Release Date: September 25th, 2009 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Christian Alvart Actors: Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Cam Gigandet, Antje Traue, Cung Le, Eddie Rouse, Norman Reedus, Andre M. Hennicke, Friederike Kempter, Asia Luna Mohmand
n 1969, when man landed on the moon, the Earth’s population was at approximately 3.6 billion people. By 2009, it reached 6.76 billion. Starting around 2153, when it hovered around 24.34 billion, natural resources began diminishing to the point of foreseeable depletion, so that by 2174, the spaceship Elysium was launched to colonize a new location of sustenance – namely Tanis, a distant planet hypothesized to be suitable for human life.
In the bowels of the ship, Corporal Bower (Ben Foster) awakes from a lengthy bout of extended hypersleep to a powered-down, ominous, black cargo room. Having little memory of his mission or even his identity (a mechanical engineer), he struggles to determine what has happened to the rest of the crew and whether or not their shift rotation was supposed to officially begin. When he successfully awakens Lieutenant Payton (Dennis Quaid) in a neighboring stasis chamber, the twosome sets about restoring electricity and attempting to communicate with the ship’s bridge. But when strange systems malfunctions, tremors, and power surges plague the lower decks, it would seem that something is seriously amiss with the Elysium … and its crew.
Narrow flashlight beams, high-contrast cinematography, lightless corridors that seem to repeat with labyrinthine architecture, tube-filled crawlspaces, and extremely claustrophobic shafts and immensely cavernous spaces compose the nicely macabre environments in “Pandorum.” Clearly attempting to emulate the look and mood of something like “Pitch Black,” “Sunshine,” or “Event Horizon,” “Pandorum’s” greatest accomplishment is its atmosphere. Like “The Descent” in space, it’s a creature feature that sharply marries haunted house scare tactics with monstrous antagonists in a sensationally horrifying setting.
The film also employs the usual horror movie tropes, including mangled corpses, slime and grime, distant screams, zombie-like gestures and locomotion, separation/isolation, sudden movements or loud sounds, and enemy humans to supplement the monsters (specifically with the psychological and biological deteriorations of the titular dysfunction, which is actually the least entertaining part of the film – and very similar to an element from “The Abyss”). Panic, paranoia, and a language barrier are also keen additions to craft a picture that is clearly about visuals over storytelling originality. Unfortunately, the flashbacks are a little stale, the dialogue is a touch generic, and martial arts fights seem incredibly misplaced (as if in a “Resident Evil” episode).
Despite containing the obvious elements of horror, “Pandorum” also works as a mystery, refusing to give away the secrets to its survivors and its antagonists until well beyond the halfway point. Once the exposition gets underway, the suspense slows, allowing characters to behave unfaithfully and for extra roles to generate random victims. And though the graphic violence should sate fans of zombie flicks or slashers, the editing and structuring of “Pandorum” leave much to be desired for patrons of smart sci-fi/horror. Plus, the creature designs certainly don’t possess the innovation of the iconic properties it hopes to mimic. It may have wanted to be like “Aliens,” but it ends up more like “Alien: Resurrection.”
– Mike Massie