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Echoing such luminous sci-fi classics as 2001 and Alien, Pandorum is a
terrific psychological thriller, although it does struggle at times to
be coherent and original. But it's a true mindbender, and it's packed
with action that moves so quickly neither the actors nor the audience
can really catch a breath, which is a good move if your plot is shaky
to begin with.
As with the best deep-space movies, the context is mental illness, what the Professor on Gilligan's Island called, oddly enough, "island madness." Only in space. In the distant, distant future, a ship has been sent from the Earth carrying a lot of people, headed to the only Earth-like planet ever found. Sometime during the journey, things go awry. We pick up the story as an astronaut named Bower (Ben Foster) awakens from hypersleep, abruptly; he's soon followed by his commanding officer, Payton (Dennis Quaid). The rest of the crew is gone, and the only door is locked from the outside. What's happened here? Making matters more difficult is the amnesia that each man suffers from, owing to their having been in hypersleep way longer than intended. Somehow, they must piece together what has happened and find out what lies behind that door - and throughout the rest of the gigantic ship.
Not only does the movie recall Aliens and 2001, you can also see similarities to The Descent and The Abyss; really, any movie in which people are trapped in claustrophobic environs. And although the pacing is frenetic at times, the movie is really chillingly shot (by Wedigo von Schultzendorff). On the one hand, the plot flows linearly - Bower needs to get to the ship's reactor so he can reboot it and save everyone - meaning that the actors race from scene to scene, running out of time. On the other hand, they don't piece together what's happened as quickly as they might in other, lesser films; they seem to figure things out gradually, as if assembling a puzzle in their heads. Bowers and others - and there are others - discover right away, though, that they're not really alone on the ship and that their enemies are extremely strong and fast and vicious.
Injected into this oh-my-goodness-what's-out-there madness is, well, madness. The movie's title is explained as being a sort of mental illness that affects astronauts from time to time, when they just plain go bonkers for seemingly no reason and kill everyone on board. Is that's what's happening here? Is Bower the crazy one? Or is it Payton? Are they, in fact, alone on the ship? Foster is excellent as the hero who remembers a little bit more of their mission as time elapses; Quaid, in turn, shows a few more layers than we're accustomed to seeing from him (he's usually more of a poor man's Harrison Ford). Both actors turn in convincing, full-throated performances that complement, rather than succumb to, the special effects and cinematic wizardry. Often, the effects are the entire show. Now, it's true that you won't see a lot of character development here, as you might in the most cerebral of sci-fi, but what works best here is the paucity of knowledge about the situation and the characters. By spinning the tale gradually, feeding the audience only a snippet at a time, director Christian Alvart dangles the mystery in front of his viewers without allowing them to settle back and solve the mystery on their own. When you're constantly kept on your toes with sudden lurches of unseen shapes and reverberating noises, you - like the befuddled characters - are concurrently kept off balance. The result is an unsettling, entertaining delight.
Pandorum is an amazingly original and crafty sci-fi/horror film. The
premise is well thought out and the script delivers bang on from the
opening scene to the end. This movie grabs you like a vice right from
the start, and never releases until the final credits. The
mise-en-scene is beautifully dark and realistic, against the
juxtaposition of human beings waking up in a ship without memories of
who they are or their mission. The audience explores with the two crew
members unraveling the mystery. There are many twists in this film and
it's hard to find words without spoiling
so just go see it
you won't be
In my opinion, this is the best sci-fi/horror film to hit the major screens since Alien. I viewed Pandorum on Friday, and then Surrogates on Saturday, and without question, Pandorum is a superior film. Pandorum has it all, from dark scenes, fast moving monsters, isolation it's all there and more. In fact, I haven't felt this much realistic isolation and since Carpenter's 'The Thing'. Yes, I loved this movie! It's definitely one you want to see plastered on the big screen.
I thought this movie did an excellent job of tapping into a number of
deep-rooted fears that seem to be universal - claustrophobia,
loneliness, loss of memory, large semi-dark areas with things that go
bump, not to mention suddenly waking up and not knowing what the heck
is going on all around you.
It had some nice "seat jump" scenes, and had moments where it was surprising funny.
