Directed By Neil Burger
Starring – Colin Farrell, Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp
The Plot – Set in the near future, the film chronicles the odyssey of thirty young men and women who are sent deep into space on a multi-generational mission in search of a new home. The mission descends into madness, as the crew reverts to its most primal state, not knowing if the real threat they face is what’s outside the ship or who they’re becoming inside it.
Rated PG-13 for violence, some strong sexuality, bloody images, a sexual assault and brief strong adult language
– Mesmerizing presentation. Without a doubt the highlight of the movie for me was Burger’s articulation inside of this mostly one stage setting that artistically breathes an inescapable uneasiness that accommodates the many tonal beats the film that the film takes on. Most evidently, this is seen in a luminous lighting scheme of many diverse colors that not only dominate the color coordination of every scene they accompany, but also are used sporadically in ways that allow each color to elevate in meaning within the context of each scene. For instance, when there’s danger and panic enveloping the characters and the well-being of the ship, red feels like the perfect amplification to contradict the serenity of blue when they’re all at ease. In addition to the extravagance of the color is the methodical cinematography from Enrique Chediak, which harvests a surveillancing emphasis that documents everything as a proverbial fly on the wall. The movements during scenes of exposition feel almost robotic in capturing the ingredients of the environment on their way towards a desired destination, and the erratic claustrophobia during scenes of physicality solidify a claustrophobia that compacts the depth of this immense ship before our very eyes, helping to preserve fear in isolation that no space movie could succeed without documenting.
– Luxurious production value. Regardless of how anyone feels about this movie, one undeniable attribute to the movie’s positivity is a futuristic design in sets and weaponry props that solidifies a lived-in quality to the emphasis that Burger occasionally gets lost in. Because of this, we are treated to a volume in mass that is most evident in the long take sequences of chase and chaos that occasionally pop into frame, granting us an unsettling beauty in decor that intentionally lacks personality in its repetition along the way. In addition to this, the sound design, while nothing exceptionally challenging in the form of resounding articulence, does manage a stark contrast between scenes of tranquility and panic that does better flesh out the occasional roller-coaster that the script takes us on. As to where most films waste a budget on elements that don’t stimulate a film, this crew made the most of the forty million dollars that Lionsgate gave them, and use such to better immerse yourselves in a world that feels far from our own, but relatable for the contemporary themes that anyone watching can relate to.
– Fresh faced ensemble. There’s Colin Farrell to debate that paragraph title, but his role is more of a supporting one in the bigger picture, so I will instead focus on the trio of Sheridan, Depp, and Fionn Whitehead who were most dominant in the attention of the script. While nothing emotionally challenging or physically transformative for each of them, there’s an intentionally monotonous portrayal that colorfully helps to play into the backdrop of these teenagers growing up in a world with nurture or emotion to play into personality. They are very much a product of their minimalist environment, and only shed these ambiguous layers eventually when the direction allows their characters to. When this happens, Depp is definitely the standout for me, burning beams of longing, pain, and perseverance with her bold windows to the soul that the cinematography allows to dominate any scene with a focus on her character. Whitehead isn’t half bad himself, even if his antagonist lacks a clearly defined evolution where the means justify the actions. To make up for such, Fionn’s conniving selfishness casts an unpredictable element to the film that constantly hung urgency in the backdrop of any momentary triumph, making him a combustible element sure to rattle anyone within his smothering cloud of devastation.
– Scintillating score. If the name Trevor Gureckis doesn’t ring a bell of familiarity to you, it soon will, as his variety of instruments and unorthodox influence inspire a complexity in films like “Stoker” and “Wildlife” that keep them from feeling repetitious. Such is the same for “Voyagers”, as here the ominous despair that plagues these characters and setting is garnered with a gut-wrenching synth score that often pilots the tragedy of the events we’re left devastated by, encompassing them with a claustrophobic dread in the form of electronic keys whose evolution dramatically diversifies the maturity of the track. The sound design for such accompaniment is respectful, allowing us to feel the scene before it echoes such sentiments, and the consistency of involvement feels most crucial for the film’s tonally complex narrative that isn’t always as easy as what we’re seeing played out before our very eyes.
