Pandorum Review

Published 6 years ago by , Updated September 28th, 2009 at 7:44 am,

Short Version: Pandorum is a mess of a movie that squanders a lot of potential.

pandorum screen rant review Pandorum Review
Screen Rant Reviews Pandorum

Movies often fail for varying reasons; sometimes the fatal flaw is in the script, sometimes the performances of the actors and sometimes because of the filmmaker’s total ineptness. Pandorum suffers from the latter case: director Christian Alvart has stitched together a patchwork of scenes that never really cohere into an actual movie. It’s a real tragedy, considering the potential this film had.

Pandorum opens as Corporal Bower (Ben Foster) wakes from cryogenic sleep aboard the starship Elysium (clever pun), whose mission is to ferry the last remnants of humanity to a new home planet. Bower wakes with all of his technical memory intact – how to operate the ship’s equipment, his military protocol – but his personal memories (events leading up to waking, such as where he is and how he got there) are all foggy. The room he wakes up in is sealed shut, and the ship’s power supply is in disarray due to a reactor malfunction. Soon after Bower gets on his feet, another cryo-pod pops open and Lieutenant Payton (Dennis Quaid) joins party.

As the slimmer man, Bower heads up into the ventilation ducts bound for the ship’s reactor, which he seems to recall being assigned to operate and fix. With Payton guiding him via comm link, Bower enters the bowels of the ship and steps right into a living nightmare.

Monsters have taken over the ship (as if you didn’t already know). They are a species of pale white, inhumanly fast and strong warrior-killers, who spend their days hunting down the remaining humans and feasting on their bodies. After narrowly escaping the creatures, Bower meets a pretty ecologist-turned-survival expert named Nadia (Antje Traue) and a hunter-warrior named Manh (martial arts star Cung Le). After a violent introduction, the three humans band together to venture into the heart of the ship and reset the reactor before the vessel loses all power and the last of humanity dies in space.

While the field team is at work, Payton is running point from the cryo-chamber room and is eventually joined by Corporal Gallo (Cam Gigandet), who claims to be one of three crew members awake for the Elysium’s initial lift-off from Earth. According to Gallo, his crewmates became afflicted with the space madness known as “pandorum,” forcing Gallo to kill them all. The corporal tells Payton that Bower might also be suffering from pandorum, since he ventured out on a veritable suicide mission; for the good of the ship, Payton should seize control of the situation.

What unfolds from there is as predictable as your first guess and is even less exciting than you imagine. Like I said, this film is a patchwork of scenes that never feel connected, set in the framework of a film that never can decide which story to tell. Is the focus Bower and Payton’s mysterious pasts? Is it a survival story? Is it a psychological thriller about space madness (what the hell is “pandorum,” exactly)? And where did those creatures come from and what are they after? That last question does get some explanation (I think), but again, even the story behind the story is such a mess that I’m not quite clear what the explanation was. The shots and action sequences are often so incoherent that you’ll lose track of where YOU are or what is going on, just the characters themselves. It’s not a favorable position to put a movie audience in.

pandorum 7 Pandorum Review

I will take a minute to absolve the stars of Pandorum of blame, since I don’t believe the fatal fault lies with them. Everybody on screen looks lost and/or confused most of the time (see pic above), and rightly so: most of the scenes look like they were shot with the director sitting up on a high chair yelling “Do This! Ok… Now do that!” in random increments over a megaphone while the actors just tried to keep up. There is no character development (we’re supposed to believe that these characters’ choices are their choices just because the film says they are), and worst of all, I didn’t like, dislike or connect in any way to even one character in this film, and when you can remain that indifferent for an hour and a half…

Instead of depth and meaning we get a mindless progression – Event A, followed by Event B, followed by Event C. Whatever happens, happens, with absolutely no regard for whether or not the occurrences are consistent with the characters, or whether or not they make any narrative sense. It’s storytelling in the dark. Poor Dennis Quaid suffers the brunt of it – his entire role is set in the cryo-room, engaged in increasingly ridiculous back-and-forths with Gigandet. God bless him – I would have shot myself.

As for the monsters – which Pandorum kept veiled in secrecy during the ad campaigns – they’re badass, but unfortunately just as hollow and flimsy as everything else in this movie. And oh man, by the time you get to the “twist ending” you’ll want to hunt down the filmmakers, bop them on the head with a rolled up newspaper and say, “Bad dog! No! No!”

In the end, there is nothing redeeming about this movie. For the first twenty minutes you’ll be handed the promise of a freaky sci-fi thriller (thank Foster, as usual, for making a lot out of a little), but after that, if you hang around for the rest of Pandorum, you too will be forced to watch that promise denigrate into cosmic slop.

Welcome to the first real disappointment of the fall 2009 movie season.

Our Rating:

1 out of 5

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    • Well now it only 7.7 rated below average.

  1. @Vic
    and everyone else

    I’m with Vic on this one, as a fan of sci-fi, the promise this film held was unfortunately squandered. I would not go as far as giving it a 1 out of 5 like Kofi, however I will say that the monsters took away from the movie for me, I as not looking for Orcs from Mordor to be chasing the characters around.

