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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  1. Wow… This got a lower score then tf2…. Buhuhahahahahaha. Good thing i’m saving my money for the dvd release of “Trick r Treat” which is supposedly on the 6th. Wonder though what 790 has to say about this review though since he was saying it was sooooooo good and stuff. Fyi… I’m not instigating… Just curious on his rebuttal… Maybe the movie is good and kofi didn’t understand it.



    Kofi, you totally missed the point of Payton and Gallo as they were the same person. Pandorum had completely taken over Payton he was making Gallo up in his mind. Payton was the one that caused the problem with the mission resulting in the human mutation of the crew.
    It was explained that Payton killed everyone and then went back to sleep leaving the ship to degrade. He obviously knew Bower was an engineer and had him awake first. Payton was using him all along.

    The mutants weren’t the main story Payton’s game was the main story. Sorry you went in looking for “30 days of Spaceship”. The marketing was ill directed. Especially making the posters look like a horror film.
    The ending was full of redemption, I’m not sure what you missed on that one,,
    On SR scale I would give this a 4 out of 5. Sure it did have some bad editing in the fight scenes but other then that it was pretty good sci- fi.

  3. @790
    so its not like aliens or something like that? To tell you the truth when i first saw the trailer for it that they didn’t show any creatures in it i was actually onboard to watch this one until they started showing the creatures in the tv spots which just totally took me out of it. I had thought it was going to be some sort of thriller like “mindhunters” or ” unknown” where they wake up and start remembering certain things but add-on the pandorum sickness where some or all are imagining certain things happenning to them and the ship. I might have to check and see if they’re accepting passes to see for myself whats really going on in this movie.

  4. @790

    Dude, it was obvious from the moment Gallo appeared what was happening. You are sticking up for a terrible movie. The fact that you think I “missed that point” is laughable. It was SO freaking obvious and they stretched that bit out for half an hour of screen time.

    Keep telling yourself it was good if you want. I WASN’T Aliens or Event Horizon, or Dead Space, even though it tried to be ALL 3.


  5. Well Kofi I don’t need to keep telling myself it was a good movie, it was. After reading your review I had the impression the film didn’t make much sense to you. Maybe that has something to do with how you write your reviews, who knows.

  6. …Or maybe you were “surprised” and “Impressed” by a “Crap” movie. It wasn’t deep, It wasn’t full of metaphor or grand symbolism, 790 — it tried to steal from half a dozen other, better, movies and was slapped together by an inept, inefficient director.

    You can tell me that “it’s your opinion” stuff all day, but I’ll tell you “A bad movie is a bad movie,” just as many times back.

    And no… I write good reviews. The film is a mess, and after all the films I hear you ridicule, regularly, the fact that you can convince yourself that THIS MOVIE was worth your price of admission at the theater is funny to me. Guess now we know you are mortal, and flawed.

    BTW: I didn’t include this in the review, but I got to interview Ben Foster, Antje Traue and Cung Le (With producer Paul WS Anderson) at Comic Con. The reason I don’t mention it (and never wrote up the interview) was because within just a few questions, I could tell THEY could tell it was crap. They were trying too hard to sell it, and Foster (drinking on whiskey the whole time) wasn’t even TRYING.

    In fact, Foster’s quote about his role in this was (paraphrasing) “It’s kid’s stuff, it’s nothing — we all know what that’s about, that scary, bump in the night nightmare stuff. It’s nothing new…”

    So way to support this – you are a man on an island.

    But you keep on keeping hope alive, bud. Thankfully we live in a socialized state of opinion, where no one is any more valid than the other, so… I guess you’re right and this movie is great — which is why it was released in late September (season of great movies) and its stars had little faith in it and the critics seem to agree — none of that matters because those are all just opinions and yours is just as right and valid — and dammit, Pandorum is just a FANTASTIC movie…


  7. I see that you didn’t like the film Kofi, that’s great but your getting a little personal, and coming off as rude and immature.

    I would expect more class from a Screen Rant columnist…

  8. Haven’t seen it yet, but have heard all good reviews so far until this one. What to do what to do

  9. Well at RottenTomatoes right now it’s scoring 39% positive reviews but there are only 28 reviews which aren’t that many. Usually you need to get up to about 60 or so before the score really stabilizes and is representative.

