The Voyagers premise sounds like the setup for a thrilling, epic sci-fi flick.
With the future of the human race at stake, a group of young men and women, bred for intelligence and obedience, embark on an expedition to colonize a distant planet. But when they uncover disturbing secrets about the mission, they defy their training and begin to explore their most primitive natures. As life on the ship descends into chaos, they’re consumed by fear, lust, and the unsatiable hunger for power.
But don’t be fooled. This Lord of the Flies ripoff manages to confuse its message AND make space paranoia boring.
Read our spoiler-free review below.
After an entirely unnecessary sci-fi setup (more on that in a minute), Voyagers rips its main plot straight from Lord of the Flies.
Like, literally. Voyagers doesn’t just run with the themes of groupthink and morality. It practically beat for beat replicates Lord of the Flies, right down to paranoia over a non-existent beast (in this case, alien).
The only real difference is instead of being all younger boys, the characters are co-ed and teenagers, so now we have to watch them be horny as well as violent. Ugh.
Sorry, two differences. When I first read Lord of the Flies, I actually wanted to see how the situation would play out. I don’t know how Voyagers managed to make space travel, aliens, secret suppression drugs, and mass paranoia so boring. Even the most climactic scenes just feel completely flat.
I never connected to any of the characters, and I never cared what happened next. The plot points were completely predictable. Eventually I found myself rooting for the bad guy. Not because I cared about him or believed in what he was doing, but in hopes that if he just killed everyone on the ship, the movie would end sooner.
The sci-fi was pointless
What the f— was the point of the whole sci-fi setup of this story?
If you want to do Lord of the Flies but in space, fine, whatever.
But the entire premise to this setup just left me with questions.
Here’s the plan as Voyagers explains it. The mission leaders on Earth determine it will take three generations of people to reach the new planet. They decide to grow kids in a lab so that they spend their entire lives on the ship, so they won’t know to miss Earth. Then the first generation on the ship will reproduce with each other the natural way, creating the next generation and so on.
Also, as an extra safety measure, they’re going to be drugging the crew to reduce their “impulses.”
There’s a lot to unpack here, but here are my biggest questions:
If society has the technology to genetically engineer embryos and birth babies, why would they only do that for the first generation of people on the ship?
And if everyone on the ship was drinking their anti-horny juice, how were they ever going to get together to make generation 2?
More to the point, Voyagers doesn’t seem to be making one (a point, that is). Why does the story take place with the first generation of the crew, rather than the second or third? What’s the significance of the sci-fi? How does it play into what the film is trying to say? It doesn’t.
What’s even the message here?
Besides the unnecessary sci-fi elements, Voyagers is confusing in its approach. Its weirdly sanitized, everything-will-be-fine ending feels tonally mismatched to the rest of the film. What does the movie actually want us to take away? That people are inherently good or evil? That we’re powerless against our nature, or that we always have a choice? Love or hate William Golding, at least he was saying something definitive with his novel.
In addition to the muddled morals of it all, I did not care for the way sex played into the plot. I get that the story is about everyone giving in to their impulses (both violent and sexual). But this is another instance where it’s confusing what the film wants to say, and the ambiguity in this case left me drawing negative conclusions.
(Why do I have to see sexual harassment even in my escapist sci-fi media? Why would you create a setup that implies sexual harassment is a natural impulse for men? Are you trying to say without the pressure of society, this is how men would act? If so, that’s an incredibly bad take, and I shouldn’t have to tell you that!)
Voyagers is bad in a bad way
Look, I love a bad movie. And usually when people call a sci-fi movie bad, they actually mean it’s cheesy, or the effects are bad. Those movies have their own sort of charm, and can be completely enjoyable to watch. I’m a lover of the “so-bad-it’s-good” genre film.
So when I tell you that Voyagers is bad, I want to be clear. Voyagers is bad in a bad way. Not in a so-bad-it’s-good way. Not in an oddly charming, still-enjoyable-to-watch kind of way. It’s bad in a “don’t waste two hours of your life” kind of way.