “Lord of the Flies” In all honesty, one can’t deny that the film doesn’t leave them with the burning question: is our true nature savagery? These teenagers were genetically bred to be the greatest, most intelligent individuals, so how did they move towards the path of violence so quickly? In a time of crisis, the 30 voyagers find themselves wreaking havoc among anyone who defies Zac, the central antagonist. This moves the audience to consider the possibility of barbarity being pre-wired in our genetic code. 

Nevertheless, “Voyagers” seemingly had a good plot with great actors, just a wildly predictable execution. This may be the reason that it currently holds a rating of only 26% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, it still serves as a semi-entertaining hour and 48 minutes that will leave you yelling at the screen in hopes of knocking some sense into the passengers who willingly follow a clearly unstable man. Who knows, maybe the director of the next sci-fi film obsessed with the journey to another planet will hear you and deliver a more authentic storyline that isn’t so generic. 

McKenzie Boney is an Entertainment Intern for the Spring 2021 quarter. She can be reached at mboney@uci.edu