In space no one can hear you yawn.
Pandorum is the latest riff on the “haunted house in space” theme, of which the movie Alien is still the finest example. Pandorum borrows that Ridley Scott movie’s dark, dirty, claustrophobic spaceship interiors, but not its sense of intelligence, pacing or creepy chills.
Right from the start, Pandorum throws a bunch of numbers at us (used to help confuse the viewer until the big “twist” at the end) that inform us that Earth’s population has grown over the decades, until it got so bad and over-crowded that humanity had to build a giant spaceship to send settlers to another world called Tanis.
It is on this ship, Elysium, where we find crewman Bower (Ben Foster) just awakening from hypersleep. In a goofy plot contrivance, Bower doesn’t remember details about their situation or mission – darn that extended hypersleep side effect! – and neither does Payton (Dennis Quaid), Bower’s c.o.
So Bower goes exploring, leaving Payton to monitor him from a computer terminal, and he soon runs into fast-moving, howling, shrieking creatures - that call to mind Mel Gibson whenever he's pulled over - and lucky for him, a couple of other human survivors, Nadia (Antje Traue) and Manh (Cung Le) who apparently learned kung fu ninja skills during the ship’s long voyage. They’ve been fighting off the creatures for some time now, which is hard to accept when in one scene the movie shows it takes all three of them to kill just one creature, which resists getting limbs chopped off and machete blows to the head that would have done Jason Vorhees proud.
Soon, Payton finds another crewman, Gallo (Cam Gigandet, from Twilight) and things get goofier from there. We have to figure out who is experiencing the Pandorum of the title, which is supposed to be a condition brought on by extended space travel, where a person goes bonkers, hallucinates, and tries to kill a bunch of space-folks.
I nodded off about half way through this sucker and had to continue watching it the next day. There is nothing new here really, and quite frankly, too many scenes recall Alien. At one point Bower is in a shaft and his position is represented on Payton’s console as a little pulsing light with a trails of dashes behind it, just like in the Dallas air shaft scene in Alien. You may say, “homage” but I say “boring rip off.”
The production design looks very industrial, but also not very interesting; everything looks like a grungy factory instead of the last spaceship "ark" humanity ever built. Once again, Alien did a far superior job with fantastic futuristic sets and grungy interiors. During several scenes in Pandorum I just kept thinking, “Why is this area of the ship SO HUGE; they’re wasting so much oxygen (especially if resources are so thin).”
Ben Foster was great in a supporting role in 3:10 to Yuma, and I liked him in X-Men 3, but he doesn’t impress me here as a leading man. Dennis Quaid seems a little looser than he did in G.I. Joe, which is a good thing. The other actors are fine, but the story is too thin and not scary at all, and like a bad M. Night Shyamalan film (which is his last three or four), the whole thing rests on the twist(s) at the end, which weren’t very interesting/plausible and the more you think about it the whole movie unravels even more.
And when you find out about the creatures running around on the ship, you don't go "Cool idea!" but "Come on, you're kidding, right?"
Star Trek is Copyright 2010 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is intended with this parody. Screencaps from Trekcore.com.