by Hope Madden
If you have ever wondered what Lord of the Flies might look like in space, Neil Burger thinks like you.
The generally mediocre director (The Upside, Limitless, Divergent, etc.) follows a manned vessel in search of the next planet we can ruin. Or not. Maybe our better natures will win out.
Voyagers is the journey toward that new home. The crew doesn’t really know Earth—they were the result of specifically engineered donors, raised indoors so they wouldn’t miss open spaces, and will spend their whole adult lives on the ship. Their children will, too. But their grandchildren will be the first generation to see the new planet.
Naturally, this is only going to work if nothing kills them and they don’t kill each other before future generations can exist.
Scientist and father figure Richard (Colin Farrell) will shepherd them through as much of the journey as he can, but the future of the human race is in the hands of these young people.
Essentially a YA space fantasy, Voyagers is not without its charms. Tye Sheridan and Fionn Whitehead lead a cast of convincingly naïve geniuses. The conflict is obvious (especially for those who read Golding), but Burger zigs and zags enough to keep your interest. The director’s knack for encapsulated action and his sharp cast’s baser instincts create some B-movie thrills.
The nature versus nurture argument gets a quick nod, but Burger (who also wrote) isn’t especially preoccupied with the why. The immediacy of the fact that it just is requires more attention.
Science fiction tends to be heavily allegorical and heavily borrowed—Voyagers is certainly both of these. Although the execution feels a bit like a neutered version of Claire Denis’s brilliant 2018 cosmic horror High Life, the story itself looks to the distant future to illustrate our present (and very, very recent past).