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. Hey guys,

    We’ve all gotten heated on this thread, but let’s cool it down now.

    I will say – my unusually aggressive outbursts here weren’t due to my differing opinion of the film. As Ken J points out, it was the repeated assertion that I couldn’t comprehend the film that fueled my antagonism. Maybe that’s a fault of how I wrote the review, maybe I touched a nerve, but whatever; Let’s all agree to disagree on this film and stop tossing daggers at one another.

    There are many more films for us to argue!!! On to it!

  2. @Ken J & @Kofi

    I just read thru all the posts, something I did not originally do when I made my first comment about the review and so I had no idea how heated the debate about this film had already gotten. That said I have to tell you that from the posts it appears the first “heated” shots came from the 2 of you when replying to posts from others that disagreed with Kofi’s review of the movie. They were not in response to posts calling the reviewer dumb or an idiot and that includes my own fist post which @Ken J has inaccurately labeled as be derogatory towards the reviewer. I wasn’t even been derogative of the review itself let alone the reviewer. I clearly stated the reviewer either did not get it or just did not follow the story. There’s nothing slanderous in that unless you are someone who is unable to accept anything other than praise.

    The heated back & forths have highlighted something about PANDORUM that otherwise would have been missed. This movie falls into that fairly narrow genre of films that have 2 clearly defined group; those who hated it and those who really liked it. This is not to say that there are NO middle of the roads but that more than the normal percentage of those who have watched it fall into one of these 2 extremes then fall into the middle. It also points out that movie reviews, no matter how well intended by the reviewer to be unbiased there will always be personal bias involved. Can anyone here, including Kofi & Ken J say they have never disagreed with a review by a reviewer that they have normally agreed with?

    Could PANDORUM have been better?
    Did the director fail to deliver %100?

    I doubt anyone would say and absolute NO to either of these and clearly some feel a much stronger YES to one of both of these then others. Be thankful for this because if we all liked the same thing the world would be a very boring place.

    @Ken J” – As for forum conduct, those who can’t deal with dissenting opinions need to avoiding posting , especially in the heat of emotion because not only could you say something you otherwise would not have but you make yourself look like one of those teenage kiddies that are often tagged as trolls or script kiddies because of the trouble they seem to enjoy stirring up.
    @Kofi – Just because someone has a dissenting take on a review of yours doesn’t mean they have a personal problem with you or even your review and therefore doesn’t warrant a heated/emotional rebuttal that appears to be some kind of self-defense post. Not everyone is gonna agree with your take on a film and that’s just life. Don’t take it personal.

  3. @BlueCollarCritic
    I clearly stated the reviewer either did not get it or just did not follow the story

    But isn’t it possible that Kofi did understand, did follow it and still did not like it? I think that was Ken J’s point.

  4. @bluecollar

    Uuhhh, sorry to say dude, maybe you need to re-read the posts again, because I never started out by defending Kofi, as I’ve COPIED AND PASTED in a reply to 790 just a few post above, one of my first posts I was defending 790 (which likes the movie) because I felt Kofi was being a bit too aggressive and antagonistic in his response… So actually, if you want to be all black and white and we all have to only be on one “side” or another, I was technically on 790′s “side.”

    But actually, I don’t have any opinion on this movie good or bad, in fact, I actually was interested in watching it because Dennis Quaid is in it (haven’t I said this before? Deja vu…). So technically, I’m on neither “side” and was probably leaning more toward interested in the movie than not, but not anymore. I was speaking objectively from a 3rd person view as to the types of comments I read on here. I know it must have annoyed Kofi beause it annoyed me just reading it. Like I’VE QUOTED TO 790 A FEW POSTS ABOVE THIS ONE (don’t make me repeat myself), you were not the only person to make that claim that Kofi didn’t understand the movie. I’m sure you like to feel like you were the first, but sorry bud, you’re not THAT original apparently… My quote had times, dates, and the names of the other people who made the same assertion. Go read it. Thank you.

  5. @John

    Wow, OMG! You’ve figured out the super duper complicated cryptic message from my horribly hard to understand posts!!! You can’t blame them for not understanding, it obviously requires a rocket scientist to figure it out, and you must be our resident rocket scientist! :-D Damn Star Trek nerds… :-P

  6. @hank

    Yah, don’t worry, I was being sarcastic man, haha. I know you weren’t defending Kofi’s review, you were making the same point I was making.

  7. @Ken J
    After I ran a bypass between the phase discreminators and the duotronic enhancers, I used a quantum isolinear scanner to ascertain the jist of your statements. And who you callin’ a nerd?! :-D

  8. LOL John, the way some people don’t seem to “get it” or “understand” my point despite me breaking it down and explaining it in 6 different ways, one would think that it really requires all that you just said in order to “get it.” Get it? lol :-D

    Hey, being called a nerd is not an insult. I am proud to be a nerd, you should too, lol.

  9. From a post by @Ken J: @bluecollar

    ‘Uuhhh, sorry to say dude, maybe you need to re-read the posts again, because I never started out by defending Kofi, as I’ve COPIED AND PASTED in a reply to 790 just a few post above, one of my first posts I was defending 790 (which likes the movie) because I felt Kofi was being a bit too aggressive and antagonistic in his response… So actually, if you want to be all black and white and we all have to only be on one “side” or another, I was technically on 790’s “side.” ‘

    What? Are you even thinking before you type? You can read yes? I never said you started out defending anything. I only pointed out that the emotions first started on thsi thread came from you and @Kofi in rebutal to others comments.

