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. Irregardless, really???? is that even a word Mr. Scott. lol

    anyways, due to the overwhelming negative response I think this will be a rental movie for me. Even if it’s just to rewind parts to make sure I pay attention.

  2. There is no possible way in HELL that Pandorum got worse reviews than Jennifer’s Body. What is this world coming to!!!!!!!!

  3. @Vic: I can see your point lopping the very top and bottom numbers off of respondents at IMDB. Doing that 75% of the average attendees would rate it at least 3 stars by your rating system. As Lem asserts the average person doesn’t recognize good SciFi from bad. You can’t readjust your way of looking at film just to please typical attendees. Call them like you see them, but I shouldn’t fault anyone if they have a better ability to gage the pulse of a target audience. That’s what I’m learning here…

  4. Try movies while your high… wayy better

  5. @the old man

    Well I try to give some weight to the genre aspect when I rate a movie, but I just didn’t like this one. It was choppy and all over the place, no direction, didn’t care about the characters, etc. I agree the VERY beginning and end was decent, but that’s not like the first and last 20 minutes – it was more like the first and last 3 minutes with a whole lot of bad in between. That’s not enough to raise it much.


  6. For the guys that gave it a bad review. I don’t know what movie you guys were watching but you guys sure weren’t watching Pandorum. Not every movie is slated for an Academy Award. This movie had a lot going for it. First of all, the ship itself and it’s complexity was great. Second, the hyper sleep and it’s short term effect was dead on according to what scientist think. Third, the biological effects of the serum pumped into there bodies, made sense. Fourth, the psychological effect of long term consciousness made sense. This movie was a horror, sci-fi, psychological thriller in one. Very good I thought.

  7. @Fenix

    Nah that’s ok, I don’t need any help for me to enjoy myself. I can do that perfectly fine completely sober from any controlled substances.

  8. Sorry but I have to disagree. While Pandorum could have been better, I believe your disatisfaction comes more from not followiong or getting into what was hapenning. It could be that this is just one of thsoie storys where you either get it or you don’t. Its not that you are or aren’t better/worse for understanding or not , just that it’s one of those things. I totally understand what the villjans where and how they came about and I belieev the suprise/twist ending was not a bad one. Not only was the ending orginal compared to most movies of a similiar genere but it made a lot of sense.

    Sorry but this is one time where the reviewer was not the right person to review this film.

  9. @BlueCollarCritic (I like your name)

    I run the site, do most of the reviews and am a big sci-fi fan. Although I didn’t review this film I pretty much agree with Kofi’s review and might have given it maybe another half star and that’s it.


  10. Look, so many times Hollywood makes hugely expensive movies that lack the basics – like a reasonable script, etc. It is very worrying that people make big movies that turn out to be oh so bad. This is doing the US movie industry no favors – why else do you think the United Kingdom now makes more blockbusters than Hollywood (fact)? Hang your heads in shame Hollywood movie moguls – you’ve lost the plot and the script as well. I sometiems think these movies are made by teenagerers on speed. Pandorum is a self-indulgent, horribly flawed box of dislocated and tired old tricks.

  11. @bluecollarcritic

    I don’t get it, he has, on multiple occassions, explained every little detail that happened in the movie. I don’t see where there is any indication that he “didn’t get it.” Why is it so hard for people who liked this movie to believe that someone can watch it, understand it, and still not like it? It’s something called an opinion. I’m sure you have plenty of them that are not popular… He didn’t like the movie, I don’t think that REQUIRES that he didn’t understand the movie…

  12. KenJ have you even seen Pandorum,,,?

  13. @790

    I’m not making any judgment on the movie itself. All I’m saying is that Kofi, the reviewer, could dislike the movie without having to have “not gotten it.” What part of that statement requires watching the movie??? When did I say Kofi’s OPINION is “right” and yours and bluecollar’s OPINIONS are “wrong?” You and bluecollarcritic liked the movie, Kofi didn’t like the movie, live with it, it doesn’t require that he doesn’t understand the movie for him to not like it. There are plenty of movies that I disliked and it had nothing to do with whether or not I understand it, it’s just a matter of opinion, that’s my point, live with it. You guys seem so convinced that there’s no way someone can have a different opinion than you without there being something wrong with their comprehension skills or something. Get over yourselves, opinions are subjective, there are no right or wrong opinions, your opinions are not the gold standard to be matched, period.

    NONE of those *FACTS* I have just stated requires any knowledge of the movie what-so-ever. Heck, I don’t even need to know the name of the movie for me to make that statement…

  14. @VIC – Thanks for taking the “We’ll have to agree to disagree” stance instead of getting all emootional and torn like Ken J who appears to have a very difficult time dealing with decenting opinions.

