What do you get when you mix pieces of “Alien”, “Event Horizon”, “Sunshine” and “The Descent”? Well if you are writer Travis Milloy and director Christian Alvart then you would get “Pandorum”, a sci-fi thriller that stars Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster. “Pandorum” starts off by telling its audience that Earth has become overpopulated and that for survival the human race has decided to move off planet by sending a colonization ship to a distant Earth-like planet. At some point during the long journey to the new planet the ship receives a transmission from Earth stating that Earth had been destroyed and those on the ship were the only ones left in the entire human race. Flash forward to some time in the future and one of the members of the flight crew, Bower (Foster), is awoken from cryogenic sleep only to find that the ship is a malfunctioning. Once his flight team leader, Payton (Quaid), wakes up Bower begins trying to find a way to the bridge but discovers something much worse than a mechanical failure is at hand or maybe, just maybe, it is all in his head.
“Pandorum” tries to keep you guessing throughout the film but any self respecting science fiction fan will have the “twist” figured out pretty early on, as it basically steals the plots of “Sunshine” and “Event Horizon”. Let us be honest though, unoriginality does not, in itself, equal a bad film. A generic one, maybe, but not a bad film. Where “Pandorum” goes bad is in how it takes the ideas of others and presents them in such a bland fashion.
Alvart is unable to convey any sense of tension throughout the film and, considering it is a sci-fi / horror thriller, that is kind of important. Everything looks atmospheric enough but despite all the dark corners and strobe effects there is nothing the least bit tense about the film. If you have ever thought to yourself, “I wonder how they could make mutant cannibals boring?” then “Pandorum” is the film for you. It is all quite astonishing that somehow “Pandorum” is able to steal some of the best aspects of those aforementioned horror and sci-fi films and make them boring.
Not all the blame for “Pandorum” should be leveled at Alvart, or at his script writer Milloy, because the film has a whole cast of misfits on which to blame aspects of its failure on. For one, Foster and Quaid are not on the same page with how the film should be acted. Foster, to his credit, takes the material seriously and while he may overact at points at least his heart is in the right place. Quaid on the other hand seems to believe he signed up for a campy sci-fi romp and plays Payton in full-on cheese mode. The rest of the cast does nothing to help matters either, Antje Traue, who plays survivalist Nadia, is nothing more than a pretty face and Cung Le, who plays the mute Manh, does nothing but look short and grunt at Foster’s Bower.
“Pandorum” has all the ingredients to be an enjoyable science fiction thriller but somehow it messes it all up and instead of being a tense film on a derelict space ship it is a generic and dull excuse for entertainment. You an do worse than “Pandorum”, in fact there is currently an entire list of films on Rotten Tomatoes that are worse, but that doesn’t make “Pandorum” good, just better than the worst.
2 out of 5.