Friday, April 9, 2021

Movie with Abe: Voyagers

Directed by Neil Burger
Released April 9, 2021 (Theaters)

It isn’t easy to think beyond oneself and to consider the positive implications of actions that can only benefit future generations. Philanthropy for already existent causes to assist those who are in need is common, and repairing a broken system is meant to lead to the eventual creation of something that works in its place. The concept that people are far more willing to engage in efforts that they can tangibly see through to their ends is one of the reasons that something like climate change has been put off for so long, since it will be felt and experienced more by those who aren’t born yet. Considering the future of humanity and the planet, however, is not an endeavor confined to any one person’s lifetime, as compellingly probed in this intriguing if not entirely fulfilling sci-fi meditation.

Earth is dying and will no longer be able to sustain human life, but there’s good news: another planet has been found that will prove habitable. Since the journey to get there will take eighty-six years, no astronauts aboard will live to be able to create a new civilization. Rather than find willing candidates who are willing to die in transit aboard a spaceship, recruits are specifically bred so that they can blindly follow orders and procreate to enable their grandchildren to take on the important task of colonization. Richard (Colin Farrell), a lead scientist on the project, goes with the group and supervises their journey as they slowly begin to awaken to the fact that their free will has been stifled for the sake of preserving the human race.

This film’s premise is remarkably interesting, and it almost seems that a movie with a runtime under two hours isn’t nearly enough time to explore all that could come with it. It finds its most startling and fascinating observations in how unexpected behavior plays out when knowledge starts to be discovered, like in the interchangeability of pain and pleasure since both are sensory experiences that these young people have never known. As rebellion foments and chaos ensues, this film becomes a perfectly ordinary and familiar instance of science fiction, one whose plot trajectory and denouement don’t deliver anything extraordinary. Given more time – like as a TV series – there might have been more opportunity for a deeper and more substantial focus on the ethical questions involve rather than merely a stark transition to violence and a thriller format.

Aside from Farrell, who is a fine choice for his relatively dry role, this cast includes a number of recognizable young stars who have been turning in impressive work over the last few years. Fionn Whitehead gets the juiciest role as the key instigator on board, while Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp, Isaac Hempstead Wright, and others contribute mostly subdued performances designed to mimic the almost robotic lives they have been trained to lead. Though it does feature several scenes in space and outside the ship, this is a mostly insular journey, one that is reminiscent of more memorable and emphatic explorations of this subject, like “High Life” and “Equals.” The debates it raises and grapples with are more lasting and worthwhile than this average cinematic space movie itself.


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