By: Kevin Jordan
No one can hear you conch in space.
I hate Lord of the Flies. I hate the book, I hate the 1963 film adaptation, and I hate the 1990 film adaptation. If I had known Voyagers was Lord of the Flies in space, I might not have wanted to watch Voyagers. They got me by hiding it behind sci-fi and by hiding the actual plot of the movie so nobody would recognize it for what it really is. The synopsis on IMDb is simply “A crew of astronauts on a multi-generational mission descend into paranoia and madness, not knowing what is real or not.” That is decidedly not Lord of the Flies and is an extremely misleading description of Voyagers. Especially the part about astronauts. The “astronauts” (and those quotation marks are as sarcastic as I can make them) are literally a bunch of children. See, that is why I hate Lord of the Flies.
The premise of the movie is the Earth is dying, so a massive ship is filled with supplies and children and fired toward a newly discovered habitable planet with the hopes that the children will continue on with the human race. Why children? Because the trip will take eighty-six years. Yeah, no, but why children? Because they have been genetically engineered to be the best of the best of the best and their babies will be even better. Sure, fine, but, seriously – If there are only children on board, who is flying the ship or maintaining the ship or delivering all the babies that these children are going to have mid-flight? On an eighty-six year flight, even the children are going to die, so why doesn’t the mission start with adults raising the children? I got nothing. You are right; that is really dumb.
To be fair, there is one adult on the ship, Richard (Colin Farrell). I am pretty sure Richard is a psychologist, but he also might be a mechanical engineer. Or a botanist. Or a pilot. Actually, I’m not sure what his profession is, but I am sure that he was not originally supposed to be on the ship. He literally begs the mission commander to let him go along because he has nothing on Earth to stay for (dead family), says he will never miss things on Earth, and feels like a parent to the thirty kids being sent on the ship. So, yeah, they really were going to send a bunch of children into space. But don’t worry, they took some classes on Earth where they move hexagons on a touch screen, so it’ll be totally fine. They’ll definitely know how to deliver and raise their own children.
Another ingenious decision by the mission planners was to secretly inject a drug into the kids’ water that removes their will to challenge or question anything. Or have emotions. Or want to have sex. You read that right. Super kids bred specifically for this mission, raised in isolation with only each other and Richard, and given non-stop education to get them ready for the most difficult mission ever, were still not trusted to make good decisions by the same adults that ruined the Earth. Again, what is Richard’s job?
Everything you’ve read so far is explained within the first five-ish minutes. Once the ship is launched, the movie skips ahead ten years into the mission, when the kids are now late teenagers-ish. Their age is really unclear, which is going to lead to some really awkward scenes. It doesn’t take long for these exceptionally smart (and really bored) kids to discover they are being drugged. And being teenagers, the movie decides to treat them as dipshits rather than the brilliant minds we were shown ninety seconds earlier. Two of them, Chris (Tye Sheridan) and Zac (Fionn Whitehead), decide to stop drinking the water and convince a few others of the same. Soon, Zac and the others are acting like immature little shitheads, and Zac goes from innocent to would-be rapist in two seconds flat.
This being Lord of the Flies, the one adult can’t be around for very long. Once Richard is out of the proverbial picture, the kids are on their own and with teenage hormones running the show. You guessed it – awkward. When they aren’t fucking or wrestling, they’re laying around in their underwear not maintaining the ship. This is the level of contempt director/producer/writer Neil Burger has for teenagers (or Millennials), even when they are his own characters initially developed as near-perfect creations. Okay, Boomer.
By the time I realized what I was watching, it was too late to turn back and there was still a lot of movie left. Suffice it to say, I was not enjoying myself. One of my biggest pet movie peeves is asshole teenagers for the sake of being asshole teenagers. What is worse about this one is they were set up as exceptionally good people who would absolutely understand the stakes. Instead, they whine about probably dying on the trip so why should they bother doing anything? And that goes on for almost the entire freaking movie. The only thing that kept me going was trying to identify what represented the conch and waiting for Piggy to die. And I never did figure out what that damned conch was. Did I mention how much I hate this fucking story? Now it’s trying to ruin science fiction.
Rating: Ask for all of your money back. Even my English teacher (retired) father-in-law hated the story enough that he showed The Goonies to his students rather than subject them to Lord of the Flies (I am not making that up).