Climate change jeopardises the survivability of humanity in writer-director Neil Burger’s (Billions) Voyagers. To secure a future for humanity a scouting mission is dispatched on an 86-year-long trip to a possible new home. But instead of suspending the crew in hyper-sleep (an option that is never considered), the governments elect to make it a multi-generational mission. 30 children are genetically bred and trained to embark on the mission, with their grandchildren being the first humans who will set foot on the new planet.
Collin Farrell accompanies the children on the first leg of the journey to act as their teacher and father figure. But when the children reach their late teens, chaos quickly ensues when they become aware of their sexual appetites and other primal human desires, which have been repressed all their lives, with the possible threat of an unseen alien creating a schism between the group as fear and paranoia take over. From herein, Voyagers is Lord of the Flies in space, and that’s a good thing.
Burger effectively recontextualises William Golding’s stark warning of human nature into the sci-fi genre. The central message is just as provocative and timeless as ever here, but the filmmaker throws some new concepts into the mix too. The threat of sexual violence, for instance, adds an extra sinister layer that wasn’t present with the group of boys on the island. Likewise, existential terror sets in when some question the futility of their mission – what do any of their lives matter when they won’t even live to see the impact? Voyagers is at its best when it sinks its teeth into the latter idea, but the filmmaker frustratingly doesn’t have much to say on this front.
Outside of the Lord of the Flies parallels, Voyagers is a familiar and rather derivative Young Adult thriller. The cast of characters (fronted by Lily-Rose Depp, Tye Sheridan and Fionn Whitehead) are one-dimensional and flat in their delivery, despite the best efforts of the talented cast. Burger also has a habit of intercutting distracting and hyperactive montages into certain scenes, which breaks immersion.
The tension gradually climbs to a gripping finale that acts as a satisfying pay-off to the mounting drama. Voyagers sets its sights on being more than a sci-fi Lord of the Flies; however, its ambitious are weighed down by an uninspired YA script.
Voyagers is released on Sky on 8th October 2021.
Watch the trailer for Voyagers here: