Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pandorum (2009)

I'm a big fan of the sci-fi horror/action genre, and it's not often that aficionados like me are treated to a well-executed example with high production values. Pandorum (2009) is one of the better examples of the genre, although it's not without its flaws.

Never quite reaching its initial promise, Pandorum (2009) draws several elements from other sci-fi movies, most notably the sense of paranoia and doom in Event Horizon (1997) and the isolation of Moon (2009).  The set design is the best part of the experience; it's well realized with superb lighting, and a fantastic sense of scale and grandeur that amplifies the isolation.  The plot has several satisfying twists, but into the cliche of personifying evil in a single person (much like Event Horizon) during the finale.

Two crew members wake up from a hypersleep, with only fragments of their memories remaining.  Bower (Ben Foster) escapes through a service duct to repair a reactor on the other side of the ship, while Payton (Dennis Quaid) remains. At this point, their stories diverge but then collide during the finale.

Bowers has the more interesting journey and encounters a woman who attacks him, only to be scared away by bestial humanoids (looking somewhat like the cave-dwellers in The Descent), armed with knives, clubs and some very pointy teeth.  After they meet again, the woman realizes that Bowers is not a threat and reveals she's a geneticist (although the film asks too much when the fact that she's an expert fighter is glossed over) that woke up several months ago, and has been in survival mode ever since.  She, along with two others they meet, accompany him to the reactor.

Payton, remains behind, and is joined by another crew member.  Both their stories are intertwined and are revealed throughout the film, but conclude in yet another cliche, as if the filmmakers were picking plot points out of a bag.

The action is confusing, filmed with quick cuts and close-ups, making it impossible to make out the flow of the blows and parries; this removes any tension from the fights. Perhaps a better choice would have had the good guys hiding in the shadows, dodging the humanoid beasts, while occasionally glimpsing the mangling of others from afar.  I can't help but this that this would have amplified the tension and despair.

Perhaps I'm being too critical.  I found the movie certainly very entertaining, and as a fan of the under-serviced genre I'm pretty pleased at the relatively high production values. However, as it stands this was an average movie; had the film-makers made a few different decisions with respect to the plot, action and pacing, this would have been a great movie.

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