    The average score there right now is 2.35 out of 5.


  10. i think this should be reviewed by someone who knows how to write a review not a bloody movie synopsis.

    sorry matey but imo no movie deserves a 1/5 no matter how sucky it is/was.

    i havent seen it yet but now i am to prove you wrong

  11. Hey 790 the man just thinks its bad and I’m sure its a mess just like he said. Doesn’t mean it isn’t mildly entertaining… And congrats on not agreeing with a movie review, I don’t agree with some of them but there is no need to call the man rude and immature. We are all grown people and their are ways to respectfully disagree. The only reason I say something is because I’ve been reading SR for a few months now and have come to realize that these columnists do have a lot of class and they for the most part know their s***.

    Oh and you did tell they guy that maybe he didn’t get the movie. Thats like saying he isn’t intelligent enough or something which is sorta insulting wouldn’t you say?

  12. Yeah right,,, Fenix have you seen the film ???

    Also I didn’t start this aggressive tone. If you read Kofi’s article its seems clear that he’s not sure what’s going on with Payton, (would you like me to copy and paste that for everyone?)

    Read the review, towards the end here’s what Kofi has to say about people seeing “Pandorum”
    Kofi says and I quote, “If you too are fool enough to hang around for the rest of Pandorum”,,,

    If I’m fool enough,,,??? Gimme a break,

    thanks for your thoughts Fenix,,,

  13. @790

    Nobody was confused with the “I wanna be Fight Club” Payton thing, man. It was another Fight Club Rip off, plain and simple and you could see it coming from the first second Gallo appeared. I didn’t mention that in the review b/c it’s a MAJOR SPOILER. DUH……..

    I dare you to prove from the text of the review that I was “confused” by that. Go ahead, C&P away so I can tear you up on reading comprehension. And go back and look at our Pandorum archives on the site: I did a lot of the coverage, and my angle was that the film looked good and that I was excited for it — b/c I was. It was just so unforgivably bad that I couldn’t score it higher.

    You know what? I gotta game for you, 790. I’m going to start firing off questions that you – who are so brilliant and weren’t confused by this movie – should be able to answer:

    1. Bower figures out the big “Twist” with Payton when he’s in the cargo room that holds the flight crew’s family, and he sees a cryo-pod for Mrs. Payton and he says “Payton’s wife… I remember now…”

    What was it about the pod and Mrs. Payton that made him suddenly jump over the big hurdle of memory loss?

  14. @jwalka

    NO movie deserves a 1/5? Seriously?


  15. Question #2 for 790:

    On a ship carrying the last vestiges of humanity, would the people onboard really live solitary lives when faced with extinction? They wouldn’t band together and form a resistance, or at least be in close contact for comfort and/or love? They would just roam around randomly getting picked off one by one and call that “survival?” It goes against every instinct there is and was one of the dumbest things about the movie, IMHO.

    OH: and I took out the fool part of the concluding paragraph b/c it was upsetting people: I was saying that I was the fool for sitting through it and that others shouldn’t follow my mistake, just to clarify. Not saying “only idiots would sit through this.”

  16. Kofi and 790, play nice or I’ll have to spank both of you! :-D

    790, you know I have great respect for you but I saw this film and have to agree with Kofi. Although I would probably give it 2 out of 5.

    ****** SPOILER AHEAD ******

    Can someone tell me how Earth was destroyed? I understand that mankind was on the brink of destruction and all but the actual Earth was broken in two (at least that was what the sensors said). They seemed to have implied nuclear destruction but it wasn’t completely clear. I also was not clear on the creatures; it was said that the chemicals used to adapt humanity to the new planet somehow created these creatures but not all humans were transformed. Also, I think that a ship as advanced as this one would not have had spiders crawling around. What were they feeding on while the humans were in stasis?

    ****** END SPOILERS ******


    No film is worth 1 out of 5? You’re kidding, right? Please watch Land of the Lost or Battlefield Earth, then come back and tell me what you think. :-)

  17. They lost me anyway with casting Cam gadget or whatever his name is. He sucked in Twilight but has a huge following from that.

    I guess I’ll wait for redbox.

