MOVIE: Pandorum (2009)

Ordinarily, I am a sucker for any science fiction movie that takes place on a space ship.  It’s for the same reason I like stories set in places like Antarctica (see recent review of Whiteout) or other types of closed communities — the sociological and psychological ramifications of tight-knit groups of people under stress are absolutely fascinating to me.  How will they react?  Will they work together?  Will they fall apart?  Let’s throw them all into a mansion, toss in a dead body, turn on a blizzard for six days, and see if we can’t find out.

So it’s for that reason that I rented this one without bothering to find out anything about it aside from the fact it was set on a space ship and starred ex-Boyfriend Dennis Quaid — that’s really all it took to pique my interest.    But though this movie had some decent snowstorm-in-a-mansion moments here and there, overall I was pretty disappointed by it.  And, even worse, I was frequently bored by it as well.

The story is about a ship named the Elysium, packed full of the last 50,000 or so survivors of Earth and then launched off to form a new colony on the planet Tanis — an attempt to save the human race from extinction after we’ve destroyed our home planet (note: I take the bus and I recycle, so don’t blame me).  The plan for the trip, apparently, was to put all the civilians into hypersleep for the duration, and then wake up crew members a few at a time for staff rotations.  Only, something goes wrong and two crew members are wakened early by a malfunction in their cryofreeze chambers.  At first, they have no idea what is going on — one side effect of the hypersleep is temporary loss of memory — but as they gradually remember both the mission and the ramifications of failure, they also begin to realize that complete chaos has ensued on board while they were a’slumberin’.

The two men, Payton (Quaid) and Bower (Ben Foster), separate, Bower going off in search of something-or-another (I forget what — something with the ship’s engine that needs to be fixed) while Payton stays behind to man the computer and give Bower directions to where he needs to go.  But what Bower finds on board is, well, put simply, it’s Mad Max meets Event Horizon.  With what appeared to be leftover costumes from Waterworld thrown in for good measure.

As Bower tries to make it to wherever it is he’s going, Payton keeps telling him all about this illness, “pandorum,” which strikes space travelers and makes them mad. Mad, he says.  Mad!  Maaaaaaaad!!

Supporting this theory is the presence of a bunch of monsters on board that look sort of like mutated, deranged people.  Are they previously-thawed pandorum-afflicted humans?  It’s possible.  Then again, if what we’re talking about is a space disease that makes you crazy, can we trust what Bower is seeing?  Is Bower the mad one?  Is Payton?   Is there really a band of monsters on board breaking open the other cryofreeze chambers and then eating all the frozen human-pops?  Is there really a smaller band of thawed survivors in Waterworld outfits scurrying around NOT working together in an attempt to stay alive long enough to get to Tanis and get free?  What is the truth?  What is the madness?

Would that this were as interesting as it sounds.

Overall, I think the mood of this film was really good — it’s dark, it’s brown, it’s sufficiently creepy.  But Dennis Quaid was a dud in his relatively bit part, clearly hired only so they could put a real name on the DVD box and given nothing significant to do.  And Ben Foster, while carrying his role fine enough, really didn’t do much for me either.  The story was confusing and not terribly intriguing, and even though it’s only been a couple of weeks since I saw this one, I can’t remember at all how it ends — never a good sign.

Not terrible, but obviously not good either.  Probably worth a rental if you like these sorts of things, but not one I’ll bother watching again, most likely.  Two thumbs ho-hum, and if you like this genre — the stuck-on-a-spaceship genre, and you still haven’t seen Sunshine, I’m going to take this opportunity to nudge you in that direction instead.  It’s like this one, right down to the semi-crossover with Event Horizon, except it’s about a thousand times more interesting.  Plus:  Cillian Murphy’s big blue eyes, front and center.


[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Science Fiction, Horror
Cast:  Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Cam Gigandet, Norman Reedus

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5 Responses to “MOVIE: Pandorum (2009)”

  1. Wayne Says:

    The end of Pandorum? You can’t remember? Saw this one during a sneak-a-roo movie theatre double feature with Surrogates. Ugh. That’s a nite I wish *I* couldn’t remember. …And no, two half baked ideas do not make ANY good movies…. 🙂 Thanks for the review Meg!

  2. megwood Says:

    Ha! My mom actually just emailed to remind me of the ending. MORE’S THE PITY.

  3. Melinda Says:

    REAVERS!!!! Mal, there’s REAVERS!!!!

    First thought that popped into my head. Sounds like it could have benefited from an appearance by Summer Glau.

  4. megwood Says:

    Hah, Melinda! You are not too far off with that analogy! (Also, you just made me laugh — bonus!)

  5. DevilMayhem666 Says:

    This will help explain some things about the film.

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