When life on earth becomes no longer sustainable, scientists search for a planet that can support human life. In the year 2063, they find such a planet, but the journey there will take 80 years. Thus they fill a ship with young people who will repopulate on board with the onus being on their grandchildren to complete the mission. The youths on board are led by grown-up Richard (Colin Farrell), but Chris (Tye Sheridan) and Zach (Fionn Whitehead) are among those who start to rebel. As the other passengers follow suit, chaos erupts across the ship.
'Voyagers' uses a concept that we've seen in sci fi movies like ‘Equilibrium’ and is also common in space-set movies – a fear that those aboard will become overwhelmed by the emotional and down-hearted nature of their mission (they’re not going to get to see the planet, only their children will). Thus the passengers are put on a strict regimen which includes carrying out work, exercise, and the consumption of some odd blue liquid. Chris and Zach are the first to discover “the blue” dullens their personality, makes them docile, and even decreases pleasure. They stop drinking it and find a new youthful and animalistic sort of energy as they race down the halls of the spaceship and begin to flirt with the young women on board, Zach eventually harassing their colleague Sela (Lily-Rose Depp).
The two young men also grow envious of Richard and encourage others on board to stop taking “the blue”. They’re annoyed at being drugged, and express a desire to live life their way, to play and screw and shirk their responsibilities, for the short time they have on this monotonous ship. They also learn of and become increasingly paranoid of an “alien” presence aboard. Zach comes to reject Chris, and his hunger for power is threatening.
There are some interesting ideas in this latest from director-writer Neil Burger, and one can see themes from his previous works like ‘Divergent’ and ‘Limitless’ present. ‘Voyagers’ has strong tones of an Oedipus complex, and is very much ‘Lord of the Flies’ in space. However, intriguing as the story is, it gets more and more silly, and includes these occasional hallucinogenic scenes that are aimless and irritating.
The film relies too much on sci fi clichés and the plot holes become difficult to ignore (for example, there are way too few passengers aboard to repopulate a planet). While the acting is good, the characterisation is lazy and dull. Moreover, the production design is wanting – with so many gorgeous space-set movies out there, this one comes across as unimaginative. The storyline is far less profound than it pertains to be and that ending is just a bit too neat to be satisfactory. One wonders if budget limitations were a factor in the uninspired way it ultimately plays out.