Movie Title: Pandorum (2009)
So I get to watch Pandorum, a film a trusted colleague had “high hopes for,” one I was told, “showed much promise.” I have two reasons to want to like it. The first is that it was talked up. The second is the alluring premise of being lost in space while an entire city-ship is reaping the fruits of insanity brought on by space travel. The title “Pandorum” is intended as a term for “space madness.”
But first, let’s lay the foundation: The setting is in the future where Earth’s population is such that it cannot continue to thrive. The planet’s resources have been exhausted. Wars have taken their toll. One massive vessel, the Elysium, has been launched to a far away planet, the only known planet in existence that can take the place of earth, with rich resources to sustain an industrious society.
It’s a long way there. The crew has been put in suspended animation. They begin to wake up. That’s where things take off and get creepy. One officer awakes, Engineer Bower (Ben Foster) and then the ranking officer, Lieutenant Payton (Dennis Quaid). They have amnesia from being asleep so long, but they learn their duties and their mission to preserve the remnant of humanity on the new world.
Working together, they must overcome the problem of the ship being in a terrible state of disrepair, an insane crewman who appears to be responsible for all that has gone wrong, rogue human fighters, and then there are those…things. They’re…zombies?! No, try genetically enhanced crewman gone wrong, but what’s the difference?
They’re like a cross between whitish zombies and dinosaurs with shoulder horns and superhuman strength. They eat human flesh and fight like tribesmen. My level of interest takes a plunge dramatically with the introduction of these clichéd and corny creatures that had just as well been left out of the story or replaced with something better.
The engineer’s wife is supposed to be somewhere on board, but where? Of greatest importance is his need to get to engineering and restore power to complete their mission, but will they be able to do that and hold their wits as space madness continues to eat away? If these hellish zombies don’t consume them, maybe the ship will, or perhaps the people themselves in fits at each other’s throats.
What consumes me is a flawed film that could have made something of itself. I couldn’t tell what was happening to whom or who was eating whom. The lighting is terrible (sometimes intentionally). The sounds are grading. People are there and then they are gone. Scenes are choppily cut and then resume with eye-assaulting roughness.
If you let it, the plot will slip right by you. It takes some effort to keep your attention on this cinematic equivalent of a baby in a highchair tossing food onto the carpet. The questions of how they got into their predicament and why are eventually answered, but the layout leaves the viewer largely unappreciative of the intricate story that lies at the core.
I stepped out only briefly for a snack. Those 2.36 minutes were the best yet, and the snack was even better. I resume viewing. Here I am again, playing the waiting game, waiting for this film that keeps threatening to be a good use of tape to make good. It never quite makes good.
“Out here, there is no rescue and there is no turning around.” Scary? More like claustrophobic and unnerving (that was the intended effect). The story is laid down without a smidgen of a light-hearted moment. Instead, you get Dennis Quaid with his Harrison Ford-like qualities in a solid and serious performance. That menacing look in his eyes, his delivery of lines…those make him the most memorable character in this problematic sci-fi venture.
The tagline is: “Don't fear the end of the world. Fear what happens next.” Here’s mine: It’s a train wreck, no, a spaceship wreck, no, just a wreck. The action sequences are hard to watch. The film is visually incomprehensible, despite a plot bursting with potential and capable actors. I’m not afraid of the end of the world. I am, however, afraid of the prospect of having to sit through this again.
Grade: D+ (1 ½ stars)
Director: Christian Alvart
Summary: A pair of crewmembers aboard a spaceship wake with amnesia and must fight to stave off space madness.
Starring: Dennis Quaid “Payton,” Ben Foster “Bower,” Cam Gigandet “Gallo,” Antje Traue “Nadia,” Cung Le “Manh,” Eddie Rouse “Leland,” Norman Reedus “Shepard”
Genre: Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller