I've not been too impressed with that many science-fiction thriller/horror films set in outer space since, well, probably Alien and Aliens, but Pandorum turned out to be something of a different ball game altogether. It's been too long since I last enjoyed a film of this genre, and who would have thought this was something originally planned for a direct to video release. It looks gorgeously dark, and pretty much entertaining from start to finish, keeping you guessing until the mid-way mark, while letting the gloomy, pessimistic atmosphere envelope you.
I suppose of late the premise of our Earth dying, and deep space vessels built to bring selected people on that colonizing trip to far flung planets, have been the It thing in many contemporary science fiction films, since it plays on the fact that we're continuously ravaging the planet and payback time is just around the corner. To avoid extinction, by then in the future we'd come up with such a Noah's Ark to transport ourselves somewhere else to get that fighting chance of survival, and the film pretty much starts off with Ben Foster's Corporal Bower waking up in a pod, and emerging into a darkened space hull where it seems like he's the only survivor.
If you'd want to nitpick, there are adequate avenues to do so, and in fact sometimes right from the start. Take for instance the waking up from deep, hibernating sleep, where it'll take a while for one to re-orientate oneself and remember stuff. So why didn't anyone think of at least waking up to a notebook readily available with basic facts and figures? Like I mentioned, these trivialities should be checked at the door, because the payload's very much worth over these little inconsequential asking of Whys, some of which do get addressed as the film moved along.
Corporal Bower soon gets joined by Lieutenant Payton (Dennis Quaid) and together they try to make sense of their predicament, with the higher ranking officer guiding his only man to do the grunt work of hitting the ground, while he well, pretty much does environmental monitoring over at the console chamber. And of course this allows Ben Foster, who has been extremely impressive in his supporting role in 3:10 To Yuma, to take the opportunity to shine again as the ground-soldier-flight-engineer to implement his plan of reviving the ship's nuclear reactor before the main systems shut down for good.
And this of course allows for adequate set action sequences to take place as uneasy alliances get forged with respective, primal human survivors that Bower comes across, and pit them against some really pasty white and dexterous creatures that feed on both humans and cannibalizing their own fallen comrades, courtesy of Stan Winston Studios. While they may seem to move in confined spaces with stealth, cunning and speed reminiscence of those in the Alien franchise, somehow the cinematography and angles chosen seem to make it all a tad difficult at times to make out who's doing what, and who's attacking who, though when it does get its act together, it's edge-of-your-seat material, especially when it successfully exploits its “boo” moments to scare.
There are some impressive sets and effects that do make you sit up and take notice, and for a relatively modest budgeted film, the filmmakers have pulled off quite the miracle in creating this environment full of questions asked. The story by Travis Milloy plays out like one huge mystery for the audience to solve, though of course its twist is nothing not already seen before, but still rather effectively put on screen by director Christian Alvart.
Pandorum has been playing for some time already and screening is now relegated to a few halls and limited screening times. Do yourself a favour and catch this before it disappears from here for good!