Synopsis: Two astronauts awaken on their spaceship to find they are not alone.
Release Date: September 25, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Horror
The problem with this movie is not that it obviously feeds off the creativity of some past sci-fi horror films such as Alien and Event Horizon, but that it eats away at the audience’s patience far too long before it decides to be any good. For the first hour or so all one knows is that in the year 2174 most of the earth’s resources have been depleted, a massive spacecraft has thus been sent to settle the Planet Tanus, but the only people who seem to be aboard the ship are Captain Payton (Dennis Quaid) and Colonel Bower (Ben Foster), who incidentally do not remember diddly squat. The pitch sounds promising enough for an engaging mystery, only the mystery is never really felt due to frustrating holes in the plot. If it were not for Payton commanding, “We need to get to the bridge”, over the radio like bad voice acting in a video game, then one would have no idea of why Bower is currently crawling through an enclosed tunnel of wire. I can understand that director Christian Alvert wishes to keep the audience in the dark as long as the story’s characters are, but the end result is a muddled mess. Pandorum refers to a psychological disease occurring in hyper-sleep resulting in trembling, nosebleeds, and crew-threatening insanity; the title is misleading though in that the movie is more about monsters than it is mental illness. The film attempts to sell its’ self as science fiction, horror, mystery, and psychological drama, but most of time is the monsters’ makeup that succeeds. The good news is that after a few flashbacks, some new characters, and a little action, Pandorum actually gets better as the movie progresses. The bad news is that before this happens one must endure annoying whisper dialogue, poorly lit sets, and enough holes to make space envious for at least an hour. By that time, the sanity of the audience may be in just as much jeopardy as those stranded in space.
The best special effects occur at the beginning and end of the film, when the audience actually gets to see the exterior of the spaceship. Otherwise, there’s nothing too special going on here. The wire work enabling the mutant warriors to jump from wall to wall is impressive, a shaver that uses lasers instead of blades is amusing, and the blast coming from a Nintendo Power Glove-like weapon is cool enough, but that’s pretty much all there is. In fact, it’s a bit embarrassing whenever the ship experiences any kind of turbulence; it’s almost as if Ed Wood has risen from the grave to press the “shake-set” button himself.
Much of the inevitable frustration while viewing Pandorum lies in the cinematography. It is indeed impressive that much of the film is shot in claustrophobic conditions so Director of Photography, Wedigo von Schultzendorff, deserves credit for working in such confined spaces. There are a few well-lit sets such as a genetics room bright enough to be straight out of an Apple computer store or a power generator room complete with mutants sleeping at its base made even more terrifying by seizure-inducing flashes, but for the most part, the lighting at the beginning of the film sucks donkey nut sack. Not being able to see anything is simply frustrating. It’s bad enough not being able to follow plot, it’s even worse being literally kept in the dark. It really is a shame that all the hours of hard work usually poured into the art direction of a science fiction film is nowhere to be seen in the first hour of the movie. I’m sure it’s there somewhere; I just literally can’t see anything. Okay, so it’s supposed to be dark to put us in the physical and mental space of the characters. Still, is there not a more creative way to provide lighting rather than have the actors carry around green and blue glow sticks? 165 years into the future and the fate of mankind depends on whether or not a handful of people still possess remnants of their raving days? Give me a break.
Those rolling into the theater in anticipation of screams will be surely disappointed. Despite what movie the trailers are trying to sell, Pandorum is more of a monster action movie than a sci-fi horror film. There are a few cheap thrills that one can see from eons away, but other that that, the scariest part is the sound effects used as the mutant cannibals growl, howl, and tear their prey apart. Gruesome? Maybe. Scary? Not really.
If there is one thing that definitely works in Pandorum it’s the makeup. If a deathly pale, anorexic human being and a Lord of the Rings Orc had a love child, only to have that child adopted and raised by a tribe of Predators, then the end result would probably look something like the creatures in this movie. And the Makeup Department, including Stan Winston Studio, does a lovely job of bringing these creatures to life. These mutant warriors are not put on display as often as the viewer may desire, but when we do get to catch a glimpse of them what we see is often disgustingly marvelous. Everything from the texture of their skin to the diversity of detail put into each individual abomination is finely crafted. There is even a creepy child mutant at one point that is anything but “cute.” Just try to call it that and the makeup department may be forced to bloody you up.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Christian AlvartMartin Moszkowicz
- Producer(s): Travis MilloyDennis Quaid (Payton)
- Screenwriter(s): Ben Foster (Bower)
- Cast: Phillipp StahlWedigo von SchultzendorffRichard Bridgland
- Editor(s): Ivana Milos
- Cinematographer: Michl Britsch
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USAGermany