It’s 2174, and Earth, being vastly overpopulated, sends a Noah’s Arc-type spaceship to planet Tanis, which is compatible for living on. Unfortunately, the captain got a case of Pandorum, which causes paranoia and erratic behavior, and he sabotaged the mission. Eight years later, crew members Bower (Ben Foster) and Payton (Dennis Quaid) wake up, confused but ready to save the ship. They have to find and reset the ship’s reactor and get it going before the preserved life forms die. Not a simple task, given that Bower has no idea where he’s going, and there’s a boatload of aliens aboard who like to eat people. Meanwhile, they have to contend with other unpredictable crew members while fighting Pandorum.
Though there are plenty of horror-ish moments, Pandorum is far too science-fiction-y for me. It’s extremely technical and complex. I found it hard to follow the first time I watched it, and only slightly less so on the second viewing (my sister and her friend, who had never seen it, wandered in during the last half hour, so I had my work cut out for me trying to explain it to them). In fact, my apologies if I get some of the plot details wrong.
Aside from being potentially boring for hardcore horror fans, the film has characters popping up and disappearing (and reappearing) for no reason. As Bower protests, “A little fucking solidarity goes a long way.”
It’s also a very dark film, not just in terms of the lighting, but in tone. The throwaway characters have occasional unfunny one-liners, but overall it’s a very depressing movie. Not to mention the plot hole that when Bower wakes up in his space pod, he yells, and the audience can’t hear him. But later, when Payton imprisons Pandorum-ridden Gallo (Cam Gigandet) in a similar pod, we can hear him quite plainly.
But there are things to recommend it. I’m intrigued by the allusions to Greek mythology, Pandora, for example, and the ship being named the Elysium, a reference to the Elysian Fields, the afterlife, or, as it is put in the movie, “heaven for heroes.” And while the twist is predictable, it’s still pretty cool. On the whole, it’s worth a once-over. If you’re like me and are not a science person, don‘t give up before the first 20 minutes are over; it gets less difficult. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for something that makes your brain work—sometimes.