Formulaic, soapy teen space drama has lust, sex, violence.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Voyagers is a sci-fi thriller about a group of 30 children-turned-teens who are on a one-way space mission to find a potentially habitable planet for humans to colonize. The movie, which has been compared to everything from Lord of the Flies to The 100, stars Colin Farrell as the one adult aboard the spaceship; the rest of the starring cast is young-adult actors like Tye Sheridan, Fionn Whitehead, and Lily-Rose Depp. There's a fair bit of non-graphic sex and romance involved, as well as violence after the teens stop taking hormone-suppressing, mood-stabilizing drugs disguised as vitamin supplements. Some scenes get quite dark, with moments ranging from a woman's body being groped to the disturbing deaths of at least four young people at others' hands. Language is very mild ("shut up," "liar," "shut your fat face"), and there's no iffy substance use. While the supporting cast is diverse, the main characters are White, and a young Black woman who's the only voice of reason is repeatedly told to shut up. Families with teens can discuss the concept of nature vs. nurture, as well as the movie's messages about the importance of impulse control, collaboration, and honesty.
Lord of the Flies is much better, spend your time reading that instead - meh, movie is a solid meh
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What's the Story?
VOYAGERS is writer-director Neil Burger's sci-fi space opera about a near future in which Earth has become increasingly uninhabitable. The world's scientists find a possible solution: a planet that could be habitable by humans. It will take 86 years -- three generations -- to arrive there, so a group of specifically bred babies is brought up indoors to make up the crew of 30 students who will begin the mission. Scientist Richard (Colin Farrell) offers to accompany the children, who are 8 when they take off. Ten years later, Christopher (Tye Sheridan), one of the brilliant now-18-year-olds, discovers that a daily "vitamin supplement" they've all been ingesting is actually a hormone suppressant and mood stabilizer. Christopher and his best friend, Zac (Fionn Whitehead), decide to stop taking the daily supplement and have a nearly instantaneous awakening to feelings of lust, jealousy, competition, and aggression. The sudden influx of hormones coupled with a tragedy creates a toxic, divisive environment for the newly "liberated" teens onboard.
Is It Any Good?
Neil Burger's sci-fi thriller would have been a better series than this slick but underwhelming (and predictable) teen flick. Like Lord of the Flies meets The 100 in space, Voyagers' plot starts off promisingly, even though audiences will have questions after it's revealed that the children were initially expected to be on the ship by themselves, without an adult present. From there, viewers may wonder how the brightest minds in the world ever thought that filling a ship with unsupervised tweens and teens would lead to anything but mayhem. Plot roadblocks aside, however, Sheridan does a good job as an older teen who starts to question what mission control -- and, by extension, Richard -- has told them all about the drug that's being forced upon them. Farrell does his best to be a father figure and leader, but never underestimate the power of the teen libido, Burger seems to say. What's slightly laughable is that on a ship full of attractive, diverse young people, both Christopher and Zac (who are both White) must of course fall for the same White girl -- in this case, medical officer Sela (Lily-Rose Depp, who doesn't demonstrate much acting range in the role).
The only prescient voice of reason is Phoebe (Chanté Adams), a Black mission specialist who's repeatedly told to shut up (and, ludicrously, is called fat because she's 10 pounds heavier than all of the other supermodel-thin young women). It doesn't take psychic powers to determine early on that she's the Piggy of this group. The movie's cinematography and editing are well executed, and the actors don't have to do much more than act some combination of compliant, scared, aroused -- or, in the case of a couple of the baddies, psychopathic. Whitehead, with his Tom Hiddleston-like cheekbones and narrowed eyes, is well cast as the beautiful but bad villain. If audiences want to see a cast of attractive early 20-something actors in life-threatening and sexy situations, there are far better films than this eye-rollingly formulaic movie.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the violence in Voyagers. Is it necessary to the story? Why, or why not?
What do you think the movie's message is about "nature vs. nurture"? Is there any reason to expect that the "gifted" and "brilliant" biological children of world-class scientists, artists, engineers, and so forth are "above" baser behaviors?
How would you characterize the diversity and representation (or lack thereof) in this film? Why is the other characters' treatment of Phoebe especially problematic?
Did you notice the characters demonstrating teamwork, courage, and perseverance? Why are those important character strengths?
Discuss the use of a "love triangle" in the movie. Is it effective? Does it make sense? Why do you think so many teen-focused stories feature a love triangle?
- In theaters: April 9, 2021
- On DVD or streaming: April 30, 2021
- Cast: Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp, Fionn Whitehead
- Director: Neil Burger
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence, some strong sexuality, bloody images, a sexual assault, and brief strong language
- Last updated: February 17, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Violent dystopian drama with strong female role model.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Kubrick's sci-fi masterpiece is still relevant.
Ambitious intergalactic drama focuses on a father's promise.
Lord of the Flies
Book-based classic has brutal violence, bullying.
Interesting drama about love, mortality, iffy decisions.
For kids who love sci-fi and teen romance
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