Theatrical Review: Pandorum

Nearly 150 years in the future, Earth’s resources are at this point virtually wiped out, with the planet on the brink of total collapse. But hope for the survival of the human race has been found with the discovery of Tanis, a far distant planet that’s very similar to Earth in terms of atmosphere, water and plant life. The people of Earth have launched the immense spaceship, Elysium, with a population of thousands immersed in a cryogenic sleep, along with everything needed to turn Tanis into a new Earth. Now, mysteriously, two of Elysium’s flight crew, Bower and Payton, have been awoken from their sleep to find that something has gone wrong on their ship, with both having to deal with memory loss from such a long sleep and the possibility of a type of space madness called Pandorum…

And that’s the premise of Pandorum a new German-financed science fiction movie, starring American actors Ben Foster as Bower and Dennis Quaid as Payton. And while it’s cool to have this sort of science fiction out there, it’s just a shame that the final product is something that’s a s muddled as this is. Pandorum basically suffers from putting too damn much into, which in the end dilutes it’s final twist to the point that it’s impact isn’t really anything that’s too special.

The biggest problem, at least in my mind, is the element that’s the source of the title, Pandorum itself. Basically using the idea that nearly everyone who’s awaken from this hypersleep might have fallen victim to this (and there’s more than just Bower and Payton), makes all of the characters come off a s just a little too crazy in some areas and thus makes it harder for an audience to get too invested in those characters. Oh, attempts are made, specifically with Bower, but those seem to get lost with everything else that the filmmakers have occurring on this ship.

Had this been pared down with a tighter rooting interest in it’s human characters, and then of course probably retitled, I think it would’ve had the chance at being something special on a smaller scale, but as it is, it suffers from throwing too many twists to the viewer in the illusion of making this story more complex than it needs to be, and as I said above, because of that, the final twist of the film, which should be the actual “big deal” here, is heavily diluted.

It also doesn’t help that this is shot extremely dark and edited with many quick cuts in some areas, making it a little harder to get a grasp of place on the Elysium. Action scenes are shot way too close and again with an abundance of quick cuts (probably used to hide seams) making them more indecipherable than anything else.

I think Quaid and Foster are just fine here, Foster in particular, though as I said, they don’t give you much of a chance to really root for them and much give a damn by it’s end. There are other survivors on-board the Elysium, but they’re created as more cyphers than anything else, and there’s nothing that any of them are really given that makes you really care in the end.

It’s a shame, I was looking forward to this, because I like this sort of science fiction movie quite a bit. But in the end, there’s just too much thrown at you here that takes away what should’ve been more of a tighter focus in it’s main plot. and as such, it’s really hard to give a damn about Pandorum in the end…

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

04. October 2009 by Darren Goodhart
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