Now Playing: One Spaceship Flies Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in ‘Pandorum’

26 Sep


September 26th, 2009–

Here’s the Great Fatsby with his review of Pandorum. How did it pan out? Good, bad, craptastic? I’ll let him fill you in on the details. Take it away Fatsby….

cinemagrade c+As a big fan of both the science fiction and horror genres, from cheesy to classic, I’ve always had a particular love of sci-fi horror.  Any time you can blend two of my favorite elements into one delicious product, like the almighty Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, I’m hooked.  The most recent truly great mixture of these, in my mind, is Event Horizon.  Come on, it’s like Hellraiser (and by that I mean parts 1 and 2, not the 8 other crappy sequels) on a spaceship – beam me up, Scotty.  So I was fairly excited to see Pandorum, and was only mildly disappointed.


Pandorum starts off with a little back story to get us going, then thrusts us immediately into a jarring start.  The intro is nothing new to the sci-fi crowd, a crew member randomly waking up from a cryogenic freezy tube, but in this case, the technology behind the cryo tube is the most disturbing and uncomfortable I’ve seen yet, setting the pace for the rest of the movie – and like the rest of the movie, it is loud and unsettling.


As the movie started to get going, I felt like it would have been more appropriate to be titled The Descent 2: In Space, if it weren’t for the fact The Descent 2 is already in the works.  I was surprised the makers of The Descent didn’t sue because Pandorum mirrored everything up until about halfway through the movie when the twist starts twistifying (which I will get into below). 


Scenes of claustrophobia and pale white spaceanoids hiding in the background or running through the hallways were enough but they went to the trouble of doing a gore pit sequence as well.  In addition to the ear drum bursting screeches emitted by the mutant humanoids (or spaceanoids as I call them), the few action sequences have a choppy editing style that I generally detest.  It does add a little motion to the action but also leaves you wondering exactly what you just saw.


On the plus side Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid gave fine performances, each transforming as the movie proceeds to send the cast into their own personal hells.  Here is where Pandorum tries to set itself apart from other movies like The Descent, as the cast begins to doubt themselves and the reality around them.  Apparently humans weren’t made to be shot off into deep space for long chunks of time, and on rare occasion, a crew member may develop symptoms of Pandorum, which will eventually turn said person into a paranoid, homicidal maniac. 

It’s a nice plot element that is introduced in the beginning of the film, adds to the tension in the movie and when it finally comes to fruition at the end, feels appropriate.  Another plus is that I loved the ship design, the dark and moody set, the tight story, and what actually happened with the ship and the crew is fantastic from a pure sci-fi perspective.



I think they did try to do too much with too little, though.  Other sci-fi movies have tried and failed to go with two plot points and end up feeling too wishy-washy on both.  For example, Sunshine is a great sci-fi movie up until the point they almost haphazardly throw in the horror element at the end.  I still enjoyed it but it didn’t feel like a cohesive whole.  Pandorum suffers from this as well, since the mental illness plot would have been enough for one movie, but they add the mutant monsters in too, which ends up with both plots feeling a bit thin in comparison to their potential.


I will say I left the theater not feeling cheated out of my ten bucks, but a little dissatisfied all the same.  It was passable as an afternoon’s entertainment, but the hard sci-fi fans, the horror hounds, and the action crowd may all be a little off-put by what ultimately feels like a somewhat weak re-tread of familiar territory, and, if they tried to narrow the direction of the film to one of those elements, could have been insanely good.

One Response to “Now Playing: One Spaceship Flies Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in ‘Pandorum’”

  1. hagiblog September 29, 2009 at 10:01 pm #

    Sounds like the two releases I really wanted to see turned out about the same. Surrogates and Pandorum, movies that could have been great and just wound up being okay. I’ll still see it anyway!

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