  18. OMG,

    Thank you JKT, THANK YOU. I played around between 1 and 2 stars but in the end I personally didn’t enjoy the movie at all. But Thank you for being another regular reader who loves sci-fi to say this film is not good…

  19. @Kofi

    No problem, buddy. I’m here to support all of you writers (and that includes you too 790). I tried writing some stuff for Vic a year or 2 ago but I am no where near as good as you guys are (writing and investigation). We all give our opinions, and there were times I disagreed with some of SR’s opinions, but this time I totally agree. Keep up the good work.

  20. Wow, Pandorum was an amazing movie and you’re just upset you didn’t understand any of it. It’s obvious you didn’t understand any of it because your whole review just sounds idiotic. Maybe you should see the movie angain and really pay attention this time. You must be one of those critics who only likes movies that spell everything out for them because you don’t wanna waste the last brain cells you might actually have. See it again, it was one of the best sci-fi movies I’ve seen.

  21. Really April? You think I don’t “Get” Pandorum?

    Well let’s hear your wonderful explanation of this “deep movie.”

    I get it so well that I’ve been able to formulate some very specific questions for the viewers who “got it.”

    To prove that you’re not just taking pot-shots at a review you don’t agree with or like, why don’t you address those questions?
    See the orange boxes in the thread.

    Go ahead, April, instead of calling me an idiot – answer the questions.


    “Nobody was confused with the “I wanna be Fight Club” Payton thing, man.
    It was another Fight Club Rip off, plain and simple and you could see it coming from the first second Gallo appeared.”

    Hmm well I haven’t seen “Fight Club”, and I would like you to explain how you knew Gallo was Payton other then to draw conclusions to other films that fit your opinion after the fact. Their military tattoos clearly weren’t the same and they weren’t even the same age,,,
    KOFI SAYs:
    “I dare you to prove from the text of the review that I was “confused” ”
    This part right here Kofi, where you say::
    “Is the focus Bower and Paytons mysterious pasts? Is it a survival story? is it a psychological thriller about space madness (what the hell is “pandorum” exactly) and where do those creatures come from and what are they after?

    It sounds like you had a lot of unanswered questions. Pandorum was totally explained as a flashback cut scene and the creatures were human mutations. Also explained as the ship and its crew had been lost for over 953 years. Hey mutations happen.
    KOFI’s has a game for me to play,,,
    Ques #1. Bower figures out the big “Twist” with Payton when he’s in the cargo room that holds the flight crew’s family, and he sees a cryo-pod for Mrs. Payton and he says “Payton’s wife… I remember now…”

    What was it about the pod and Mrs. Payton that made him suddenly jump over the big hurdle of memory loss?
    Kofi, he didn’t jump over the big hurdle of memory loss, the thought of Payton’s wife TRIGGERED the memory of HIS girlfriend that he left back on Earth. That was HIS awakening. He even explained it to Nadia as the reason he joined the mission. He didn’t see through Payton’s plan until the very last scene on the bridge. As they were both suffering from Pandorum…

  23. Here’s a review I DIDN’T consult before writing mine, but mysteriously echoes a lot of the same issues… Hmmm…

  24. I haven’t seen this good of a chic fight since high school. Keep it up fellas. :)



    The specifics of Earths destruction were never revealed. ^
    The creatures were humans that Payton had banished to the lower levels in his initial takeover of the ship.
    The normal humans were those that recently awoke from stasis. They didn’t remember anything because they had been in cryo for hundreds of years.
    The spider more than likely escaped from the species biosphere chamber and had lots to eat with all the death around…

  26. @ 790 & April

    Again you are stretching to make this terrible movie fit your admiration.

    If you don’t know the old Fight Club “they’re the same person” gimmick by now, you need to catch up on film trends of the last decade. Seriously. Clearly I WAS paying more attention than either of you two, because in the scene where Payton/Gallo are fighting for the sedative syringe, the hallucination breaks down in that “trippy sequence” and their tattoos finally do become the same for a quick second. Gallo also starts calling Payton “Corporal” (Gallo’s rank) when he’s locked in the cryo-pod, instead of “Lieutenant” (Payton’s suppossed rank).

    Other obvious clues: Gallo appears naked from nowhere after Payton’s been isolated for awhile and yet Gallo never once mentions the monsters on the ship (which Payton/Gallo had never seen). He only mentions Pandorum and having to kill the crew members. And nobody but Payton ever interacted with Gallo or heard him speak (BEYOND OBVIOUS).