And lots of nice twists too - don't see that enough in movies in general any more!
I can't comment too much on the "technical" aspects of the film, sorry, I'm just more of "was it a good, believable story" person. This was.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Anybody wanting an intelligent, insightful, or mesmerizing motion
picture should readjust they're expectations before walking into
Pandorum. There are a few themes here that are interesting and the
characters aren't dumb (some are engineers and scientists, after all),
but chances are you've already seen these archetypes in countless
movies already. As for whom to recommend this film to, if you enjoyed
Event Horizon and/or Alien³, there's no reason why you wouldn't find
anything to like in this film. However, contrary to what many people
have said, Pandorum seems to resemble another film, Eden Log (a French
sci-fi/horror picture), much more than either of the previously
mentioned. As in Eden Log, our central characters wake up with no
memory of how they came to be in their isolated environments. Likewise,
they also have to explore an isolated world around them were horrible
things have occurred and monsters seem to be looming. Even more
interesting is that both films feature protagonists caught up in the
mix of highly mysterious projects entitled "Eden." Our two main
characters are Corporal Bower and Lt. Payton, played by Ben Foster and
Dennis Quaid respectively. The two wake up disoriented and contained
(i.e. trapped) in a small hypersleep chamber designated for the Elysium
(the name of the large vessel of characters are aboard) crew of Flight
Team 5. Unaware of what has happened to the other crew members the two
begin to analyze their situation and Bower, being a
technical/mechanical engineer, notices electrical surges throughout the
ship signal that the nuclear reactor core in the Elysium is about to
overload and shutdown. The two begin a makeshift mission to try to save
the ship, with Bower climbing through ducts and exploring the wasteland
left of the craft and Payton guiding him over a comlink and a
crank-generator powered computer terminal. If you've seen any of the
Alien films or played the videogames Doom or Dead Space, this should
sound quite familiar.
Oh, yeah, and there's monsters aboard, though I won't reveal what these "monsters" are for potential viewers that don't know yet.
To Pandorum's credit, however, there are a few unforeseen plot twists before the credits roll. Some audience members may roll they're eyes at the ending, but I find it's a rather nice addition to the experience. Instead of a big, epic final battle with an Alien Queen, you get a heavy plot-reveal in the finale that causes some reflection upon the film. While it may be no masterpiece, Pandorum is not a bad film. 2009 has been a surprisingly good year for sci-fi thus far (Star Trek, Moon, District 9) and this certainly doesn't detract from that. In terms of horror, Pandorum should be a breath or fresh air for those who've endured films like Halloween II and The Final Destination for the past few weeks. In fact, I'd say Pandorum is the second best horror film of the year thus far, not quite matching the entertainment value or overall quality of Raimi's epic return to the genre (Drag Me To Hell).
In terms of film-making, this is a rather well put together film. The cinematography looks great with the exception of a few action sequences that go overboard with the "quick-cutting," but over-all audiences won't have to worry aboard an abundance of shaky-cam or other cons. Also, everything here is properly lit. Those who had trouble with their eyes focusing on images during Eden Log won't have that issue here. This film also doesn't meander around in complete darkness for as long.
Director Christian Alvart obviously has a lot of talent and I'm glad he directed this film as opposed to someone like, say, producer Paul W.S. Anderson. He really knows how to handle suspense and build up intense scenes. Like Neil Marshall, he can place his actors in tight, unattractive situations with monsters crawling right beside them (or vice versa) and have the audience holding their breath. Hopefully he'll garner more work in the future.
As we now know, Pandorum has tanked at the Box Office. While on one hand that's disappointing, it's not all together terrible news as the film might garner some sort of cult status in the future. In interviews only a week ago, Quaid discussed the possibilities of not only a sequel, but a trilogy following Pandorum. Not only is that seemingly impossible now, given the films performance, it additionally doesn't seem necessary. The film ends with a complete sense of closure. There's no need to see what happens after we leave this world, and such a story wouldn't resemble the experience in Pandorum in the slightest anyway.
