Voyagers, by Albert W. Vogt III

Teenagers, am I right? That is pretty much the only reason why Voyagers is not the best movie. If you can ignore the fact that the overwhelming majority of the main characters are in their late teens, then there are some pretty deep themes at work. It actually gets at the meaning of life, albeit in a cold, clinical setting in the middle of nowhere space. What is your purpose? The film gets at this question in a heavy-handed sort of way, but it is still something worth exploring in any cinematic piece. What ruins it is the behavior of most of the people in it. The problem with teenagers is that most of them are not as mature as they think they are, and that mischaracterization as to their own readiness for adult situations makes this film all too predictable.

Voyagers does not start with the teens, however. Apparently, humanity is on the verge of destroying the Earth, so a group of scientists get together to genetically engineer a set of super-babies that they plan on sending into space in order to populate a far off planet. The journey is expected to take eighty-six years, meaning that most of them will grow old and die along the way. It will be their grandchildren who will do the bulk of the colonization of the extraterrestrial world. Going along with them is the far more adult Richard (Colin Farrell), a scientist who saw all the children born and helped raise them in the first couple years of their lives. In this role, he grows an attachment to them that leads him to want to journey with them, even though it is a one-way ticket away from everything he had ever known. Then again, the same is true for the kids, but whatever. Hence, he and the thirty adolescents blast off, link up with the larger ship, and head into the inky depths of interstellar space. Everything goes well for the next ten years until one of our now older young ones, Christopher (Tye Sheridan), discovers a toxin in the blue drink they consume every evening after their dinner. With a little more digging, along with his friend Zac (Fionn Whitehead), they find out that it is actually a drug to keep them calm and more compliant. Being at the developmental stage that they are, they decide to stop taking “the blue,” as it is commonly called. Doing so seemingly leads to an instant attack of hormones. For Christopher this makes him moody. Sigh. Zac, on the other hand, begins to become more aggressive. When, for no logical reason, their communication system goes down and Richard has to venture outside the vehicle to fix it, he initially asks Zac to accompany him. Yet, as Zac is being helped into his space suit by the teenage medical officer Sela (Lily-Rose Depp), he begins to sexually assault her. Richard walks in on this and orders Zac, basically, to go to his room. Pouting, instead he ends up in the control center where Kai (Archie Madekwe) is assisting the repairs by shutting down necessary electrical systems. This is revealed later (though I am going to spoil it here because it makes more sense), but Zac decides to murder Richard by not turning off the electricity to the panel Richard is working on outside. The resulting jolt kills him. And with Richard dead, they all carry on as normal. . . . Haha, I almost said that with a straight face. Remember when you were in high school and the teacher would leave the room for a little bit, and how the longer he or she was gone the more room would devolve into chaos? That is this film, except the teacher dies and there is no one to replace him. At first they follow their pre-programmed protocols and elect Christopher to be their new leader. He tries to keep them all on task with making the necessary repairs to their ship. However, Zac spreads his no blue ideology, and before long everyone is doing whatever they want. And I do mean whatever. I will leave most of this up to your imagination. A few of them, Christopher and Sela chief among them, begin to see the devolving situation as the actual threat to their lives that it is, but Zac remains determined to have virtual anarchy. Without the blue, most of the others seem content to follow him, even after Christopher and Zac find proof that Zac was responsible for Richard’s death. Complicating matters is when Zac and his cronies find the weapons hidden in a secret compartment on the ship, and are therefore able to enforce their will with deadly consequences. They capture Christopher and Sela, but the two manage to slip free and flee to air lock. Zac follows (alone, for some reason), which, of course, turns out to be a trap that results in him being flung into space. This calms everyone down, they elect Sela to be their new leader, and they carry on as if nothing happened. There are some new rules, though: no blue and everything must be decided democratically. The film ends with them arriving at their new world, much older obviously.

I spoiled the reveal in Voyagers of Zac murdering Richard when I did because it turns out to be a red herring. I usually find those annoying. The film spends all this time making you believe that uncovering the footage of what happened to Richard as being the key Christopher and Sela needed to stem the tide of anarchy, only to have it fall flat on its face. Still, amid the awful behaviors and figurative mustache twirling by Zac, the fundamental question is asked: what is the point of being good when we are just going to live and die to no discernible purpose. The film goes to lengths to show the monotony of the kids’ lives onboard the ship. They get up, they do space/computer things, they eat and drink the blue, and then go to sleep. What is conspicuously absent from it is Faith. Researchers will tell you that God was invented by humans in order to disassociate determining good and evil from themselves. If there is a higher power that determines right and wrong, then not only (supposedly) does that take away some of the responsibility for our actions, but it gives meaning to our lives: doing good will lead to an eternal reward and doing bad will lead to eternal punishment. Such a view of Faith leaves out the active role that God plays in our lives, and sort of ignores the benefits of forever spent in good graces. But, because this is Hollywood and Christianity is usually an anathema to them, they have to find some other way of getting their characters to see right and wrong. There is a lot of speculation on their part about whether or not the violence they begin to perpetrate on each other is just their true natures. That scares a few of them, and they reject, but Zac and his cohorts seem to revel in it, take pleasure in it. I am here to tell you that God did not create us to be violent to one another, and He abhors the death of any of his creations. And this is what makes Zac’s character so frustrating, and the movie in general. It is as if they place all the evil they had done on his shoulders, and his expelling solves everything. This ignores redemption, first of all, and secondly obviates any really opportunity for reflection and growth from the others. In other words, I do not buy that Zac being gone would all of the sudden mean that all these teenagers are now rational adults. I am glad they were able to put it behind them. I simply wish we had seen them process all these events a little more.

Thus, if you can stand watching a bunch of teenagers constantly do things that directly contradict their long-term survival, then have at Voyagers. I am not sure what age group would enjoy it. Maybe actual teenagers would watch it and think it is deep? If so, I would suggest they read Lord of the Flies instead. You remember, the one that you were probably assigned in freshman English and did not read yourself? There is another laughable red-herring in it where they think and alien is aboard, and they keep asking each other if they have it inside them. This turns out to be a lie told by Zac to make everyone afraid, and thus goes nowhere. If you are a parent, all you need to know about what life is about can be remembered by looking at your own child. You can skip the movie.

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