  2. I would have given it a 3 out of 5, it certainly had its merits, but fell short.

  3. Well, I liked it.
    It was fulll of plot holes, but a lot of those answers were hinted to at least.
    I mean its not like Donnie Darko or The Box, which pretty much leave you in the dark to everything.
    The movie cant do all the thinking for you Kofi, If I watch a movie like that I find myself incredibly bored. And also I didn't click to Gallo and Paytons connection until their fight scene when it became rather obvious and I thought the twist at the end, explaining where the ship was really all that time, was pretty good.

    • That’s not what a plot hole is.

  4. The Film really was terrible and a mess left alot of things unsolved and the monsters as cool as they were didnt truly add up to the whole story line besides making things harder for the crew unless i missed something huge this movie was a big let down for me ben foster i think did pretty well though

  5. The Film really was terrible and a mess left alot of things unsolved and the monsters as cool as they were didnt truly add up to the whole story line besides making things harder for the crew unless i missed something huge this movie was a big let down for me ben foster i think did pretty well though

  6. Terrible review, great movie. It was a combination of the moody paranoia, fear, and dark corners in Aliens 2 with the sublimely weird and somewhat intimate, character driven science fiction in Solaris. In fact, in general it was basically Aliens on the Event Horizon ship. The science fiction was interesting and unobtrusive, and the fact that this was taking place in the future, on a space ship never felt like the meat of the plot. Yes there were a lot of questions unanswered, but it was done in the tradition of the best stories. I much prefer that it didn’t make a shoddy attempt at conveying technical details (always done with disastrous results) and kept a very tight plot, and managed to intelligently introduce and develop characters. It felt believable, and there were only a few groan moments. The major plot reveal was absolutely great, the plot twists were predictable but still enjoyable, and by making the protagonist suffer from retrograde amnesia (which made sense in the context of the plot), the backstory could be slowly unwound through a combination of flashback and more overt exposition without feeling heavy handed.

    Anyways, there’s a good reason this site is called screen rant. Like most sites with bi-syllabic names, you lamely reach for notoriety by panning movies that you consider to be ready-made for the mainstream crowd, and in doing so attempt to present yourself as witty/insightful avant-garde reviewers. It’s therefore unfortunate that once in a while a mainstream, B-grade Hollywood director comes out with a fairly well executed, if derivative, character driven science fiction movie. This was a great flick, and I’m sorry that you were too busy trying to formulate ironic (cliche) catch phrases in what amounts to a bad high school book report. Misplaced criticism is the inverse of insight.

  7. Its surprising that reviewers seem to rate some quite good movies with only one star. Its as if they’ve seen so many movies that perhaps they’ve just come to dislike all movies and don’t remember anymore what a good movie is. I felt that this movie should’ve seen more like 3 stars. Its rare that a movie like this comes along that actually has an interesting plot rather than a remake of some 70′s movie or an idea thats been done a thousand times. I love sci-fi movies and this one was quite good. This was a combination of sci-fi and horror and I felt it was done quite well. If that type of movie interests you then I would highly recommend that you see it.

  8. This movie is unjustifieable underated by critics.
    It’s an refreshing intelligent Movie with a surprising clever and thrilling plot.
    If you like dark survival movies like the descent,
    you will be definitely entertained.

  9. GREAT MOVIE – I saw it for the first time last night.
    Ordered the Blue Ray first thing this morning. Original story and totally underated by the critics.
    If you like Sci Fi/ Horror I recommend this movie. Fast, scary, and it feels like the game dead space.

    LOVED IT !!!!

  10. Movie review = F for fail . They dont know what a good movie is and have no clue what they are saying, and i bet lost boys 2 got a good movie review of 4 stars by this clown . Good movie !!!!!!!!

    • I’d give Kofi an A for deep throating his own smugness.

  11. Hey I kinda liked it lol
    The confusion, feeling of lost and not sure what’s going on, well I think that’s what makes this movie. Instead of not being part of the movie. You where in it, as though you were the one waking up from the pod, you don’t know anything. Then you journey down with the characters it’s kinda scary in the dark, with wierd things around. The only thing I didn’t understand is how that corporal guy looked and acted so normal at the start of the movie and digressed lol I liked it 8D

  12. To see a worse movie you’d have to watch “Plan 9 From Outer Space” with the sound turned up to 150 decibels and the brightness almost off.
    I love Sci-fi and this love was sorely tested enduring the painful onslaught of disgusting sights, gory actors, and an endless and continuous cornucopia of blasting noises, screams, whines, bangs, slams.. my ears hurt.
    This piece of crap was filmed for the first hour and twenty five minutes in near total darkness, with the occasional strobe light or with actors finding their way around the labyrinth by pointing a flashlight at their own face!
    At least 3/4 of the dialog was unintelligible because of either the actor’s accent, frenzied whispering, or being drowned out by the above mentioned cacophony.
    I wish we still had the pillory so I could blast a compressed air horn in the directors ear, poke him in the eye, and smash a rotten tomato in his face.
    But the rack might be more in keeping with the torture this movie is.

  13. I year later… this movie is STILL terrible.

    • I seriously don’t understand your criticism on the character development after watching the film.

  14. this deserves 3.5 stars