TERRIFYING TUESDAYS: PANDORUM (2009) DVD REVIEW
Starring Ben Foster, Dennis Quaid and Antje Trau
Directed by Christian Alvart
Written by Christian Alvart and Travis Malloy
Like Event Horizon before it, Pandorum combines visionary science fiction themes with horror tropes, to only mixed success.
Played by the intense Ben Foster (30 Days of Night), our hero Bower is a crew member aboard the malfunctioning deep space craft Elysium. Newly awakened from cryogenic suspension, Bower cannot initially remember who he is, how long he’s been asleep, or his mission. His superior officer Payton (Dennis Quaid: Dreamscape) revives and Bower goes out to investigate the seemingly dead ship, only to discover that the Elysium, which is carrying the remnants of humanity to a new world after the destruction of the Earth years before, is infested with vicious monsters hungry for flesh. Those few passengers who have revived live in fear of both the creatures and their fellow men, some of whom will do anything to survive.
Pandorum (the word refers to an insanity developed by astronauts during their years of deep space travel) is the result of a synthesis of two scripts, neither of which seem to have paid much attention to character development. Director Christian Alvart (Antibodies) keeps the film humming along action-wise, and he and his crew’s attention to detail make Pandorum one of the most realistic-looking and conceptually fully-realized sci-fi films ever made. (He freely admits his indebtedness to Alien and the world it created on the commentary track he shares with producer Jeremy Bolt.) The creatures which terrorize the crew members are also impressive, most of their physical creepiness the result of practical effects, with only slight and unnoticeable assists from CG. (Alvart cast André Hennicke, the star of his first film, the impressive serial killer thriller Antibodies, in the role of the lead hunter.)
What makes Pandorum especially disappointing is its unrealized potential. The film’s mythology, well-explicated in the DVD’s behind-the-scenes featurettes and the filmmaker commentary, is involving, especially the origins of the monsters roaming the Elysum, baying for blood. It’s great to see Dennis Quaid onscreen, and Foster does his best with an underwritten role. (Brief flashbacks to his character’s wife, meant to humanize him according to Bolt, come off as perfunctory; concessions to character before getting back to the action.)
A serious film, Pandorum has its fair share of scares but not a lot of thrills.