Movie Information

The Story: Awakened from deep sleep on a spaceship, a couple travelers try to discover what happened, remember their mission and complete it. The Lowdown: Incredibly derivative sci-fi horror that's never very horrifying, but occasionally unintentionally funny.
Genre: Sci-Fi/Horror
Director: Christian Alvart
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Cam Gigandet, Antje Traue, Cung Le, Eddie Rouse
Rated: R

Christian Alvart’s Pandorum is not good, but neither is it unwatchably bad, nor without its points of interest. Imagine, if you will, taking the basics of Danny Boyle’s Sunshine (2007) and 28 Days Later … (2003), tossing in the aesthetic of a Resident Evil picture, adding a little Event Horizon (1997), sprinkling a thin dusting of A.I. (2001) over it all, inserting a laugh-out-loud, transparent plot twist, and then shooting the whole thing in a murky imitation of Ridley Scott’s Alien. The results would be this movie—and if that mélange appeals to you, so might Pandorum.

A space traveler named Bower (Ben Foster, 3:10 to Yuma) awakes from deep sleep to find himself alone in a room on his ship with little power. Then his apparent commanding officer, Payton (Dennis Quaid), comes to and shows him that the room has a hand-crank power system (like a wind-up gramophone, minus the little dog that looks into it). The two try to figure out what’s going on and hatch a plan to jump-start the ship’s nuclear reactor—assuming Bower can get to it. What they don’t know is that much of the gigantic spaceship is inhabited by flesh-munching zombie-like mutants—not to mention hot babe Nadia (Antje Traue), inexplicable warrior Manh (Cung Le, Fighting) and seemingly helpful cannibal Leland (Eddie Rouse, Observe and Report). While Bower deals with all this, Payton is visited by one of the ship’s actual flight crew, Gallo (Cam Gigandet), whom he suspects is suffering from a paranoid space sickness called Pandorum.

A lot of running around corridors in an attempt to avoid the mutants—peppered with fights with said mutants and bits of explanation of what’s going on—ensues. And what is going on? Well, the ship is a kind of sci-fi Noah’s Ark taking what remains of the Earth to an inhabitable planet, but something obviously went wrong and needs to be set right, since the fate of humanity hangs in the balance. Large chunks make little sense. Everyone Bower runs into knows how to get to the reactor, but none of them seem to go the same way. Nadia is in charge of transporting as much of Earth’s flora and fauna as the ship can carry to the new planet—mindless of what this might do to that planet’s eco-system. Oh, well, humankind never learns.

It’s moderately amusing if you’re in the mood, but it’s incredibly lacking in invention. Its mutants are awfully generic. Apparently, if you go mutant, you scream a lot and your nose falls off. (Considering the hygiene and communal living depicted, the latter is probably a blessing.) The scene where Bower (his face covered so they can’t see his nose, I guess) makes his way across a roomful of snoozing mutants is startlingly like the cartoon Beatles tiptoeing through the sleeping Blue Meanies in Yellow Submarine (1968). Well, why not? Something active needs to happen while Payton and Gallo play out their preposterous psychodrama in the first room.

With the exception of Ben Foster’s Bower, the acting is no better than the film merits. Dennis Quaid alternates between being wildly over-the-top and adopting that drunken catatonic look that got him through The Alamo (2004). Cam Gigandet is, well, Cam Gigandet at his Cammiest. Nobody else is noteworthy, which suits this movie just fine. Rated R for strong horror violence and language.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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