All-in-all, the latest spacey sci-fi/horror epic has everything you could want in a "genre" picture. It's not original (admittedly, this is simply a collage of other, better films), but so little is in the 21st century. The film does feature a solid cast that deliver solid performances, thick atmosphere, several scares, a few unexpected twists, astonishing special effects and set pieces, and quite a bit of gore. If you are a fan of the sub-genre and these type of movies, you'll definitely want to check it out.
Runtime: 106 minutes (1 hr. 46 min.) Related Recommendations: It! The Terror from Beyond Space, Eden Log, Ghosts of Mars, The Descent, Event Horizon, Alien, Dante 01, Solaris, Solyaris, Aliens, Alien³, 28 Days Later
I have to say this movie was better than I expected. If you liked
Aliens and Resident Evil...this is like both of those movies got
together and had a sequel. Well not quite, but the story was good and
had no gaping holes in it. The acting was good without going over the
I loved the way this movie started; guy wakes up from hyper-sleep his memory is not fully functional, he knows things are not right and has to save the day.
I thought the story was great in that they did not over-explain everything like they have in so many sci-fi movies. The mid plot line was very good never found myself asking "what the hell are you doing", and the ending was very good without being so trivially expected.
Of course Dennis Quaid is a great actor but I really liked watching Ben Foster. He was one of the best actors in 3:10 to Yuma.
Special effects were good but did not need to be over the top because the story was solid. Worth the price of admission.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Pandorum is about two astronauts aboard an Ark ship who wake up from
their cryogenic sleep tanks with memory loss. They don't know what the
mission is, where they are, nor what has happened to the rest of the
ship. As they explore their surroundings, they learn that the ship is
teeming with mutants who are super-fast, super-strong, and super-loud.
Chase scenes abound as the crew try to avoid being eaten while
regaining control over the ship and come to terms with the mission.
The film starts off with obvious references to Pitch Black, Alien, and Aliens. Once the mutants appear, however, the film shifts into overdrive, and it becomes Resident Evil, Aliens, and Descent. The mutants all screech like the vampires in 30 Days of Night, but fortunately, the noise is blended in with the rest of the soundtrack, and so didn't give me a headache.
The film's real problem is one of its main selling points: the mutants. Without them, the crew wouldn't be running from set piece to set piece, and wouldn't be compelled to stop and question what they discover. But that also cheats some of the characters (like the non-English speaking Agricultural worker) out of some needed character development. It also cheats the film out of seriously dealing with the fine story that is bubbling just under the surface of the writhing mass of mutants. There is some fine SF here, you just have to ignore the action.
There are a couple twists along the way, which I will not mention here, but they are welcome additions of cleverness to an overall film that feels as if it's riffing on lots of other popular SF films. The ending was pitch perfect for SF, and I enjoyed the movie overall. I do have to wonder though: in a space ship the size of a city, wouldn't the designers have installed a couple windows?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is great.
The people who are bad mouthing the film are people who don't like science fiction to begin with. The people who are parroting "oh, it's just over used scifi plot devices and blah blah blah", don't have any idea what they're talking about.
Films can be genre films. They don't have to re-invent the wheel. You can make a scifi/horror film and it can deal with issues that people deal with in scifi. I'd love to hear these critics share their thoughts on the original Indiana Jones films. "Oh it's just over used action movie plot devices, like fighting Nazis? Please, haven't we seen that before?" You can literally do that with any genre film, it's just critics choose to suckle up to the indie darlings or the movies that have Will Smith in them because they want to get their glorious kiss up words on the box and will pish posh dismiss anything they don't think will get them cool points with generation suck.
So it's a scifi horror film that deals with memory loss, mutants, and the end of the world, what's wrong with that? It seems to me that films should be judged on what they are supposed to do, especially if it's a genre film. I'm not saying in the broad spectrum of, "But is it art?" and "You can read my film from many directions, there is no specific way to read it" kind of art house, janus pictures, black and white, 348 minutes of french tedium, but I'm saying that if a movie is supposed to be a comedy and you have a theater full of people laughing, that film is a success, that film did what it was supposed to do, maybe you didn't care for it's particular brand of humor, but you can't say that it was a bad movie. This is the case for "The Master of Disguise" a film that was a box office bomb and critically reviled, yet, has gone on to do quite well in the rental and home video market, because, it's a movie made for kids and kids love it. Same goes for the last bunch of unwatchable Steve Martin ridiculousness. If you're under the age of 12, chances are, you're going to love it, because it was made for you, it wasn't made for snarky 28 year old hipsters. So while I can't imagine ever wanting to watch The Pink Panther 2, I won't call it a bad film because it's not made for me and who it was made for, love it wholeheartedly.
