Voyagers MA15+, 108 minutes, 3 stars
The high-concept pitch for this sci-fi film would be "Lord of the Flies in space".
It's an intriguing premise but writer-director Neil Burger (The Illusionist, Divergent) is a bit heavy-handed in laying out the ideas and most of the characters are thinly drawn. Although it doesn't fulfil its potential, the premise and story maintain attention even if the film could have been more ambitious and fleshed out.
Here's the set-up: few decades hence, a group of specially bred, confined and trained young people are sent into space on a mission to preserve humanity.
Things on Earth are not going well and these kids are headed for a planet where human life can begin anew. The journey will take decades so it will be this generation's grandchildren who will be the colonisers of this new world, according to a carefully worked out plan of consumption, reproduction and survival.
There are lots of rules to follow, including a blue liquid taken along with their other rations that, unbeknown to them (at least temporarily), reins in their emotions and libidos (it's reminiscent of the urban legend about saltpeter being sneaked into military rations to reduce sexual urgings).
As the kids become teenagers, some of them begin to ask difficult questions and resent the way they're being used.
They had no say in their fate, no family, and no experience of any other kind of life outside their confines. Is the knowledge that their cooperation might keep the human race alive worth all that?
The only adult on board is Richard (Colin Farrell), one of their Earth mentors, who volunteered to accompany the boys and girls, knowing he would never return.
When he dies, a power struggle ensues between dutiful Christopher (Tye Sheridan from Ready Player One) and hedonistic, rebellious Zac (Fionn Whitehead from Dunkirk).
Although the level-headed Christopher is elected leader by the group, Zac doesn't take defeat graciously.
Anyone with a knowledge of William Golding's novel or of the darker side of human nature will have an idea of what will happen.
Will the youngsters keep calm and carry on with the mission, accepting their responsibilities and fate, or will they succumb to the lure of sex, partying and wild behaviour?
There's much more at stake than a bit of teenage rebellion.
Most of the characters fall in behind Christopher or Zac and few have individual personalities or characteristics worth noting, though the cast members themselves are fine and make a convincing multiracial group.
A bit more effort in the character writing might have helped to overcome the rather cold, sterile feeling of the film (not uncommon in space movies).
Despite the actors' efforts, the characters feel a bit like pawns, representing and stating particular points of view, rather than flesh-and-blood human beings for whom we feel much empathy.
Still, watching the story is interesting and there's some exploration of ideas here, which can't be said for every movie, science fiction or otherwise.