Blu-Ray Review: ‘Pandorum’ Puts Space Saga on Autopilot

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

CHICAGO – Christian Alvart’s “Pandorum” is the kind of efficient time-waster that sucks you in, spits you out, and leaves you two hours older. There’s nothing that can be said in its favor, apart from the fact that its not offensively awful (like the producers’ “Resident Evil” franchise). But it is thoroughly mediocre, and for some viewers, mediocrity is offensive enough.

It’s not surprising that the film fizzled at the box office, since its marketing campaign was among the most repellant in recent memory. Its theatrical teasers consisted of characters ripping their skin off to reveal another layer beneath. The teaser was usually followed by a member of the audience uttering, “Now who the [expletive] would want to see that [expletive]?” I couldn’t help shaking my head in agreement. Blu-Ray Rating: 2.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 2.0/5.0

The actual film is more watchable than one would expect. A plot synopsis is irrelevant, since the entire film consists of characters explaining the plot to each other. Let’s just say the film begins like a butt-ugly “Star Wars,” as the camera pans over the spacecraft Elysium, housing a group of Earthlings on a mission to the planet Tanis. The people of Earth are quickly wasting their natural resources, and are desperate to find (and potentially waste) them elsewhere. When the Elysium crew discovers that their home planet has met an untimely end, the passengers become racked with ODS (Orbital Dysfunctional Syndrome), and descend into madness. As the saying goes, “In space, no one can hear you call for a therapist.”

Dennis Quaid searches for an original idea in Christian Alvart’s Pandorum.
Dennis Quaid searches for an original idea in Christian Alvart’s Pandorum.
Photo credit: Anchor Bay Home Entertainment

Cut to several years later: a crew member (Ben Foster) wakes up in the murky darkness of a hyper-sleep chamber. After dutifully ripping off his excess skin, he reconnects with fellow passengers who are equally uncertain of their surroundings. They include a grizzled lieutenant (Dennis Quiad), a Vietnamese sidekick (Cung Le), and a German ass-kicker (Antje Traue) who still manages to keep her makeup applied despite the endless mayhem. The story develops like a poor man’s “Moon” (with its themes of alienation) crossed with a low-rent “Star Trek” (with its melting pot of protagonists learning to work together). And when the creatures pop up, looking like morbidly obese extras from “The Descent,” the film settles into standard “monster attack mode.” Any moviegoer with even a passing familiarity with the science-fiction and horror genres won’t find any of this the least bit fresh or surprising.

Pandorum was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on January 19th, 2010.
Pandorum was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on January 19th, 2010.
Photo credit: Anchor Bay Home Entertainment

Though the premise holds plenty of inherent intrigue, the filmmakers fumble their chance at building suspense by allowing everything to be explained in artless exposition interrupted by predictable horrors. When Quaid is confronted by a mysterious young stranger (“Never Back Down”’s Cam Gigandet), their psychological battle has all the dramatic weight of an embarrassing parent/teen squabble (Gigandet exudes the whiniest malice since Hayden Christiansen). Foster and Quaid are both good actors, but here they’re trapped in roles that directly feed into their weakness for overacting.

Aside from a few pleasurably tense moments and a couple cool shots (particularly one involving thousands of space coffins), “Pandorum” is no more than a C-grade B-movie assembled out of recycled space junk.

“Pandorum” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio), accompanied by English and Spanish audio tracks, and comes with a digital copy of the film. Special features include a generic making-of featurette, where the filmmakers discuss how Alvart “elevated” Travis Milloy’s script, which originally took place on a prison ship (he fails to mention whether Sigourney Weaver was onboard). There’s also 27 minutes of deleted scenes (including an alternate ending that makes no sense at all), a still gallery and a feature-length commentary with Alvart and producer Jeremy Bolt. When Alvart discusses his design for the spaceship, he says that it was his goal to make it resemble “an organism,” allowing the creatures to blend in with the background. Sorry Alvart, but “Alien” got there first.

‘Pandorum’ is released by Anchor Bay Home Entertainment and stars Ben Foster, Dennis Quaid, Antje Traue, Cung Le, Cam Gigandet and Eddie Rouse. It was written by Travis Milloy and directed by Christian Alvart. It was released on January 19th, 2010. It is rated R. staff writer Matt Fagerholm

Staff Writer

DM6's picture

Just saw this and enjoyed it.

Just saw this and enjoyed it. I found the themes of the film to be about multiply aspects of survival. Cooperation, competition, natural selection(survival of the fittest) rather than alienation and one big Noah’s Ark metaphor. They look like the creatures from The Descent because of their sunlight-less condition they adapted to(look up “Trogloxene”).

DM6's picture

I mean Troglofauna

I mean Troglofauna not Trogloxene.

DM6's picture

Here are my thoughts. Hardly

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