Pandorum (2009)

Directed By: Christian Alvert
Written By: Travis Milloy
Starring: Ben Foster
  Dennis Quaid
  Cam Gigandet
  Anite Traue

Pandorum is violent, furious, moody and demented, yet it smacks with such over-the-top childishness that any hopes it could be the next Event Horizon are dashed the moment the first “monster” appears. It is violent fun, but nothing much else.

It is 2173 and the Earth has died. Corporal Bower (Ben Foster) awakes inside a stasis chamber onboard the Elysium, a deep space vessel on a mission to populate a newly-discovered life-bearing planet, the human race’s last hope. Bower is supposed to replace the current crew, but finds the door to the bridge locked and the power intermittent. One of his flight team is missing and his freshly-awake Lieutenant (Dennis Quaid) remembers nothing. Suspicious of foul play, Bower ventures into the air ducts to investigate, and discovers something inhuman is on the Elysium with them. They’re incredibly fast, very powerful and are hell-bent on killing and eating every human left onboard. The reactor needs resetting before shutting down forever, and Bower is the only one who knows how to reboot it. It quickly becomes a fight against a hoard of mindless monsters and their own sanity, and the clock is ticking.

Although Pandorum has an interesting premise, it is poorly executed. From the director of the diabolical Case 39, it is no surprise Christian Alvert does nothing impressive with Pandorum. It had a lot of potential, with the possibility of mixing the creeping terror of Alien with the vivid madness of Event Horizon, but instead he shoves all semblance of subtlety into an escape pod and jettisons it into space.

Within ten minutes we’ve seen our first monster in full detail, a humanoid creature dressed in spiked armour and sporting facial features similar to The Descent’s Crawlers and basically a complete rip-off of Firefly / Serenity’s Reavers. The Pandorum advertisements boast “from the producers of the Resident Evil series” so prepare for excessive carnage, wildly over-the-top fighting and very little character work – which is exactly what it provides.

From the moment the film begins it doesn’t slow down. It’s a furious, confusing, constantly-moving adventure through a bizarrely constructed spaceship. The Elysium appears like every other depressing space vessel ever created – dark, crawling with wires and pipes, adorned with guttering and trapdoors and completely without a single coffee machine. For a ship containing 60,000 people in stasis, it’s a horribly bleak place to wake up, even when there aren’t monstrous people-eaters jumping about.

The main flaw of Pandorum is that the creators give the audience no time to understand characters, and not a spark of humour to counter the grim, depressing otherness of the darkened ship. Ben Foster is distinctly uncompelling as our hero, and Quaid struggles to eek any character out of his limited role. The post hyper-extended-stasis amnesia is useful to the plot but infuriatingly convenient otherwise, much like the very idea of “Pandorum”.

Pandorum, we discover, is a colloquial term for going space-mental after an extended period of stasis. In one of history’s worst space disasters an officer went completely insane and jettisoned 5,000 people into space, all because of Pandorum. The symptoms are shaking hands, nosebleeds, hallucinations… which all of our core protagonists begin to show signs of. Are they suffering Pandorum? Are these creatures actually there? Do we care?

It is a hyperactive film, wildly stupid, too fast and without any sense of reason. Pandorum is greatly watchable, but the tone is confused – it feels like a Zach Snyder zombie flick stuck inside the bowels of the Nostromo populated by cardboard characters. It is a violent, furious, popcorn-chomping film that is instantly forgettable.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

4 Comments on “Pandorum”

  1. Sarah Law says:

    I totally agree with the comparisons you made. It came across like an amalgamation of The Descent and Event Horizon with a little bit of Pitch Black thrown in for good measure.

    They definitely blew their load way too early with the ‘reveal’ of the monsters. They should have made them a bit more mysterious, there was nothing scary about them at all.

    Also, the lead female annoyed me a bit. It’s as if they wanted to hire Milla Jovovich but had to make do with a budget version instead…..

  2. Rag says:

    I feel you are being a bit harsh. It wasn’t trying to be the next gen Alien. The early full frontal of the ‘bad guys’ cleared the way for the ‘what are they and where did they come from?’. Keeping them shadowed and mysterious would have given you too many things to think about.

    The whole premise of the film was based around the ‘what the hell is going on?’ rather than ‘what is chasing them?’ And that I think it did very well.

    I agree that it will not become a classic that spans the decades. But if you take it for what it is, they did a damn good job. It looked good, it moved at a good pace, there was enough tension and crimson splatter to keep me immersed, and there was a twist (as every film seems to require these days) which you (I) didn’t spot within the first 20 minutes.

    I can think of a lot worse ways of spending a couple of hours.

  3. DevilMayhem666 says:

    The concept of human devolving goes back to the book titled “The Time Machine” which came out back in the 1800s. Also the script is smart and parallels evolutism with creatism. I write a thesis about it.

  4. Anarchy says:

    I think you overlook a lot parts in this movie. Taking the basic plot out of context. It wasn’t trying to be the next Event Horizon nor where the characters cardboard. Here is my take on it.

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