    @Ken J – Since you asked and I can only assume you didn’t read his review else you wouldn’t have made these comments…

    #1 “this film is a patchwork of scenes that never feel connected”
    #2 “set in the framework of a film that never can decide which story to tell”
    #3 “That last question does get some explanation (I think),”
    #4 “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”
    #5 “There is no character development”
    #6 “or connect in any way to even one character in this film”
    #7 “Instead of depth and meaning we get a mindless progression – Event A, followed by Event B, followed by Event C”

    All are quotes from the reviewer that indicate from his perspective he didn’t get the movie. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that but it does indicate that the review will be skewed. If I were to watch an excellent documentary on needle point I would probably say it was horrible because I don’t get needlepoint. Hopefully that’s a simple enough explanation that you can understand it.

    I too have had similar takes on movies that turned out to be very different from my expectations and so I enjoyed them only after successive viewings where I went in with the right perspective on what the movie was about and would unfold as. I enjoyed THE DARK KNIGHT,. Enough so to get it on BluRay but I did not find it as favorable the first time I viewed it and that was because I had the wrong expectations. An even better example is Will Smiths HANCOCK which was incorrectly marketed as a Summer Superhero flick when it was a human drama centered around the super hero gimmick with some laughs thrown in to change things up in the film. I thoroughly hated HANCOCK the first time I saw it and yet I now own it on BluRay as well.

  15. @Ken J

    1 last thing, I don’t believe every movie has to be a TITANIC, DARK KNIGHT or a THE DEPARTED to be good and or enjoyable. Lord knows the 2 Transformers films are far from being incredible stories that unfold on the big screen but they are still fun to watch.

  16. @Ken J
    So if my opinion was that Terminator 2 was complete garbage, you would have no problem with that, right? Right? Why are you looking at me that way? :-D

  17. I just don’t see how your part of this discussion/review Ken J? You haven’t seen this film,,,

    Your defending everyones right to have there own opinion as you bash BlueCollarCritic for having his own opinion….

    So he doesn’t like the review, see the film for yourself before you come on here and look like a troll. ;-)

  18. @bluecollarcritic

    Yep, all true, I have no problem with you defending the MOVIE, but not at the expense of insulting someone’s intelligence because he didn’t like it as well. That’s my only gripe, there are plenty of people who liked a lot of movies that I thought were stupid. As long as they don’t try to tell me I’m too dumb to understand it being the reason why I didn’t like it, that’s fine by me that they liked it and I didn’t.


    LOL, I actually do know people who hated T2. In my opinion they are very misguided, but yes, even *THEY* are allowed to have their own [stupid] opinions… lol, just kidding :-D


    When did I bash bluecollarcritic’s opinion? If you want to talk about being a troll, part of that is not reading and, eh hem, UNDERSTANDING my point and then commenting on it. My only gripe is that the people defending the film would accuse Kofi of “not understanding it” as the reason for why he didn’t like it. It’s like you guys are saying that only dumb people who don’t understand things can dislike this movie. Disagree with him all you want about how you thought this was a great movie, but don’t start making accusations or assumptions about his ability to understand the movie.

    I’m pretty sure I made this point perfectly clear the first two times I said it, but maybe the third time’s the charm for you to UNDERSTAND such a simple point as the one I’m making… :-D

    Geez, speaking of lacking comprehension skill… :-P

  19. @Hank

    Thank you, exactly my point. Oh, but you must be defending Kofi and bashing bluecollar and 790! you are such a troll!! lol just kidding… :-D

  20. Ken says:
    “When did I bash BlueCollarCritic’s opinion?” 8-O
    (Ah right here)
    “Why is it so hard for people who liked this movie to believe that someone can watch it, understand it,and still not like it? Its something called an opinion… I’m sure you have plenty of them that are not popular.”
    (BlueCollar wasn’t addressing you KenJ, he was making a comment/having an opinion on Kofi’s review. You know that word you defend when it suits your agenda.)
    Then Ken says:
    “My only gripe is that the people defending the film would accuse Kofi of “not understanding it” as the reason for why he didn’t like it.”
    (That’s BlueCollar’s opinion Ken, but apparently that’s offensive to you, and now your going to take the moral high ground and put BlueCollar down for having an opinion while at the same time defending Kofi’s right to have one… (Arguing in circles KenJ, like a drama queen)
    Then Ken says;
    “It’s like you guys are saying that only dumb people who don’t understand things can dislike this movie. Disagree with him all you want about how you thought this was a great movie, but don’t start making accusations or assumptions about his ability.”
    So Ken you’ve never made accusations or assumptions on others ability to form an opinion?
    Haha. Your doing it now, you do it every chance you get…
    (My reading comprehension is in check here? Comical)
    Ken why do feel compelled to post your subtle little insults on every thread here at Screen Rant? Is your life that void of control that you only get satisfaction sitting someplace in Florida (prob a kinkos) dictating to all of us what an opinion is, while opposing those that have their own opinion’s.
    Is this making any sense to you?, or are you so filled with drama and angst that you can’t see how hypocritical you come off on almost everything you type??? Lol. ;-)

