Pandorum (2009)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #242

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Number of Views: One
Release Date: September 25, 2009 (United States), October 2, 2009 (United Kingdom)
Sub-Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller
Country of Origin: Germany, United States, United Kingdom
Budget: $33,000,000
Box Office: $20,645,327
Running Time: 108 minutes
Director: Christian Alvart
Producers: Paul W. S. Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Robert Kulzer
Screenplay: Travis Milloy, Christian Alvart
Special Effects: Uli Nefzer, Tobias Schroeter
Visual Effects: Geoff Leavitt, Viktor Muller
Cinematography: Wedigo von Schultzendorff
Score: Michl Britsch
Editing: Philipp Stahl
Studios: Constantin Film, Impact Pictures
Distributors: Overture Films, Constantin Film, Icon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures
Stars: Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Cam Gigandet, Antje Traue, Cung Le, Eddie Rouse, André Hennicke, Norman Reedus, Wotan Wilke Möhring, Niels-Bruno Schmidt

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Suggested Audio Candy

Michl Britsch “Pandorum”

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Have you ever woken with no idea of your surroundings or how you found your way to them? Most of us have been a little heavy-handed on the Tequila or poison of choice at some point in our existence and reemerged with a temple-splitting hangover for our troubles. However nothing screams out Alka Seltzer quite as much as an extended jaunt in hypersleep. I’ve been as inebriated as the next bum but always remember my name once morning comes and the worst it has gotten is revolving quarters or faint case of dehydration. Guess I should count myself lucky.

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Corporal Bower (Ben Foster) is far less fortunate. Hibernation has taken its toll and left him entirely discombobulated. Disorientation makes way for nausea as he comes to, bound inside a cylindrical container and with not the vaguest clue as to how he arrived here. Along with more calm and collected superior Lieutenant Payton (Dennis Quaid), who is holed up in a nearby pod, he acclimatizes and susses that they are part of the same flight crew whose mission is unclear at this point, along with most of his recollections. With an almost photographic memory of the ship’s technical specs, Bower sets off into the overhead cable ducts to work out the lay of the land, guided by his first in command.

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The Elysium, meaning a place or state of perfect happiness, has been built to save the human race from over population and depleted resources. Whilst not the most hospitable locale, Bower does find time to mingle with any straggling locals. Feisty mare Nadia (Antje Traue), and native-tongued hunter/warrior Manh (Cung Le) have both had more time to adjust to their surroundings and the sparring pair initially offer Intel which can only be regarded as sketchy at best. Something else lurks within these ominous passageways, a breed of mutations which incessantly hunt in packs, cannibalizing anyone obtuse enough to stand in their path. Bower is forced into retreating to crawlspaces and recesses as he bids to access the ship’s reactor with the not particularly forthcoming assistance of his new-found friends.


German film-maker Christian Alvart’s science fiction thriller Pandorum has the unenviable task of following hot on the heels of my first viewing of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. Interstellar fiction doesn’t come much better than that so adjustment of sensibilities was always going to be critical. I entered expecting something of similar standard and tone of Paul W.S. Anderson’s Event Horizon, especially given as Anderson is on co-production duties here. Travis Milloy wrote a preliminary script which Alvart amalgamated with his own as proposed entrée to a three-piece which now looks decidedly unlikely given the film’s unprofitable theatrical run. Originally intended to be shot for around $200,000 the bloated $33m budget left it back-peddling to recoup its outlay . It’s a damn shame as the concept is desirable and execution, for the most part, assured.

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There is an intensity which builds from the very first scene right through to the climactic reveal and it fast becomes clear that something far larger is at stake than simple self-preservation. The threat looms constantly and Wedigo von Schultzendorff’s photography suitably depicts the insular, occasionally stifling, trappings of the ship commendably. However the threat itself, gnarled inbred abominations, is possibly not documented well enough. Those Ghosts of Mars were a pain in the ass-funnel but Mars is a far cry from the claustrophobic setting here and their presence is felt a little less than anticipated. This is by no means a criticism as there are a handful of instances where their dominance is highlighted brilliantly, more a wish list and something which a sequel would’ve elaborated on further.

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Quaid has long been an actor who I have held considerable admiration for and science fiction forms a significant dollop of his résumé. Dreamscape, Inner Space, Frequency and Wolfgang Petersen’s majestic Enemy Mine have all given him the opportunity to delve into more existential material. Here he is perfectly cast as the thoughtful first-in-command and gives the kind of turn actors as adept as he can churn out in their hypersleep. I can’t recall him ever being less than concentrated but here he has to be content with playing second fiddle.


The reason for this is a magisterial performance from Foster as the beleaguered Bower. Six Feet Under had given me ample exposure to this young man and the magnitude of his professionalism and commitment to each role undertaken is on full exhibition here. He insisted on eating real live insects for his part and wears his character like Persian mink for every solitary picosecond he’s on-screen. It has to be said, this dude has to endure a pretty constant battering the likes of which even the mighty Ash would burst a bollock at. He takes a perpetual locomotive of pain square on the chin and invests every last fiber without once dropping the baton.

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It’s hard not to have unrealistic expectations of horror sci-fi, such is its infinite scope for dynamic outlandish narrative. Somewhat invariably, with hordes of Trekkies and Warsies setting their phasers to stun, works such as this are belittled and Event Horizon suffered a similar fate. Pandorum may not be quite as entertaining but it is more consistently fascinating and is fully deserving of being mentioned in the same breath. It’s pseudo scientific justification may not be fully rounded but, as was the case with Prometheus, this is never necessitated. As a piece of science fiction it sidesteps many of the genre pitfalls but just lacks that final reach to hoist it into the stars.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10

Grue Factor: 3/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Shades of sickness but no reason to excavate a bowel. Grue is always tertiary and instead the primary focus is dread which it has in abundance but, when called upon for light splatter, the effects are very well implemented and any CGI non-intrusive. Meanwhile, the leagues of rabid Norman Reedus devotees will get a kick out of his brief appearance but titillation isn’t on the agenda.


Read Event Horizon Appraisal

Read Prometheus Appraisal

Read Aliens Appraisal

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Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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