Culture Trips

Voyagers review – horny Lord of the Flies in space quickly crashes to earth | Science fiction and fantasy films

There’s a tantalising R-rated premise at the centre of the PG-13-rated sci-fi thriller Voyagers. In the future, the Earth is slowly becoming uninhabitable (something that’s depressingly less fiction and more science) and so a crew is assembled, by a muted Colin Farrell, to travel to another planet to check for viability, a familiar set-up given a novel spin. Because of the length of the journey – a rather off-putting 86 years – participants will be created rather than procured, spliced together from the finest DNA and grown in a lab, their sole purpose to begin the trip, procreate and let their children and then their children lead the way.

But deep into the quest, a shocking discovery is made: the crew is being drugged. A blue liquid they’re told to take daily (explained away as some sort of enzyme mixture) is revealed to be something far more nefarious: a cocktail of chemicals aimed at subduing their impulses. By removing the ability to feel or desire extremities (fear, excitement, horniness) they are then made more docile and in turn more effective at achieving their mission. When two members decide to stop taking it, disaster strikes.

The possibilities teased by writer-director Neil Burger (who dealt with a loosely alternate version of this concept in 2011’s thrill pill drama Limitless) are intriguing. How would submissive, isolated youths growing up without any influence from the outside world deal with a sudden cracked upon universe of sexual desire and rampant emotions? With training designed specifically to cover the practical side of their trip, how would they then understand concepts of consent and responsibility? What dangers would arise? But such thorniness is soon blunted in the ho hum execution, a Lord of the Flies-lite drama that plays out more like a YA adaptation of a book fans would claim is far better.

The trippy neon trailer would have you believe that we’re entering Gaspar Noé-adjacent territory, all psychedelic head fuckery and playful perversity, but Burger is too restrained, too polite to take us anywhere quite so extreme. The heightened emotions felt by the crew are never really felt by us the audience, there’s a headiness that’s missing and in the brief moments when Burger does try to convey the characters’ giddy intensity, he relies on a failed visual motif, a dated montage of discordant images, closer to a musty 90s Windows screensaver than something from a film released in 2021. The script never really grapples with the dark implications of his conceit, how without regulation and law, the youths would embrace their wilder side in more horrifying ways, choosing instead to tiptoe rather than forcefully tread, a psychosexual cautionary tale rendered impotent.

Sex is lightly suggested (again in opposition to what the trailers promise) while any form of sexual fluidity is nowhere to be seen, Burger’s script perhaps, hopefully unintentionally implying that queerness is less nature and more nurture. But such big thinking would suggest that much thinking has actually gone into Voyagers, a generous assertion, given how anything remotely challenging is quickly chucked into deep space and replaced by rote formula. The crew inevitably divides into warring factions battling for supremacy but such little care is taken with the characters that we struggle to care who wins out. Tye Sheridan, Fionn Whitehead and Lily Rose-Depp are the only three who get the lightest of look-ins but not one of them is able to do much with the scraps they’ve been given, leaving the ramped-up conflict ineffective as the film crashes toward a predictable conclusion. The production design is sleek but anonymous and aside from the specifics of the set-up, there are no particularly inventive elements to Burger’s vision of the future, nothing to distract us from the rather dull human drama.

It’s all just too sanitised and safe, a journey that stumbles as it takes us from the unknown to the familiar, a film that plods when it should stride. How did a bracing idea about rebellion, sexual awakening and lawlessness turn out so boring?

What's your reaction?

Excited
0
Happy
0
In Love
0
Not Sure
0
Silly
0

You may also like

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *