Note: The writer of this review has looked Travelers on a digital screener from home. Before you decide to see it – or any other movie – in a movie theater, consider the health risks. Here is an interview on the matter with scientific experts.
If nothing else, Hollywood’s latest space odyssey, Travelers, invents a new solution to the conundrum of intergalactic travel, that old equation of distance versus time. The film is set in 2063, when the harrow heads of an increasingly uninhabitable Earth make plans for a fresh start beyond the stars. They have found a planet that can sustain human lives. The problem is, it will take 86 years to get there. How will anyone survive long enough to establish humanity’s new home? In the science fiction of yesteryear, the greatest fictional ghosts of fictionalized NASA looked to cryogenic sleep, wormholes, and accelerated speed to cross the vast cosmos without quacking along the way. In Travelers, the strategy is much more long-term: the crew will consist of children, who grow up on board the ship and then have their own children, who in turn will grow up to birth and birth. grandchildren who will resettle the species. Instead of leaving the world a better place for future generations, they leave the world in front of a better place to be inherited and colonized by their descendants.
Most Travelers takes place 10 years after its launch. Born and raised by anonymous donors for the sole purpose of accomplishing the mission, the crew has grown from test-tube babies to haunted remote vending machines – they’re like child prodigies in private schools with the disposition of sheltered Amish youth. Overseeing their one-way voyage is the ship’s captain and project head, Richard (Colin Farrell), who has settled into the uncomfortable role of an all-purpose authority figure: he’s father, boss, teacher, therapist. To keep everyone working and out of trouble, the teens are given glasses containing something called The Blue – a liquid that, like the mandatory medication of Lois Lowry’s dystopian elementary school chapter The giver, suppresses the more intense emotions and natural desires of growing boys and girls. But what will happen when humanity’s last, pubescent hope stops taking the chemical equivalent of a cold shower?
Anyone devoid of a steady diet of stories of life in a can floating through the unknown can likely anticipate the trajectory – the psychological, technological and potentially alien obstacles these interstellar homeschool kids face. Why mention every antecedent? That is how the space madness lies. Better to scan Travelers for allegorical meaning; there is no lack of it in the tribal disagreement that erupts from its ominous silence. As these YA astronauts get in touch with their basic instincts – a journey that begins with some exploratory groping, before turning into what teenage spirit authority Kurt Cobain once called territorial piss – the film suggests a classic tale of classroom rebellion set in the science fiction room gets sucked. Is the children’s primary pivot a metaphor for a sudden upbringing of adolescent hormones, and perhaps the general disillusionment that sometimes accompanies it? Another way to read the movie is as a drama about one generation going against the expectations of the other – about Zoomers (in spirit, if not era) pulling back against the environmental and professional obligations that have arisen through the failure of their elders.
The problem with Travelers is that his strength is whole allegorical. The more the movie begins to resemble deep space Lord of flies– Complete with Legendary Beast, Exiled Piggy and urgent car chases across the futuristic version of a remote island – the more predictable it gets. Neil Burger, director at the helm of this rushing craft, gives conventions a seductive sheen of utilitarian plausibility: he’s crafted a zero-G thriller that’s both handsome, in its cosmic and cosmetic design, and claustrophobic. credible how unglamorous it makes space travel seem. What he hasn’t done is engage the audience in the sensory awakening that drives the plot. Burger tries to express this experience through feverish montage flashes of crushing water, jumping animals, blooming flowers and dilated pupils. It is essentially the same way that he visualized the inflating intellect Limitless– “expanding the mind” as a music video supercut of stock B-roll pulled from a database.
Perhaps the film’s escalating conflict would be more exciting if the characters themselves (played by the likes of Tye Sheridan and Lily-Rose Depp, among an ensemble of other twenties model types) weren’t such empty eyes. That is to say, to be fair, on purpose, we are following a group of literal-born rescuers, who lead a life dedicated only to grand duty and scientific protocol. Of course they would be clumsily socialized robot teens with no personalities. But the film’s climax, the war between rational responsibility and hedonistic rejection of it, never gets more than an abstract impulse, because the young Americans taking sides in battle are so interchangeable. (Nothing but DunkirkFionn Whitehead, as a villain’s power-crazed scheming, makes a big impression.) Travelers is slick and distracting enough and sometimes even artistic in his vision of a future in the hands of children grappling with the burden of their interest in it. But it is also a story of the struggle for humanity that makes humanity itself theoretical, just like the scientists in the film who conceived its deluded experiment in a galactic manifest destiny.