Films about aliens that actually end up being good are few and far between. That is evidenced simply enough by looking at the Alien quadrilogy which has a couple fantastic films while a couple leave a lot to be desired. The problem with films about aliens is that filmmakers have begun trying to make them more frightening then anything else causing them to steer away from the science-fiction genre they should be focusing on. I’d give anything to have a straight up sci-fi flick even though horror has always been my area of expertise and great love. Sadly, Pandorum falls into this same trap and appears early on to give sci-fi fans what they are longing for, but then smacks down face first into the plague of trying to be scary.
Corporal Bower has just awoken from a long cryogenic sleep aboard the, what seems to be abandoned, Elysium. Shortly after wandering around he finds Lieutenant Payton who wakes up soon and also has no idea what has been going on. They have numerous questions as to why they are alone and where the shift is that should taken over for them. Bower begins exploring the ship for some sort of answers and anyone else that may be around or even alive. Soon he finds himself hiding from and face-to-face with some form of white mutant civilization that is out to kill and eat. Bower finds a few other crew members from time to time but they can neither provide him any more information nor help him. Along the way and with constant vocal advice from Payton, Bower also battles with a space sickness called pandorum that is slowly starting to consume him.
Pandorum doesn’t sound like it has much of a plot and honestly it really doesn’t. The first fifteen to twenty minutes are actually quite fantastic as we watch Bower try to figure out what is going on and then team up with Payton to figure out anything whatsoever. After that, the film turns into nothing more then Bower meeting up with one surviving crew member after another as he tries to find out what the white creatures are as well as survive their vicious attacks. Make that the attacks of both the mutants and the non-trusting (obviously) crew that is just attempting to stay alive. There isn’t much more and it quickly takes the film from very intriguing to overly slow and uninteresting without so much as a transition.
It’s not just that the film tries to be scarier and more frightening then actually science-fiction, but it loses steam so fast after a hot beginning. Things take a turn to the dull side and even become a bit boring at around the midway point of it all and it’s hard to even keep your attention focused. Pandorum seemed to have so much potential from all the trailers and also after popping it into my DVD player, but the downhill turn made it far from extraordinary or even anything different then we’ve seen before. Sad to see such potential wasted on a partially decent script and a cast of actors that only have a few veteran and future stars in it. Oh well, can’t win ’em all.
The film is shown in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and it is a good looking film at times but with a lot of color problems. All special effects as well as backgrounds are quite fantastic but the color scheme is just bad and makes things hard to see at times. True, Pandorum is meant to be a dark film but it simply comes off as foggy and sometimes aggravating.
The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and it is phenomenal with all dialogue being heard loudly and clearly while music and surrounding sound effects keep you in the atmosphere. There are many times you’ll feel as if you are right there with the characters with aliens lurking over your shoulder so thumbs up here.
The World Of Elysium – A rather basic “making of” featurette that kind of sticks to the norm but without as many cast and crew interviews. It’s nice watching more of the actual behind-the-scenes stuff anyway. (14:00)
What Happened To Nadia’s Team? – Nothing more then a quick explanation as to what happened to Nadia and her squad. Kind of obvious if you sit back and think about it. (5:00)
Flight Team Training Video – Kind of a neat viral look at what you may experience if this all really happened. Sad it was so short. (3:00)
Audio Commentary – Director Christian Alvart and producer Jeremy Bolt sit down together for a commentary track that isn’t bad but isn’t really good either. A few nice production stories and interesting revelations are given forth, but most of the time they are simply discussing what is happening on screen or patting themselves on the back.
Deleted & Alternate Scenes – Almost half an hour’s worth of extra stuff is shown here and some of it is pretty good so be sure to check them all out.
Trailers – The Men Who Stare At Goats, Law Abiding Citizen, and Spartacus: Blood and Sand
With a decent opening and some potential present, it’s hard to come right out and say that Pandorum is a total flop because it really isn’t. If only the writers had worked as hard on the last eighty minutes of the film as they did on the first twenty then it could have been a science-fiction classic in the making. Hell, there wasn’t even a lot of dialogue in the beginning but just good plot development and a nice introduction. The special features don’t provide much either making it hard to recommend this DVD for purchase but maybe you might want to try out a rental some evening when you’ve got nothing else to do. Kind of makes me wish I could head into outer space and create my own freakish sci-fi flick. Is that possible?
Starz/Anchor Bay presents Pandorum. Directed by: Christian Alvart. Starring: Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Cam Gigandet, Antje Traue, Cung Le, Eddie Rouse. Written by: Travis Milloy & Christian Alvart. Running time: 108 minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: January 19, 2010. Available at Amazon.com