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4/7/2021 • 4 min read
VOYAGERS belongs to the lineage of more than one kind of set-in-space movie, so let's focus on two specifics. One type is notable but rare: The "hot kids in trouble in space" story, of which STARSHIP TROOPERS is perhaps the most notable example. The other is the confined thriller, in the vein of ALIEN and its many descendants.
The story in VOYAGERS, which comes from LIMITLESS writer/director Neil Burger, picks up those two genre concepts and sticks them together with a liberal helping of "Lord of the Flies." In the process, he creates an effective thriller that proves, once again, that space is definitely not the place for anyone who wants a simple, predictable life. Let's look at the voyage in VOYAGERS.
VOYAGERS begins not too far into the future, when Earth has become uninhabitable thanks to a combination of disease, drought, and environmental changes. The good news is that there is a planet worthy of colonization; the bad news is that space travel takes a long time, so the trip will take 86 years. There's not much hope for much of humanity but scientists are able to create a group of young, smart space cadets who can grow to maturity en route to the new planet — and begin the process of rebuilding the population along the way.
The roster of species-saving spacefarers includes Tye Sheridan's Christopher, a well-balanced leader; the chief medical officer Sela (Lily-Rose Depp), and the decidedly less-than-balanced Zac (Fionn Whitehead). There's also the sullen Kai (Archie Madekwe), the clinical and intelligent Phoebe (Chanté Adams), and Julie (Quintessa Swindell), an engineer who wants to ensure that their mission succeeds, no matter what. Then there's the one actual adult on board, Richard (Colin Farrell), who is the closest thing to a parent that these young people have.
There's something else going on with these proto-colonists, however. Rebuilding the human race with a bunch of young people who are theoretically brilliant but untested in the field might seem like a good idea, but there are a lot of potential pitfalls. To reduce the chances of mission failure, the "vitamins" given to the crew have one additional effect: They suppress emotions and desire.
When Christopher and Zac discover what's going on with their vitamin stream, called "the Blue," they cut off the flow — and that's where the "Lord of the Flies" inspiration really kicks in. Maybe it's not so easy to play God after all, and rebuilding a species like humanity might be a little more difficult than planned. A controlled environment goes wild very quickly, like a party that has tipped far beyond pleasant and into stark raving lunacy.
With emotions no longer suppressed, the most inherent personality traits of the crew come to the fore, raising questions, as Burger says, "about how a society can function-- about selfishness and self-sacrifice. That’s the foundation of the conflict."
That conflict also gives the cast a chance to shine, with Lily-Rose Depp embracing the structure Sela represents and Fionn Whitehead absolutely tearing into the role of chief instigator Zac. Along with Sheridan and the rest of the cast, they raise the stakes of the movie's thrills and lend a visceral energy to the uncomfortable chaos of VOYAGERS.
All images courtesy of Lionsgate.
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