Don't fear the end of the world. Fear what happens next.
Running Time: 108 minutes
US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15
Country: Germany, United States
Sci-fi movies have been experiencing a bit of a resurgence latelySurrogates was OK, District 9 was great, and Moon should win Sam Rockwell an award somewhereand Pandorum, which has its moments but isnt really treading any new territory, falls somewhere in the middle of that list.
It all starts when astronauts Bower (Ben Foster) and Payton (Dennis Quaid) wake up on a spaceship from what turns out to have been years of hyper-sleep, only to discover they have no memory of who they are, where they are, or what their mission is. Slowly, though, as they explore their surroundingsand themselvesthey begin to gain some insight into their identities and situation. They also realize theyre not as alone as they first believed, and their search for what the heck theyre doing turns into a quest to survive.
While not necessarily original, Pandorum feels more like an homage to classics like 2001 and the Alien series than it does a rip-off. Sure the whole alone in space motif has been done to death, but its not always a sign of weakness to use a tried and true element of a story to create your own, which is what Pandorum does. Director Christian Alvert not only has a believable hero is Fosters Bower, he does some nifty things with atmosphere and timing, and the balance between a linear race-against-time-to-get-to-the-reactor juxtaposed against an Is he?/Isnt he? debate over if one or more of the main guys is going mad from the crazy-making Pandorum disease lends an uneasy suspense to an otherwise decent but rote space tale.
Then theres that girl. I think her name was Nadia (Antje Traue), and besides a scene early on where she munches on a grasshopper, shes basically unremarkable save for an accent that reminded me of Valeria Golino from the Hot Shots! moviesthough I suppose shes there to give the boys something to ogle. Some of the chases are also drawn out to almost excruciating length, and a good 20 minutes could have been shaved off the finished product to provide a tighterand ultimately more suspensefulsense of urgency. Dont get me wrongtheres a dark, claustrophobic look to most of this film that gives it a feeling of being stuck in space (or wherever), and the camerawork by famed German cinematographer Wedigo von Schultzendorff takes away the shiny sterility of space and makes us feel like its a little gritty and gloomy amongst the technological advancesbut its that same look that grows a little tedious as time goes on and we see the what seems like the same chase scene a few times. For sci-fi fans, though, its a little like a GOOD Hugh Grant romantic comedyyou know what to expect for the most part, but its an entertaining road to get there.
It's Got: A creepy look, some good effects and creatures, above average performances from Foster and Quaid
It Needs: To cut down on some of the chasing, a better female "lead," a little less strobe-light-esque flashing
Nothing we haven’t seen before, Pandorum is still a suspenseful take on the “lost in space” theme that sci-fi fans will enjoy.