Pandorum (2009)


(director: Christian Alvart; screenwriters: Travis Milloy/story by Travis Milloy & Christian Alvart; cinematographer: Wedigo von Schultzendorff; editor: Philipp Stahl; cast: Dennis Quaid (Payton), Ben Foster (Bower), Cam Gigandet (Gallo), Cung Le (Manh), Antje Traue (Nadia); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Paul W. S. Anderson/Jeremy Bolt/Robert Kulzer; Overture Films; 2009)
“It couldn’t keep my attention for even a nano second.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A gloomy, claustrophobic fright sci-fi thriller that’s dully directed by German filmmaker Christian Alvart (“Case 39″/”Antibodies”/ “Curiosity and the Cat”); it couldn’t keep my attention for even a nano second, and so much of it is taken from the likes of Solaris, Event Horizon, Pitch Black, Battlestar Galactica, The Descent, Serenity, Cube, Resident Evil and Alien (the film’s premise can be traced to this pic). This derivative film is less watchable than the others mentioned above. Also, its fight scenes are wasted because the lighting is too dark to clearly follow the action.

We’re told the title means “Orbital Dysfunctional Syndrome,” which is how I felt after catching from it a travel sickness type of vertigo. It’s based on a story by Travis Milloy and Christian Alvart, and Milloy handles the inadequate screenplay.

An abandoned spaceship, a 60,000-person craft known as the Elysian, in the 22nd century, finds two astronauts awaken disoriented from a hyper-sleep chamber and wonder what the hell is going on, since they temporarily can’t remember who they are and more permanently can’t recall what is their mission. The mechanical engineer, Cpl. Bower (Ben Foster), ventures out into the creepy blackness and finds things in disrepair and can’t locate any other crew members. He’s aided by Lt. Payton (Dennis Quaid), via radio transmitter in the control section, who guides Bower to the nuclear reactor to reboot the ship. Payton soon comes into contact with an agitated young officer named Gallo (Cam Gigandet) and the two seem to have a mysterious connection. Bower along the way uncovers a shocking reality, as he’s confronted by humanoid mutants dressed as if attending a heavy metal concert or perhaps an Oakland Raider football game in bone-spiked battle armor. These are the dead bodies of fellow crew members, but even though some bodies look dead they are warring survivors with plenty of weapons and a will to do damage. On top of this, the astronauts have to fight off pandorum, which occurs after too much deep space hibernation and leads to paranoia and delirium.

The film’s only acceptable feature is Richard Bridgland’s atmospheric set designs (constructed in a Berlin studio), that takes shape as a clanking steamy womb, if you would. There’s lots of metal, giving the film a cold look, as there are metallic walkways that open onto echoing caverns (to get that proper effect a few scenes were shot in an abandoned power plant).

The tech officer is aided by a well-stacked German geneticist Nadia (Antje Traue), who speaks in whispers for some reason, and a brawny mumbling Vietnamese agriculturalist, Manh (Cung Lee, the mixed-martial-arts world champion), tough hombres from the original passenger list who use their martial-arts skills to help the astronauts. Slowly (and I mean slowly!) all the secrets are revealed and the astronauts realize how important it is for them to survive (we will learn that their mission is to repopulate a new earth-like planet called Tanis).

It’s not worth sitting through this unpleasant superficial flick to learn all the secrets. The lame story is made worse by its pretensions it had something to say about the morality of space missions.