– No substance. As to where the presentation gorgeously seduces you with unshakeable style, the meat of the material leaves slightly more to be desired beyond its ambitious themes. There’s appreciation to be had from asking the various questions of nature versus nurture, the influences of power, greed, and sex, and the impact left from the void of parental guidance, however the movie never elaborates or follows through with them in a way that is profoundly rewarding for the audience, leaving us isolated in the same way these teenage characters do with their newfound lease on life. There was certainly no shortage of interest that I continuously spared on what was being discussed, but it’s only table dressing for a main course that goes monumentally unexplored, and ultimately takes too many conventional turns during a voyage that quite literally travels where no man or woman has gone before.
– Uneven halves. This is very much a movie that benefits from revealing its pivotal plot point early on because it’s able to move the plot forward while attaining an understanding why the teenagers are there, and why they’re acting the way they do the rest of the film. Where the victor goes to spoils for me was a least ambitious second half that limits where the beats of the story could possibly take us, sacrificing essential characterization in a way that could make any of this compelling to anyone who has ever spent a single solitary second with loudly obnoxious teenagers without a shred of redeeming value to boot. Most of the third act in particular came and went with such little emotional attachment to the conflict that often overlooked the glaring plot holes of this premise, leading to a disastrous climax that basically solidifies how everything previously before it was essentially pointless with where the film now stands.
– Distracting pacing. Every single time I gained even a percentage point of interest towards what was taking shape in the growth of this story, the film’s overbearingly rushed emphasis took it away with rushed storytelling that virtually alludes how this property would be better suited as a TV show instead of a feature length film. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the ambition of documenting the before, during, and after of any cinematic plot, but two of those are rushed over dramatically in a way that leaves their pockets of exposition in between feeling like afterthoughts on the way to reaching a figurative and literal destination, which in turn brings forth a series of questionable motives along the way for its characters that only added to their fledging stupidity. If none of what I said previously registers with you, the movie’s five minute epilogue most certainly will, where a hundred years of exposition is fleshed out and fast-forwarded in a way that undercuts the monumental pay-off, giving us a sloppily rushed summary that doesn’t care long enough to focus.
– Painful editing. Remember those claustrophobic sequences of physicality that I previously mentioned? They are made all the more visually chaotic with trigger-happy splicing that materialize a series of problems of their own. For one, the continuity of character movements are a bit unintentionally hilarious, particularly with the sudden appearances of weapons in their hands that we never previously articulated in the unraveling of the scene. The detection of character movements deserves a paragraph of its own, mainly for over-complicating the execution of sequences that are pretty easy to illustrate in the context of choreography, but the arduous process of having to re-focus on a shoulder or hand every two seconds disjoints the execution, and gave me some of the more aggravatingly trigger-happy tweaks of trepidation that editing more times than not should overtly influence.
– The big switch. For my money, this film worked better when it was a psychological character study over the hodgepodge of derivative young adult action installments that it eventually became. Where it springs from is a monumental event around forty minutes into the film, where order on the ship is overthrown, and this basically becomes “Lord of the Flies” in orbit, losing every shred of nuance and examination that made the delve all the more compelling. Even further frustrating than that are these on-the-nose sequences of visual allusion involving animals in the wild, that felt heavily forced in selling a feeling or conveying a purpose. This leads to a climax during the film’s ending that is not only derivative of a classic in the genre, but it downright rips it off completely in character movements and resolutions shamelessly. It almost feels like a second director took the reigns from Burger during that final hour, because the movie devolves its intelligence and originality in favor of conventional story beats that continuously undercut the tension and the originality in its premise.
My Grade: 4/10 or D-