STARRING: Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Antje
Traue, Cung Le, Norman Reedus, Cam Gigandet
2009, 108 Minutes, Directed by:
is primarily claustrophobia and glow sticks . . .
Created with slippery, slicing
European instincts, this sci-fi/horror voyage into the dark recesses of the mind
is perhaps best appreciated with the sound off. A gorgeous production design
however can’t save the picture from trying too hard to dazzle with very little
inspiration. While Pandorum is easy to stare at, it can be a seriously
Forcefully awoken out of
hyper-sleep, astronauts Bower (Ben Foster) and Payton (Dennis Quaid) are left
with little memory and power to help acclimate them to life onboard a massive
spaceship heading to an unknown destination. Sent to restart the power source,
Bower crawls into the bowels of the ship with only minimal light to guide him.
Instead of help, Bower stumbles upon a group of warrior-types who are trying to
elude a mob of killer mutant creatures multiplying throughout the ship. As for
Payton, he has to deal with a paranoid crew member (Cam Gigandet) who might be
lost in the throes of Pandorum, a special form of madness that turns his initial
confusion into a major threat.
Directed by Christian Alvart (Antibodies),
Pandorum is more easily described as a riff on the 1997 chiller,
Event Horizon. Both films share a curiosity with deep
space madness and the isolation of interstellar travel, observing characters
hurdling toward the unknown, facing horrors both real and imagined. While
Horizon was a more literal descent into Hell, Pandorum itches to play
deadly mind games and flop around in mutant spit.
"Derivative from the get-go, Pandorum loses steam with
every step . . ."
Alvart shows a promising eye
for forbidding spaces, shoving the audience into impossibly tight confines and
encouraging his actors to freak their way out. If there’s anything to admire
about Pandorum, it has to be Alvart’s obsession with depicting discomfort
and panic, getting the characters into narrow situations that immediately lack
sufficient air flow. However, that’s the last of my appreciation, as Pandorum
is all too eager to engage in hysteria to cover the holes in the script.
Wearing his Ridley Scott
mantle, Alvart aims for a coolly stylish look to Pandorum, with hard
cinematography, steamy hallways, and strange light sources joining together to
add a layer of menace to the tale. Ostensibly a monster movie, Pandorum
is better off as an obvious haunted house experience, with liberal usage of
shock jumps and gore to keep viewers on their toes, but it never terrifies.
There are a few futuristic touches that keep things interesting, but the
majority of the film is actor Ben Foster dodging ghouls, running around the
cavernous ship on the hunt for power. At least with the mutants, Pandorum
is numbingly predictable. Once it goes inside the mind, it just gets
While everyone looks the part,
the casting flatlines quickly. Watching Foster’s bug-eyed, clenched-jawed
performance is almost comforting in its inevitability - the actor always
gravitates toward roles that require painfully obvious, showy behaviors. Quaid
does his grunt routine with limited effort.
It’s Gigandet who smashes the film
to bits, offering an agonizingly vacant performance for perhaps the most crucial
character of the feature. His limited abilities are stretched beyond comfort,
with Alvart displaying more effort timing out his strobe lights than keeping
Gigandet panicked within reason. I never thought I’d see the day when it wasn’t
Ben Foster ruining a movie.
Pandorum enjoys a
healthy portion of sci-fi twists and turns as the production reaches for a
fitting finale. I didn’t buy the closer, but at least Alvart is finally trying
to challenge the audience beyond spooky, sweaty beasts jumping into the camera.
A derivative production from the get-go, Pandorum loses steam with every
forward step, leaving the conclusion more welcome for its finality than its
- Brian Orndorf