So in this genre film, of scifi horror, the audience I was with, myself included, were terrified throughout the picture. People jumping and screaming and laughing afterwards about how scared they were. Back to the film. It's a roaring success. The sets are gorgeous and the special effects are fantastic. The film moves quickly and is full of twists and terrifying jump outs. It's just a lot of fun to watch. It's fun to get scared.
The film doesn't go overboard on the gore, it doesn't try to force in sex, it does feature good actors giving great performances. The CGI doesn't look awful like in 90% of the big effects driven films of today. The fear is real and the story, while having its roots firmly planted in some of the well worn treads of other scifi works has enough new and good ideas to make the picture seem fresh.
Don't listen to the jerks, the critics and the haters. If you like to get scared, watch scifi and have fun, check out Pandorum.
A roller-coaster ride from start to finish. The twists and turns keep
The script, director and ensemble of actors elevate what could have been another ALIEN tribute into something highly original and compelling.
The overarching mystery kept me glued to the screen and despite everything I guessed, the ending fooled me, which is always a nice bonus for a film.
Stunning visuals and incredible SFX! Alvart has some career ahead of him! In a word: amazing!
I saw Pandorum last night and was somewhat impressed with the movie.
After reading critics reviews, and how they trashed it, I was going in
expecting less and was pleasantly surprised.
Pandorum borrows heavily from other sci-fi movies, but what movie doesn't nowadays. Taking a lot of ideas from Alien, a 1979 classic sci-fi movie, and borrowing the creatures from The Descent, another near classic movie from a few years ago, Pandorum was still impressive. The storyline wasn't completely original because it reminded me a lot of Event Horizon, but whereas Pandorum went more for a science level, Event Horizon was more supernatural. Most people trashed Event Horizon as well, but it was another movie I liked also, even though the ending of that movie was flawed. Of course I'm reviewing Pandorum, so I won't mention the former film anymore.
THe cast for the most part was rather good for a movie of this type. Ben Foster, and Dennis Quaid are the two most marketable names, but the other characters, outside of maybe the Cam Gigandet character, worked pretty good. My only real problem with Gigandet was that he overacted a bit, but otherwise everything was good.
The movie does claustrophobia well, and the entire movie had me jumping a lot. THere was tension, and for the most part the film was fast paced. I didn't find myself looking at my watch one time. THe visuals were decent, but the creatures should've been kept in the shadows more. Horror works best when the viewer uses his/her own imagination to visualize them.
Did I say horror. Well yeah because this is really a sci-fi horror film more along the lines of Alien as mentioned above. It doesn't match the classic status of that movie, but Pandorum is worth seeing for its psychological feel and how some people might act after being in space for so long. By the way, the movie does have a twist, which I will not spoil for anyone who wants to see it.
Note: THis is a film that may make most of its money on DVD, and will likely acquire somewhat of a cult status.
I went into this film not knowing much about it to be honest. I was really only interested in it when I heard it was set in space. This film is one of the most terrifying action/horror/sci-fi movies I have seen in a very long time, but that's not the best part! The best part is the intriguing story with some amazing twists! Some are obvious and at least one is just completely unexpected, but none of them feel overly typical. Ben Foster is really really good in this and I must say that he is getting much better at picking roles, with 3:10 to Yuma and now this! One thing that really stuck out to me also, was how much some of it reminded me of the game Dead Space, don't read into that too much as far as story goes, it's just that there are a few elements that I think were inspired by the game, and if you have played Dead Space, I think you will know what I mean when you see it. This movie was good, really good, and finally gave me the space horror/fiction fix I have been craving since the last good space movie, Sunshine, by Danny Boyle. Go see this movie!
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