Review: Pandorum (2009)

I saw this movie some years back and it always kind of stuck out in my mind. I think it quickly fell off the radar and never really got the kind of attention it deserved, because it is most definitely underrated. Sci-fi horror/thriller movies are becoming more common now, but they don’t always hit the mark. The premise of this movie is that a flight team crew member (Bower played by Ben Foster) aboard a passenger ship for a new planet awakens to a seemingly empty ship. He awakens his lieutenant (Payton played by Dennis Quaid) so that their shift can begin and they can unravel the mystery surrounding the state of the ship. Here’s the spoiler free rundown.

The Good: A successful a sci-fi movie takes the time to immerse you in the world that exists as the characters see it. Part of that is showing off all that fancy-dancy, non-existent future technology. In this case we get to see the lazer-razor, holographic computer systems, hibernation chambers and of course a fucking wrist-mounted plasma cannon. Okay, okay it’s a non-lethal riot plasma cannon but whatever, it’s still pretty cool. Pandorum at times reminded me a bit of Dead Space (probably because of the plasma cannon) and that’s not a bad thing.

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This movie is drenched in atmosphere that will make you feel claustrophobic and alone. It was done completely right since there are very rare moments in the movie that are completely well lit. It hones in on the darkness and uses it to its advantage because as the story unravels further, the horror elements roll out with it. The suspense is worked into almost every scene, constantly nagging at the back of your mind. I love that this movie feels like The Descent meets Passengers. Yes, I know Passengers came out this year so the two are unrelated but it’s really the only comparison I can make. It also has a little humor mixed into it, albeit not much which is probably a good thing considering the setting of the movie.

Without giving too much away on the ending, I’ll also say that it’s one of the few sci-fi/horror movies that has a satisfying ending. I think that’s what really made this movie shine for me. A lot of movies that revolve around horror or dark subject matter tend to end very bleak or leave it up to viewer interpretation. This movie is a journey which has a very clear destination that doesn’t disappoint.

The Bad: The survivors of the ship are all somewhat stereotypical and what you’d expect to see on a ship full of mutated creatures. I guess that’s not necessarily the worst thing possible, but the reality is you only care about Bower and Payton for most of the film. At some point, you get to see Norman Reedus before he played Chewba… Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead.

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Speaking of banding together in dire situations, this was one of the parts that really irritated me. For a big chunk of the early part of the movie there’s a lot of mistrust and aggression towards the other survivors until Bower drops the line, “can we get a little fucking solidarity here?”. You’d think after years of space-cave babies eating people that the survivors would band together to better the odds. Guess not.

Going into the final act of this movie, there are some revelations that will demand that you overlook some plot-holes. The story itself is actually very interesting and a great concept but there’s one very specific unrealistic element. There are ways that the hole can be explained away but unfortunately there’s nothing in the film that really digs into it. There are also other implications involved with said plot-hole but it’s better in this case to just brush it under the rug and consider it a bump in the road for what is otherwise a good movie.

The Judgment: If you’re into sci-fi/horror this is the movie for you. I love this film and the way that the story comes together. Even with the aforementioned flaw, the movie tells a great story. I’m sure I’m going to upset someone out there with this statement, but I would put this on par with the original Alien. It’s certainly not paced like Alien and the monsters are far more vicious, but it manages to capture some of those same feelings of isolation on a ship. While the setting of the story isn’t 100% original, the narrative has its own unique spin. This film is definitely worth your time!


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