With a movie poster that suggests it’s a sexy thriller with hot young stars is anything but what it’s selling.
With a movie poster that suggests it’s a sexy thriller with hot young stars is anything but what it’s selling.

‘Sexy’ new movie is anything but

Attractive young people madly running down sterilised hallways. That's it. That's the movie.

OK, that's a bit facetious because there is more going on in Voyagers, but there is a hell of a lot of running down hallways over the movie's 108-minute running time.

Generously described as "Lord of the Flies in space", Voyagers is ostensibly an exploration of what happens when you trap 30 bright young things in a tin can on an 86-year mission to colonise a new planet.

While that's a well-trodden stretch of storytelling, there was the potential for Voyagers to delve into ideas about determinism, human nature, collective responsibility and what constitutes a purposeful life.

But the muddled and uninterested script skips right over any opportunity to say anything insightful about any of it.

Instead, it tries to create mood with sterile production design, a one-dimensional villain who may as well be twirling a handlebar moustache and lots of standing around in threatening poses. Oh, and running down hallways.

While Voyagers' cast of up-and-coming stars will escape largely unscathed from this dull, unimaginative and colourless film, you have to feel bad for Colin Farrell for getting dragged into such a tedious mess.

Oh, Colin Farrell, what are you doing in this terrible movie?
Oh, Colin Farrell, what are you doing in this terrible movie?

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In 2063, scientists identify a potentially inhabitable planet, but it'll take eight decades for any scouting party to reach there. Unable to find enough qualified candidates to make the one-way trip - especially as it'll be their grandchildren who will become the eventual colonisers - they breed 30 babies for the mission.

The babies don't have parents, only crazy smart genetic donors, and are created and born in a lab. They're raised in isolation so that they'll never know the pleasures of the open sky or nature.

When they launch, they're only children, so Farrell's Richard Alling volunteers to go with them, ensuring there's someone looking out for their interests. Flash forward 10 years into the mission and there's something of a working co-op on the spaceship.

 

Fionn Whitehead as the villain with no personality or motivation.
Fionn Whitehead as the villain with no personality or motivation.

 

But then two instigating events throw the delicate balance of the ship off course and chief engineer Zac (Fionn Whitehead) reveals an aggressive, domineering and violent side of him.

This is where the Lord of the Flies part comes in - a literally insulated micro-society of youths without traditional authority figures who must decide whether to follow the path of anarchy and pure id or if they'll order themselves in a functioning form of community.

There was ample material here to interrogate how a group of smart but naïve young people descends into a vicious mob, and how a charismatic personality imposes autocratic and vicious rule through fear.

 

Voyagers had the potential to explore any innate violence in human nature, but then doesn’t.
Voyagers had the potential to explore any innate violence in human nature, but then doesn’t.

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But Voyagers takes neither the time nor the inclination to explore any of these ideas. The characters have so little development, they don't even reach archetypes level. Every character except for maybe Whitehead's clearly black-hatted villain could be interchangeable.

That lack of specificity means you're never invested in anyone's fate - a fatal choice when the stakes are life or death.

Despite casting young stars on the cusp of international stardom - Lily-Rose Depp and Tye Sheridan round out the leads - Voyagers gives them nothing to do.

But it could have been worse for them. At least they weren't Game of Thrones' Isaac Hempstead-Wright, who has such little screen time or purpose, it makes you wonder whether his character had a subplot that had been exorcised at some point.

And Viveik Kalra, who was the charming lead in Blinded By the Light, has been given two tasks - brood and be victimised. What a waste of a promising cast.

 

None of the characters have any discernible traits.
None of the characters have any discernible traits.

 

It's difficult to discern whether writer and director Neil Burger, who had previously made YA action thriller Divergent, had a more ambitious plan originally which has been Frankensteined by the studio, or if Voyagers was always this limp and ineffective.

Take for example the film's poster, a neon-coloured portrait of Depp and Sheridan, sans clothes, positioned in a sexual repose, even though the film has few moments of "sexiness". The scenes are fleeting and they certainly have little interest in how sexual desire and appetite manifests in this re-ordering of their previously placid, rigid structure.

That the poster suggests a movie that's much, much sexier than it actually is, is a telling sign of an identity crisis in something that has almost no identity.

Rating: 1.5/5

Voyagers is in cinemas now

Share your movies and TV obsessions | @wenleima

Originally published as 'Sexy' new movie is anything but


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