Pandorum (2009)

Rating: C+

Dir: Christian Alvart
Star: Ben Foster, Dennis Quaid, Cung Le, Antje Traue

Despite flaws, mostly in characterization which is severely limited, and a hugely-derivative storyline, I still liked the idea here, and it’s executed with enough energy to make for an acceptable time. Astronauts Bower (Foster) and Payton (Quaid) awake from hypersleep with very limited memories of what has happened, only to find themselves trapped in one chamber of their craft, an ark taking 60,000 souls to a new planet. Bower, using that old stand-by, the air ducts, gets out, because he needs to restart the nuclear reactor, which will otherwise stop entirely.

However, he finds that the ship is now providing an all-you-can-eat buffet for some quick, vicious and predatory monsters. Bower teams up with a few human survivors as he picks his way through the carnage towards the atomic core: meanwhile, Payton is visited by a young crewman, whose grip on sanity seems increasingly shaky – the “pandorum” of the title being a kind of space madn… No, make it: SPAAAAAAACE… MADNESSSSSSSS… [Ok, no-one outside of Ren & Stimpy fans will get that reference] This feels like a 50’s pulp SF story, and if the twist at the end came as a shock, it’s only because you guessed the other possible way this could have finished. Quaid doesn’t get to do much, and one senses he is mostly in this because the film would otherwise have no names you’ve heard of at all.

Still, the $40m budget is up there on the screen, with some impressive sets, capturing nicely a crumbling industrial atmosphere. However, the overall feeling is something that you’ve seen too often before, and neither the performances nor the direction are capable of overcoming this sense of over-familiarity to the necessary degree to make this worthwhile. At one point, I turned to Chris and said, “This would make a good Dr. Who episode: that’s perhaps the most accurate summary, would have been about $35m cheaper, and the added humanity would have been a welcome boost to a film that is short on character.