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"VOYAGERS"
(2021) (Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Sci-Fi: Teens stop taking a mood-suppressant drug during an 86-year trip to another planet, resulting in raging hormones, chaos, and anarchy.
PLOT:

It's the year 2063 and Earth has become increasingly inhospitable for human life. Accordingly, a decision has been made to colonize another planet, but it's 86 years away, meaning voyagers heading there will have to reproduce, and their children and grandchildren will be the ones to land on the faraway land. Under the supervision of lead scientist Richard (COLIN FARRELL), children are bred to be the brightest available and are raised in complete isolation from the rest of the world so that they're most suited for the same sort of environment during the long space trip.

Richard decides to go along to oversee the operation and protect and nurture the young kids. Ten years later, the likes of Christopher (TYE SHERIDAN), Sela (LILY-ROSE DEPP), and Zac (FIONN WHITEHEAD) are just some of the now-older teenagers well into their mission. But when Christopher and Zac realize their daily rations include a mood suppressing drug -- that includes inhibiting sexual desires -- they decide to stop taking it, thus allowing their hormones to run wild.

When an apparent tragedy strikes and they're left without adult supervision, most of the rest stop taking the drug as well, resulting in chaos and eventual anarchy on the ship. With Christopher and Sela trying to hold the line, they must contend with Zac using fear to make most of the rest follow his lead.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10

I've often said that humans -- and thus humanity -- are just one major disaster away from reverting to our primitive ways. Thankfully, our current pandemic experience hasn't resulted in that -- at least for most of us -- but it's probably only a matter of time before we're back to "the kill or be killed" and "find me a mate" mentality from tens of thousands of years ago that might have helped our species survive and ultimately evolve, but isn't great when it comes to civilization.

Fiction has often explored this idea and theme, probably most notably in William Golding's 1954 literary masterpiece "The Lord of the Flies." If you're not familiar with that, it's the story of a bunch of boys who end up stranded on an uninhabited island and initially try to behave like proper British kids.

That quickly devolves into power moves, sloth, and paranoia that a monster lives on the island (among other antisocial issues). Needless to say, things don't turn out well, all of which likely inspired my pessimistic view of how many people will revert when the you know what hits the fan in some calamitous way.

More recent films have explored such thematic material -- such as "The Purge" -- but not many have again used kids as the subjects in such a cinematic, allegory way. That is, until "Voyagers," a sci-fi flick that's essentially "The Lord of the Flies in Space." As written by writer/director Neil Berger, it's one of those "we need to get out of Dodge (a.k.a. increasingly inhospitable Earth) to save humankind before it's too late" sorts of tales.

Set several decades in the future, the story revolves around an 86-year mission to colonize another planet to save the human species, with genetically bred preteens raised in complete isolation from the rest of the world as the voyagers. The idea is that they'll have kids and then grandkids who will do the actual colonizing, with the first batch simply needing to follow the rules and keep drinking their blue Tang (or similar) that will keep their future teenage hormones (and related behavior) at bay.

But ten years later, two of them -- friends Christopher (Tye Sheridan) and Zach (Fionn Whitehead) -- uncover the secret mood and hormonal suppressant drugging plan and opt not to drink it anymore. And once the hormones kick in and their lone adult chaperone (Colin Farrell) exits the picture, it's every teenage boy and girl for themselves.

That is, except for Christopher and his teen female counterpart, Sela (Lily-Rose Depp), who try to keep -- along with a handful of others -- law, order, and civility in play, all while Zach goes all Fly Lord and uses fear-mongering -- including about a supposed alien aboard their spaceship -- to convert the rest into his brainwashed followers. As was the case in its predecessor, things don't turn out well in this similar allegory about human nature, both good and bad.

Even without being familiar with Golding's earlier work, there are few surprises here once the hormonal genie, so to speak, is out of the bottle, right down to how the villain will ultimately be dispatched. That doesn't mean it's bad, and the performances from the leads are decent and believable.

But it's also not great as the themes of people being uncivilized when given the opportunity never really delve below the surface (and a few lines of related dialogue) and instead are present mainly to move the story along. It ends up being a voyage containing mostly unrealized and only moderately engaging material, all of which means "Voyagers" scores a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed April 7, 2021 / Posted April 9, 2021


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