Film review: Pandorum

March 17, 2010 by
Filed under: Film reviews 

bowerIt happens less frequently than I’d like; a contented glow of time well-spent: 103 minutes of hybrid sf/horror that one is happy to place alongside peers such as Event Horizon, the Alien series, The Dark Hour, Pitch Black and…, well there aren’t many more to add to that list. Pandorum is a prime example of learning from what’s gone before and upping the ante to create an effectively tense and challenging experience with an originality all of its own.

Many years from now, as the Earth becomes a nuclear battleground for ownership of its failing resources, the Elysium is sent into deep space with a cargo of 60,000 sleeping people and the DNA of most of the planet’s flora and fauna; a modern ark, maintained by several crews who will be woken-up in turn as the years pass, bound for the single planet that has been identified as earth-like, Tanis; their mission, to start again.

pandorumAstronauts Bower and Peyton, from Team 5, wake from their hyper-slumbers into a world of claustrophobic darkness: the Elysium is shutting down, its reactor gradually slowing and the power drained from all but the most basic of functions. Added to this is the memory-loss that long-term sleepers suffer upon waking – and they’ve been asleep a long, long time; and the increasing threat of mental breakdown and violent paranoia – Pandorum. As Bower explores the ship, attempting to make his way to the reactor he encounters several other survivors turned feral, and a race of possibly mutated and ferociously ravenous savages straight out of The Descent/Ghosts of Mars creature blender.

So what’s new, I hear you cry. Nothing much if I’m honest, but as I wrote above Pandorum takes certain tropes and specific elements from the sf/horror sub-genre and convincingly makes them its own. The atmosphere and cinematography are downright grimy, the Elysium is Nostromo’s big brother – all its corridors are dank and dripping after years of decay. None of the crews have been around to maintain the ship’s vast, maze-like structure and systems. The creatures are hyper-violent, scuttling across the corroding surfaces of the cavernous Elysium, and although the reason for their being there is rather nebulously explained, their presence and constant stalking threat ramps up the tension to almost unbearable levels á la The Descent.

pandorum3The gradual return of Bower and Peyton’s personal and professional memories, combined with the stories of the survivors, develop into a history of the last moments of the human race on Earth, the breakdown of the crew of the Elysium, and a desperate fight for its future in a colossal sleeper-ship that knows it’s time to die.

As with The Dark Hour, Pandorum’s ending is wonderfully surprising, powerfully apt and contrasts completely with what’s gone before. It allows for a sequel, (although it’s unlikely as it didn’t perform well in cinemas), but they should leave it as it is: a clever, terrifying and uplifting film that will surely develop a cult following on DVD.

Pandorum, 2009

Directed by Christian Alvart


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