Blu-ray Review: Voyagers - (2021)

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Voyagers is a science fiction thriller that was one of many cinematic casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally slated for a late-2020 release, it snuck into theaters this past April. As the box office had not yet recovered (of course, it's still not back to pre-pandemic levels), it didn't attract many viewers. Now Lionsgate has issued it as a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo pack, tricking it out with the standard array of behind-the-scenes material.

Burger is no stranger to the genre, having helmed the first (and best) of the Divergent film series. That was a runaway success, bolstered by a large budget, lots of hype, and a built-in audience who already loved the Veronica Roth novel. Though he didn't direct the two Divergent sequels, he retained an executive producer credit on both films. Unfortunately, the decision was made to split the third book in the series into two films (hey, it worked for The Hunger Games, right? What could go wrong?!). As the budget for each subsequent Divergent increased, the box office returns decreased. The fourth film was never produced, leaving an unresolved and unsatisfying trilogy.

At any rate, Voyagers doesn't have even half the budget of the first Divergent film, yet it looks fantastic. Since it was intended as a theatrical feature, production values are high. The film doesn't have the cheapo look that so many direct-to-video/streaming sci-fi films are saddled with. Burger wrote the screenplay, in addition to directing. The results are basically Lord of the Flies in space. A young cast dominates (a supporting turn by Colin Farrell is the film's only significant adult role). The year is 2063. As planet Earth becomes inhabitable due to climate change, the decision has been made to cultivate a bunch of test-tube babies and ship them off on an 86-year journey to the nearest habitable planet.

The crew, commanded by quasi-father figure Richard (Farrell), is verging on adulthood when we catch up with them in their journey. Every day they drink a glass of a clear liquid, informally called "the blue," which is discovered to be the opposite of an aphrodisiac. Earth's wisest were determined to keep surging teen hormone levels at bay. It runs contrary to the fact that these young men and women need to reproduce in order to populate their destination. Once the purpose of "the blue" is discovered, some begin to question whether or not it's necessary (or ethical). Anyway, a hormone-fueled, Lord of the Flies-esque power struggle inevitably develops between the alpha males in the crew.

The dialogue is dull and inauthentic. The performances are uninspired. But again, the production design is pretty impressive. Voyagers is ultimately difficult to recommend. There are interesting ideas here, but not well-developed enough to sustain interest throughout what becomes a dragging running time.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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