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by Peter Sobczynski

"Lord Of The Lasercats"
2 stars

As “Voyagers” opens, it is the not-too-distant future and mankind has inevitably screwed the pooch, ecologically speaking, and extinction is imminent. Borrowing a page from the likes of “The Midnight Sky” and “Breach,” a plan is developed to send a group of people on a voyage to an inhabitable planet in deep space so that humanity can continue to live. Since the journey to the planet will take 86 years, the plan is to raise 30 genetically designed kids from birth in a lab setting and send them on a mission that will end up being completed by their grandchildren—the theory is that since they have never known what normal life is like, they are less likely to succumb to the loneliness and isolation of such a trip.

However, Mission Control elects to hedge their bets by making everyone consume a blue liquid that is allegedly a vitamin but which is really a drug meant to tamp down all forms of desire—you know what I mean—and make them more docile. As the ship makes its way through space, two of the crew members—Christopher (Tye Sheridan) and Zac (Fionn Whitehead) discover that something kinky is going on and stop taking the drug. While this seems to have little effect on the nobler Christopher, it unleashes something in Zac and when his increasingly creepy advances on Sela (Lily-Rose Depp) are rebuffed, it begins to push him over the edge. When the lone adult on the craft (Colin Farrell) is put out of commission and Christopher is elected to take over by the others, it sends Zac increasingly and violently over the edge.with potentially catastrophic results for both the mission and mankind.

For the first half-hour or so, “Voyagers” appears to be setting itself up as a film that suggests what might have resulted if Harmony Korine had inexplicably been given the gig of directing the notoriously tasteless and idiotic sci-fi dud “Passengers”—the one where futuristic dudebro Chris Pratt technically murders Jennifer Lawrence because he has the hots for her, though she eventually falls in love with him despite that little hiccup. This is an idea that contains just enough promise to compel you stick out the slow opening segment establishing the premise on the basis that once that is complete, it might then spin off into interesting and provocative areas. Alas, that would require someone more competent at the helm than writer-director Neil Burger, who has made a number of awful movies in the past (including “Limitless,” “Divergent” and “The Upside”) and has somehow managed to outdo himself here. The first major problem is that this is a film whose premise—young people raised to be virtual automatons essentially go through long-delayed puberty and go various degrees of crazy—screams out for a hard “R” treatment but has been instead presented in a PG-13 version that neuters the premise even more ruthlessly than that blue liquid.

The second, and even bigger, problem is that Burger essentially tosses his initial premise away entirely at about the halfway point and instead turns it into a ripoff of “Lord of the Flies” that is so transparently obvious that it makes “Lockout” seem like a paragon of originality by comparison. Since it is painfully clear where the story is going and since the main characters are equally uninteresting—Sheridan is a bore, Whitehead is so twitchy that it seems impossible that he would have been included in the mission in the first place and Depp, whose character (the sensible woman whose entire life and work is jeopardized when she comes between two alpha males fighting for superiority) probably should have been the central focus but ends up being nothing more than an extremely pretty face stuck with an extremely underwritten role.

“Voyagers” is a bad and clunky movie throughout but the first thing about it is that even as it is falling apart before your eyes, you can still imagine how the same basic premise might have worked in the hands of a more competent filmmaker with a firmer grasp of the material—imagine, for example, what someone like David Cronenberg might have made of this concept. Unfortunately, it feels as if the film itself was also taking the blue stuff on a regular basis and the result is nothing more than a tedious bore that will leave viewers feeling as numb and detached as its characters are in the early going.

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originally posted: 04/09/21 04:50:58
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