starring Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster
directed by Christian Alvart
screenplay by Travis Milloy
The last time I saw a really good sci-fi horror movie set in space, it was Event Horizon starring Lawrence Fishburne. It's been a long wait since then for something to come close. A year or two ago, Pandorum hit theaters--and soundly bounced right out--with very little fanfare. But I still wanted to watch it and make up my own mind.
It's a century and a half in the future, roughly estimating, and Earth is f---ed. Big surprise. Humanity is scrounging for what few resources remain, yet they managed to keep up a space program to send a spaceship out to an Earth-like planet they discovered in our near future. It's a very long haul so the thousands of prospective colonists (or Earth escapees if you prefer) must be put in stasis for the trip, while a three-person crew pilots the massive ship to its destination. There are several three-person crews, each taking a few years to keep the ship on course and keep it from exploding, or whatever it is spaceships do when no one's looking.
Corporal Bower (Ben Foster) and Lt. Payton are brought out of their hyper-sleep, but there's no one from the preceding crew to greet them, and their third man is missing. They each have memory gaps, as a side-effect of the hyper-sleep, and have to piece things to together, find their third crew member, and try to access the bridge which has been locked out--along with the rest of the ship. Bower goes out to explore the ship, while Payton works on the ship's controls. Bower quickly discovers things are seriously wrong, as their crew mate is dead in the bowels of the ship, a handful of colonists are awakened and in fear of their lives, and a strange batch of humanoid savages are killing everything they find in the corridors of the ship. So the big question is: just how the hell did things go so bad?
The answers come slow, in the points between bloody fights and gory deaths, and in a couple cases no answers are offered at all. The set design for the ship was pretty impressive, and suitably grimy and added to the suspense. Though, it felt at times that the deeper into the ship Bower explored, the more disheveled and uninhabitable the surroundings looked. It was actually the few flashbacks to Earth that felt oddly out of place, considering the dystopian state it was in, Bower's home seemed remarkably white and sterile. Anyway, the setting was good, the action was intense, but the characters were muddled. What little character development there was for Bower didn't amount to much as far as the plot went, and the twists that came towards the end felt so tacked on it just took me out of the movie entirely.
And, poor Dennis Quaid. I have trouble thinking of the last genuinely good movie I saw him in. He's been a string of terrible ones, and while this one is far from terrible, it's a ways off from good, too.
As for what "Pandorum" meant. It refers to some mental condition associated with prolonged space exploration, as sufferers become insane and self-destructive. It felt like a total contrivance though, and really didn't add anything to the movie. Too bad, because I really wanted to like this one. At least I still have Event Horizon.