    Finally, during that HORRIBLE montage scene with cannibal human guy hanging Bower and his friends up to be eaten, it keeps cutting back and forth to Payton when cannibal guy is talking about the “self-proclaimed king of the ship.” Pretty obvious to anybody who knows ANYTHING about film what the hint was there.

    It’s also only HINTED why the monsters appeared (food nutrients) but while the question is raised by Bower and Nadia why the WHOLE crew didn’t transform… well… they just let that question pass without coming back to it. No explanation of why the human/monsters would form a tribal hunting system and not mindlessly kill and eat one another, when the humans themselves didn’t band together for survival??? IT DOESN’T MAKE NARRATIVE OR CHARACTERISTIC SENSE. Humans had been divided for years surviving on the ship, but Bower is the first person to suggest cooperation and they all just fall into line in five seconds??? LOL.

    In fact, everything about the monsters was gimmicky and without real purpose–other than being an obstacle for Bower and company to have to overcome.

    I GET EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS MOVIE, for you doubters out there, Which is why I comprehend how bad it is. I pay attention – that’s never been called into question on this site EVER, up until I enraged some sci-fi lovers about a poor entry in their beloved genre.

    Pandorum is NOT a “deep, thinking person’s movie.” The way 790 and April talk, it’s on par with District 9 or something — HELL NO. HELLZ NO. Not even close. Like all poorly done sci-fi movies, it’ll be run on Encore (not HBO) between the hours of 2-4 a.m.

    The cast even knew it was a weak film — how do you justify THAT? When the star (Foster) called it “kid’s stuff????”


    KOFI QUES #2:
    “On a ship carrying the last vestiges of humanity, would the people onboard really live solitary lives when faced with extinction? They wouldn’t band together and form a resistance, or at least be in close contact for comfort and/or love? They would just roam around randomly getting picked off one by one and call that “survival?” It goes against every instinct there is and was one of the dumbest things about the movie, IMHO.”
    Kofi, the people on board were the few that were recently awaken, they didn’t remember their past and had to lock themselves in rooms to seek shelter from the mutated humans. Not really the best situation for a lovefest. They had no idea they were part of a colony ship as some even spoke other languages…. (Totally explained in the film during the scene with Nadia in the biosphere)

  28. I’m done playing games Kofi, you said you knew instantly that Gallo was Payton then you give examples that didn’t occur til later in the film.
    I don’t care to read other reviews that agree with you, I’ve never seen anyone freak out this much over a film they didn’t like.
    I don’t see movies to compare and judge them on how they give and take from other films I watch movies to be entertained. “Pandorum” was very entertaining and had a great science fiction story at the heart of it…
    Your negative review is your opinion, and personally If I was an actor and had to take time out to go to ComicCon and answer non specific questions as to not give away what film I’m promoting I would be drinking too. Most actors consider science fiction “kids stuff” and I can understand why he said that…

  29. Hmmm, well I actually liked the movie and didn’t think there was anything that puzzling about the story. They didn’t give an explanation as to what exactly destroyed the earth. They just said they did a scan and 3 of the celetial bodies they scanned for were not there. If you read the screen it said scans showed no readings. The computer voice was telling them they were the last remaining humans. Quaid/Gallow character suggests possible nuclear weapons or an asteroid in the background but you can barely hear him. The creatures were crew members that Quaid/Gallow released after going coo-coo from Pandorum. At that moment, Gallo had snapped and succumbed to Pandorum, killing the other flight crew members with him. Since then, he has been playing God, exiling awakened crew members and passengers to the storage hold, which is where they began to mutate and adapt to the ship’s environment. The monsters are former crew members endowed with genetic enhancements meant to help them adapt to their eventual new world, but which instead caused them to mutate to the spacecraft environment, this only affected those no longer in cryosleep slowing their systems and squelching the effects. This was all explained by crazy black guy and his wall drawings. By now, almost all of the 16,000 person crew is either dead or mutated. The recently revived members are missing memory, experiencing Pandorum effects, and thown into a nightmare…so no they didn’t band together cause they are all experiencing psycosis and not in their right minds.

    So again, it all made perfect sense to me, was very entertaining and dare I say, pretty scary in places. I would like to add that you were all being rather rude to each other, especially you Kofi, and you should all be ashamed of yourselves. There…I said it.

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