  21. Um, 790, when is your birthday? I’m going to buy you a dictionary because apparently you don’t know the meaning of bashing or insulting or anything. How is “Why is it so hard for people who liked this movie to believe that someone can watch it, understand it,and still not like it? Its something called an opinion… I’m sure you have plenty of them that are not popular.” Bashing anyone?? It’s not just blue collar, it’s you, blue collar, and at least two other people who have accused Kofi of not understanding the movie. So I’m asking why is it that it has to be assumed that Kofi doesn’t understand the movie in order for him to not like it.

    Here, in case your short term memory is gone:

    790 says:
    September 27, 2009 at 6:19 pm
    “Kofi, you totally missed the point…”

    April says:
    September 28, 2009 at 11:12 am
    “Wow, Pandorum was an amazing movie and you’re just upset you didn’t understand any of it.”

    Tedness says:
    September 30, 2009 at 7:57 pm
    “…the bad reviews are from people that did not pay very good attention.”

    BlueCollarCritic says:
    October 5, 2009 at 12:03 pm
    “I believe your disatisfaction comes more from not followiong or getting into what was hapenning.”

    Alright, your turn to try your hardest to find any kind of proof that I was singling anyone out or “bashing” anyone… I’m making a GENERAL statement about how someone can dislike a movie without it being because he didn’t understand the movie. Is that really such a complicated point to understand?

  22. Oh, oops, forgot to mention, I got a good chuckle at your last comment saying I’m opposing people with their own opinions, when I’m actually supporting ALL opinions, for or against this movie, since I don’t have any opinion on this movie good or bad. Heck, I was interested in watching it because Dennis Quaid is in it, so if anything, I’m more hoping for the best with this one, but anywho, I’m just noticing that instead of simply disagreeing with his views, people feel compelled to pass judgment on his comprehension ability. And in case your short term memory is off, who is this person who was actually taking your side?

    “…I do agree with 790 that Kofi was a quite aggressive with his first response.”

    Oh right, that was ME. I guess that was “my bad” for defending you that time, I guess Kofi was just a wiser man than I and knew better than to not treat your responses with aggression…

    But yep, I’m taking Kofi’s side and bashing everyone who goes against him, yep, the evidence of that is all there… LOL :-D

  23. 8-)

    Read my last comment KenJ… It might take repeated reading for it to sink in… ;-)

    BlueCollar”s last comment was also on the mark,,, sincerly 790, lol ;-) and all that,,, jazz bs.

  24. You should quit while your behind KenJ… Really,,,

    This dialog reminds me of beating down a mutated human on a ill fated spaceship…
    Lol, ;-) and all that jazz, bs blogger bling you sign off with,,,$

  25. What, you want me to laugh some more at your feeble attempt to get to me? If that’s the case, thanks, I’m glad you’re helping me get my daily dose of entertainment. :-) You’re so sweet, you know that right? Come on, man hug! :-D

  26. Alright, man-hugging out of the way, lol. :-D

    I’m half-way disappointed that you’ve downgraded your rebuttal to cute remarks without substance already… It usually takes a little while longer before you retire with that. Oh well, maybe not a good day, but it is better than those times where you just get all pissed off and it ends with a bunch of explicitives, haha.

  27. “loosing track of where you are and what was going on;” Might just be what the director intended. It might not be the best way to convey brain freeze of the characters but if some in the audience felt that, then the director is giving his audience some credit.

    Trying to communicate what freezer burn would be like to the audience in this way is going to generate upset too. Only natural, you begin to wonder about everything. It would be interesting to ask the director if you could frame the question in a clever way. On the other hand, that might not be productive either. Some people operate on a gut level rather than an intellectual one.

    Life imitates art as the product’s conflicting essence is copied in another virtual world, by real people discussing it. Reminds me of the idea of a Stand Alone Complex without being one…

  28. Agreeing to disagree is good discussion skills here. Okay the movie is NOT a work of art – so what?