The year is 2063 and humans have really screwed up Earth. So much so that we have to find another world to move to. Fortunately, scientists have discovered a new planet that seems to be as habitable as ours. The problem is that it will take 86 years to get there, even with Elon Musk working on it 24/7. That’s seven times as far as Neptune, but not as distant as the next solar system (Proxima Centauri), which would take 6,300 years to reach.
But “Voyagers” doesn’t get bogged down in the astronomy, because it’s focused on the humans making the trip — without the benefit of hyper sleep, which has been a trope in sci-fi movies since “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Instead, the plan is to bio-engineer the genetics of 30 children who, from birth, will be raised in a lab environment without exposure to the rest of the world, then sent off to start the mission in their late teens. Since they will not have had any true experiences as Earthlings, they won’t have any reason to become homesick on the voyage. They’ll also be trained on how to keep the ship running.
Moreover, they’ll know they won’t live long enough to reach the target planet. The idea is that they will reproduce a new generation in space, and that generation will birth a third, and those will be the pioneers who establish human life on the new planet.
Richard (Colin Farrell), one of the scientists in charge of this project, convinces his colleagues to let him go along so that there’s an adult in a supervisory role. But something happens along the way — I’m not going to spoil it — and pretty soon you’ve got a slew of college-age men and women putting on an interplanetary version of “Lord Of The Flies.” Pretty soon, jealousy and egos and megalomania run rampant. Some of that may also remind you of our recent political turmoil in the US.
The cast of young actors — led by Tye Sheridan (from “The Night Clerk,” which I reviewed here), Lily-Rose Depp (yes, Johnny’s daughter), and Fionn Whitehead (from “Dunkirk,” which I reviewed here) — do a fine job with their roles, especially the awkwardness of their physical attractions to each other. Farrell isn’t given much to do but is his usual reliable self, and writer/director Neil Burger (“Limitless,” “The Illusionist,” “Divergent”) knows how to create paranoid and claustrophobic moments aboard what is, after all, a giant spaceship. It’s too bad the story eventually devolves into predictability and depends a little too much on the gullibility and malleability of the crew.
That said, “Voyagers” isn’t anywhere near the pantheon of great sci-fi movies in space, but I found it entertaining enough to give it a 6 out of 10.
Opens today in theaters with no streaming plans announced.