almost impossible to come up with any new angle or storyline
in the sci-fi film genre. So much has already been recycled
and remade that it's hard to believe there can still be
a satisfying experience. Considering the well-written television
and involving video games to compete with, it's understandable
that sci-fi fans might be hesitant to get sucked into any
summer, films like Moon and District
9 have shown us that viewers can still be entertained
as filmmakers borrow from familiar sci-fi films. Here's
a psychological sci-fi horror thriller that resembles other
films yet takes a turn at the end that you won't see coming.
Pandorum deals with what I've come to call "space
madness". Whenever someone has been in outer space
for a long enough time, especially what appears to be on
their own....things go wrong. Reality, identity and fantasy
becomes unrecognizable. Hands tremor uncontrollably, logic
and morality is often questioned and whatever appears to
be right before a character's eyes should be second-guessed.
Such is the case for two astronauts who are forcefully awoken
from hyper sleep to find themselves drifting through space.
They have no recollection of who they are, what their mission
is, or what has happened to the crew of their ship.
Director Christian Alvart drops us some 50 years in the
future, more than 500 million miles from Earth in a claustrophobic
panic. Corp. Bower (Ben Foster) is the first to wake up
to this mystery and is soon accompanied by Lt. Payton (Dennis
Quaid), the grizzled been-there-done-that to Bower's boy
scout. They realize something has malfunctioned the ship's
power source which requires Bower maneuvering through tightly
tubed shafts while Peyton provides com-link directions through
the dimly lit ship. The goal is to restart the power source
at the ship's core, but it doesn't help that Bower, still
disoriented, is now starting to encounter killer mutant
creatures roaming the slimy corridors.
the depths of the ship, Bower stumbles across dead crew
members and a couple of blade-wielding survivors doing their
best to stay clear of the bloodthirsty mutants. Nadia (Antje
Traue) reveals that the ship is designed as our planet's
Noah's Ark, carrying eco-samples as well as hundreds of
other humans in deep sleep. Manh (Cung Le) is an agricultural
worker with a knack for acrobatic sword-swinging who winds
up saving Bower's hide more than once. Both of them see
that Bower could possibly be the only way out of this dead
ship as they do their best to elude the savage mutants (reminiscent
of the crawlers from The Descent) multiplying throughout
Payton has to deal with Gallo (Cam Gigandet), a paranoid
crew member he finds who may have succumbed to "Pandorum,"
(this film's version of space madness) while trying get
a grasp on his shaky hands. It becomes clear that this scarred
ship with its horrors lurking at almost every turn may be
humanity's last hope.
This sounds like a combination of the sci-fi and horror
conventions we're familiar with yet at no point did my mind
wander or wonder when it was going to end nor did I predict
what was going to happen. It's undeniable that Alvart knows
Event Horizon and other films that deal with the
isolation of space travel but it's possible to recognize
that while enjoying it for what it is. Alvart does excel
in depicting panic-stricken situations in which these actors
must immediately overcome which is a plus since I had to
overlook unfortunate plot holes.
of me did wonder what this movie would have been like without
these mutant creatures though. But then again, on its own,
the space madness story doesn't seem to be enough. Since
Alvart doesn't go deep enough into any damaged psyche of
the crew, it was necessary to have a threatening element
of danger surrounding this "Pandorum". So, I was
fine with the amalgam of two genres, although the explanation
as to how these mutants came to be didn't go over well.
One aspect that was consistently entertaining to me was
watching the cast. There are some supporting performances
that are kind of flat but I was still convinced they were
at least into their roles. I must admit the draw for me
here was Foster and Quaid.
been a fan of Foster's work since Hostage and have
kept an eye on the choices he makes with each role. He may
be making a name for himself as the "go-to guy"
with the intense eyes and furrowed brow but at least he's
good at it. Here, I even found myself admiring his responses
to situations around him in which his delivery was either
convincingly natural or surprisingly humorous. Quaid does
show a few more layers than we've seen in his recent work
but I have to say that I wanted more manic out of him. Nevertheless,
it was a welcome return to see him back in sci-fi, since
some of my favorite work of his has been in this genre.
Pandorum starts out well by peeling away at the
mysterious layers of both the plot and the internal struggle
of the two leads. It employs a generous portion of twists
and turns as it reaches for a revealing finale.
or not you buy that closing is another thing but at least
you can't say that Alvary and co-writer Travis Milloy left
you floating in space. There's enough action, gore, and
suspense along with cinematography that added a discomforting
tone for me to recommend this as a solid B-movie thriller.
What stood out the most is that the film wound up being
a totally different movie (for the better) than what I was
led to believe in the first trailer....and that is always
a welcome surprise.