    And no I never claimed I was the only one who said this or believd I was.

    You know what, I give up. I have beter luck taking to my 3 year old and getting here to understand the basics of Quantum Mechanics then trying to get you to understand your own posts.

  10. “I only pointed out that the emotions first started on thsi thread came from you and @Kofi in rebutal to others comments.”

    LOL, if you say so man. So you’re claiming I was rebutting peoples’ comments, yet you’re not saying I was defending Kofi’s point of view?? So what point of view was I rebutting then??

    And *I’M* the one that doesn’t understand my own comments?? LOL

    And I’m still curious as to what “emotion” you’re speaking of, if that emotion is “happy” then yes, I am guilty as charged. :-) I never saw any of this as being heated or whatever, if you guys want to get all offended by it, then sorry, but I’m just making points and making observations as an outsider since I have no opinion on the movie one way or another. I don’t think I’m expressing any kind of emotion by this, but whatever you say, apparently you know when people don’t understand stuff more than they do. So please, feel free to chime in when you see from your horse-eye-view that any of us are out of line and not understanding something. Thanks! :-)

  11. Aaaaand I’m thinking it’s about time to shut down this comment thread…


  12. I wish Samuel L jackson was in the Film though. Pandorum MFer DO YOU HAVE IT!!! ROFL.

  13. Wow… I don’t think the tf2 thread got this heated… I do remember couple of people telling me to go to a different site though…lol.

    with all these heated comments in some of these threads… I think you should make a open discussion thread where they could all blow off some steam and let them go at it for a certain amount of time… Or something like that… But thats just me thinking out loud.

  14. I have five questions for you before the paranoia sets in;

    Do you fear the dark?

    Still watching Aliens 30 years later?

    Root for the bad guys in Mad Max?

    Desperate to leave The Island?

    Got an extra eight bucks hanging around?

    That’s me knocking at your door….

  15. Wow, Kofi. I’m sorry I missed this review when it came out. Just put simply, I disagree. I enjoyed my entire time in the theater, I sat riveted throughout the entire thing and have praised the movie several times to many people since.

    The only bad experience I had in the show was the dumb sonofagun who brought his 9-year-old brat to a rated-R film.

  16. Seriously bad review. You should actually find another hobby ( I do hope you don’t do this for a living..), since you obviously have misjudged this great film. For many ppl, Pandorum is the best followup of Alien.

    Dark, Loneliness, Claustrophobia and something nasty that wants to chew you up! What could be better than that!!

    End of story,

  17. Here we go again. Since Kofi’s review doesn’t jive with yours, he must not be a good reviewer? Nice logic.

  18. aww hell, are we back on this agin? Look, it’s obvious we all didnt agree with Kofi’s review and while I dont defend it, i do defend his right to have a freaking opinion. Let it go folks! We will have plenty of films to trash together such as the upcoming AVATAR, which I’m betting will be a well wrapped turd…let’s agree to disagree without being disagreeable

  19. We are all entitled to our opinion. That much is true.
    And with that, I can say if I did or didn’t like his review. When you decide to publish your reviews, you “open” yourself to critisism.

    I’m truly sorry about my mocking tone but I was more than furious when I read it. I don’t think that ANY movie deserves that kind of treatment, however badly it was directed!

    Heck, not even Battlefield Earth had such a bad review and we ALL know that movie sucked!


  20. @Vic

    “I guess that 73/100 critics shouldn’t be reviewing films for a living, but YOU should be:…”

    I may be wrong about this but I assume the critics listed at RottenTomatoes are regular critics meaning they review any genre of film. Assuming thats correct…

    The problem with using RottenTomatoes meter or anything similiar when dealing with a movie like Pandorum is that it is most likley NOT going to be liked at all by the majority of those critcis because it is so heavily weighted in the SciFi genre that only fans of the genre can aptly review it.

    How many really good pure SciFi films have gotten an over all review by main stream crtics that came close to matching their financial sucess or sucess among the SciFi fan base? There are some but I do believe that for the majority the critcis will give 2 thumbs down no matter how good or ad they are simply because the critic is looking for a TITANIC or FRIED GREEN TOMATOES and not something like EQUILIBRIUM; a Christian Bale film that was good but was lost in the LORD OF THE RINGS fan fare (which came out at the same time) and therefore resulted in EQUILIBRIUM being something discovered by most in the Rental arena then the theatre. If you check out Equilibrium at Rotten Tomatoes you’ll see it did not rank much higher then Pandorum and yet I bliev at least more then half of us here will say that EQUILIBRIUM was at least a good movie.


    NOTICE TO ALL: This is not a criticism of Kofis review but a comment on RottenTomatoes so please, no “You Kofi hater” replies.

  21. I can tell you guys this: Those of you who are regulars here know I’m a big sci-fi fan, and I thought Pandorum was awful.


  22. @Vic

    I wont hold it against you man! LOL! I’m waiting to see what everybody thinks about AVATURD, I mean AVATAR when it comes out..I hope it will be good,I want it to be good, but I got that sneaky suspicion folks…

  23. @Hank1914 “Avaturd”

    I don;t care who you are, thats funy. I however hope you are wrong. I will personally be upset if this turns out to be the most expensive Bathroom visut ever made.

  24. Hey hank, vin wouldn’t answer me before, hopefully you would be nicer and share with me the winning lottery numbers for next week. Please pretty please?