How do we get from here, Earth, to there, a distant star system? This quandary has puzzled science fiction fans and writers for generations now. One early idea had humans building a big ship, stuffing it with colonists and sending it off on a trip that would take several lifetimes. The makers of “Voyagers” try a variant of this idea. They send out a ship with only 15 couples on a trip that will out last their lives. The youngsters, grade school age at the beginning, have been bred from the zygotes of PhDs and should have brains as their defining characteristic. The kids have been raised from birth in an artificial environment, the better to accustom them to a life on a space ship. It might have been better to include a few more mature souls for some balance. Locking up a bunch of even brainy people for life in a tin can in outerspace just begs for unexpected problems.
Writer/director Neil Burger has some solid experience with both teen themed films (“Divergent”) and heart wrenching drama with some comic moments (“The Up Side”). “Voyagers” does not come up to its potential either as believable science fiction or of pleasurable entertainment.
Not that the players do not give it their best. Twenty one year old beauty Lily Rose Depp plays the female lead. Yes, she is Johnny Depp’s daughter. Her mom is a stunning French actress, model and singer. Her male counterpart is Tye Sheridan who I most remember from his role in “A Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.” He has, since that memorable film, gone on to fame in the “X-Men” films and the “Star Wars” film, “Ready Player One.”
The concepts explored in the film have their literary antecedents, as I suppose all books and films do in one way or another. The blue liquid quaffed by the teenage “Voyagers” that destroys their libido did the same in “Welcome to the Monkey House,” even to the color of the liquid. The idea of having the most intelligent 1% of humanity make up an entire culture appeared as far back as “Brave New World” where an island had only the very most intelligent as residents. Isolated children running amok we know from the book and two films “Lord of the Flies.”
Made on a reasonable budget of $29 million the film will likely struggle to break even. In these troubled times of plague, all films are likely to struggle to break even, not just this one. It runs for one hour and 48 minutes and carries a PG-13 rating. In this case, the PG-13 rating might be a bit understated. Parents will want to know that the film has depictions of sexual encounters and some gory violence. This science fiction film musters only a dead average two and a half sawblades.