See It Instead: Voyagers.

See It Instead: Voyagers.

If watching a bunch of teens get horny in space is not on your horizon, we found three classics in orbit to see instead.

Voyagers hits theaters this weekend…and we’re not exactly ready to blast off with the premise. Neither, it seems, are critics. While the idea of teens trapped in space, born and bred for an interstellar mission they never signed off on, has potential, the film seems to borrow too many old science fiction tropes and squander its focus on teens groping each other in space.

Since the film reminded me of so many tried and true stories, it was pretty easy to grab three classic films with a similar slant. Here are three alternative films worth seeing instead.

Voyagers (2021)

With the future of the human race in danger, a group of young men and women, bred for enhanced intelligence and to suppress emotional impulses, 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 hunger for power.

See It Instead: Voyagers.
Yeah. I think we’ve thoroughly debunked the concept of “better living through chemistry” by now.

The Serious Pick: TXH-1138 (1971)

In the future, mankind lives in vast underground cities and free will is outlawed by means of mandatory medication that controls human emotion. But when THX 1138 (Robert Duvall) and LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie) stop taking their meds, they wake up to the bleak reality of their own existence and fall in love with each other in the process. But love is also illegal in this Orwellian dystopia, and the act of making love has made both of them outlaws on the run from an army of robotic police.

This is the obvious comparison for Voyagers. Both films are dystopian, showing a humanity in decline. Both films revolve around the premise of order maintained via emotion suppressing drugs. And both films get emotional voltage out of protagonists who revolt against the system by skipping their meds and consequently having lots of sexy time.

The comparisons end their. George Lucas’ directorial debut is a science fiction classic. It turned Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World on it’s head; where Huxley saw a world where hedonism was yoked by an authoritarian society to beguile the masses, Lucas saw it as the last, primal freedom an individual could hold in the face of a depersonalizing tyranny. A rarity, it’s one of the few films improved by Lucas going back and tinkering with it. On top of the gripping story and fantastic acting, the remastered version has the visual pop to match.

Plus it gets its horniness right, so that’s a plus.

The Lighthearted Pick: Space Camp (1986)

Andie Bergstrom (Kate Capshaw), an astronaut eagerly awaiting her first trip to space, runs a summer camp for teenagers with her NASA-employed husband, Zach (Tom Skerritt). One night during an engine test, Andie and four teenage campers are accidentally shot into space. Together, the group — which includes Kathryn (Lea Thompson), a pilot-in-training, and Tish (Kelly Preston), a ditz with a perfect memory — must work together to operate the spacecraft and return home.

While nowhere near as horny as Voyagers, Space Camp scratches the same itch of teens in space getting into trouble. While mostly notable these days for sporting a baby-faced Joaquin Phoenix, I recall Space Camp fondly as the capstone of the 1980’s fascination with space, a national frenzy that was sadly ended the same year the film came out when the Challenger shuttle explosion was witnessed live by school kids across the country due to a school teacher being onboard.

Despite the downer ending, Space Camp captured the thrill of the era where “astronaut” was everyone’s top answer to “what do you want to be when you grow up?” While some aspects of the film felt like The Breakfast Club in space, it did do a credible job of showing how incredibly difficult and rigorous the job was. Buoyed by fun montages set to an invigorating John Williams score, Space Camp still manages to impart that feeling of excitement.

So who’s ready for unimaginable danger?

The Unconventional Pick: High Life (2018)

Monte (Robert Pattinson) and his baby daughter are the last survivors of a damned and dangerous mission to the outer reaches of the solar system. They must now rely on each other to survive as they hurtle toward the oblivion of a black hole.

This is a case where I wondered if Voyagers knew how many similarly premised movies had come out recently. The whole colony ship/consent of the passengers film was handled (poorly) by Passengers, and Redbox is literally flooded with movies about ark ships or last ditch space trips to save humanity. Of that ilk, the one that stood out as deserving another look was 2018’s High Life.

We covered the film in detail when it launched, but a second viewing gives a little more nuance. While it is still as redolent of bodily functions and libido, there’s a lot of solid science fiction that elevates it beyond just a pretty film about space sex. Pattinson’s performance is still riveting, and the retro-futurist aesthetic appeals even more, especially when contrasted with Lucas’ THX 1138. All in all, a solid sci fi flick with lots of social commentary that stands up to repeat viewings.

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