The movie “Voyagers” premiers this weekend. The new film is a sci-fi thriller that takes place in space as a group of teens leave a dying planet Earth and get launched on an interstellar mission to perpetuate the human race on another habitable planet. The vast majority of the movie actually takes place on the spaceship, which has pros and cons from a directing and production point of view. The environment also posed unique challenges that required some cutting-edge cameras and lighting to capture effectively.
I don’t want to give away anything about the movie. Basically, Earth is dying, and they need to find another planet. The one they find will take a very long time to get to—long enough that the original crew will not survive to see the new world. Children will be born during the mission and it will actually be the grandchildren of the original crew that eventually steps out on the new planet. Conflicts and chaos ensue as the teens in the original crew grapple with their hormones and how to cooperate and coexist.
They sum it up better than I do and make it sound far more compelling in the official synopsis for the movie:
“With the future of the human race at stake, a group of young men and women, bred for intelligence and obedience, embark on an expedition to colonize a distant planet. But when they uncover disturbing secrets about the mission, they defy their training and begin to explore their most primitive natures. As life on the ship descends into chaos, they’re consumed by fear, lust, and the insatiable hunger for power. Written and directed by Neil Burger (Limitless, The Illusionist), the film stars Tye Sheridan (The X-Men franchise), Lily-Rose Depp (The King), Fionn Whitehead (Dunkirk), Chanté Adams (Roxanne, Roxanne), Isaac Hempstead Wright (“Game of Thrones”), Viveik Kalra (Blinded by the Light), Archie Madekwe (Midsommar), Quintessa Swindell (“Trinkets”), Madison Hu (“Bizaardvark”), and Colin Farrell (The Gentlemen).”
I had an opportunity to speak with Neil Burger—writer and director of “Voyagers”—about filming the movie. Because most of the movie happens in the ship, it is relatively light on special effects for a sci-fi thriller based in space. Aside from a short bit on Earth before they launch, and a spacewalking scene to do a repair on the ship, pretty much everything else happens in the rooms and halls of the spaceship. The overall feel is very clean and sterile—like the movie is taking place in a lab or hospital environment.
On the one hand, the limited space and homogenous nature of the spaceship simplify things in terms of set design and overall production. At the same time, the tight corridors and bright white environment is challenging to film in. That is where technology comes in to save the day.
The crew made extensive use of LED lighting—giving them a simple and centralized system for managing brightness as needed. They also used Sony VENICE cameras to enable them to capture scenes in cramped quarters like the hallways and crawl spaces of the spaceship.
Movies In the Age of COVID-19
As more and more people are vaccinated, and states return to some semblance of normal—some more quickly than they probably should be—one of the industries that is eager to move beyond COVID-19 and return to business as usual is the movie business. There have been varied attempts at releasing movies straight to streaming or doing a hybrid release of in-theater viewing and streaming availability. Warner Brothers is making its box office movies available simultaneously on HBO Max at no additional charge, while Disney experiments with streaming or hybrid releases that require a Disney+ subscription and an additional upcharge. The jury is still out on what is the best—or most lucrative—model, but the recent release of “Godzilla vs. Kong” has done exceptionally well both in theaters and with the streaming audience on HBO Max.
Should You See ‘Voyagers’?
I had the chance to screen the movie, so I am in a position to try and help you answer this question.
I am not a movie critic, per se, and I do not pretend to play one on TV…or the internet as the case may be. I don’t hyper analyze dialogue, or lighting, or directorial choices. I don’t see a movie to dissect it. I just want to be entertained. That’s why I have a very simple barometer for movies—was it worth the money I spent and the roughly two hours of my life?
With “Voyagers”, the answer is an easy “Yes.” I have seen better science fiction and better thrillers. Overall, though, I was entertained. There are some elements that make you think a little about human nature—and possibly reflect a little on the divisions we face in society today, The bottom line, though, is that I enjoyed the movie and I did not finish it and regret having surrendered the time it took to watch it. If you are looking for something to do, and you have already seen “Godzilla vs. Kong,” I recommend seeing “Voyagers.”
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