Too Unappealing for Ho-hum

Where to begin?

That’s a fine question for a review of Pandorum, whose script seems to ask itself the very same thing—at levels metaphorical, self-referential, and impractical.

The story, at its core, is a mish-mash of many things we’ve seen before—usually done better, and often done quite recently.  Like WALL-E, it envisions a future in which a massive spaceship is the only viable colony of surviving Earthlings.  Like The Matrix, it gets a certain perverse pleasure out of the idea of life-support pods cradling thousands upon thousands of slime-covered, cable-tentacled torsos.  Like Alien and its sequels, it ratchets up tension by having a bare-bones and dwindling crew battle alienoid creatures which have infested the ship.  Like The Descent, it conjures a future in which humans—living too long in the dark without proper socialization from things like Sesame Street—can evolve into ceiling-scuttling critters who like nothing more than a bite of raw human flesh, just for fun.  As in Moon, Deep Space fractures personalities as isolated astro-drones wander through largely abandoned hives.  And like Sphere… well, I won’t ruin that bit.

Dennis Quaid as Payton in PandorumBut the biggest similarities are with Event Horizon, the scare-the-whatever-out-of-you deep space thriller from a few years back which was actually one of the most effective horror films you’ll ever see.  And that makes sense, of a sort, given that so many of that film’s producers and technical crew (even its director) worked on this one as well.  It also doesn’t make any sense at all, given how effective Event Horizon was.  Lighting simply doesn’t strike twice.

This time around, Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster star as a pair of hyper-sleep-drunk flight officers trying to figure out why most of their relief crew is dead or missing, and why their ship, the Elysium, seems to be suffering a reactor failure before completing its mission to colonize a new Earth-type planet.  As space-panic sets in, a handful of survivors from other sectors of the ship fill us in on various factoids necessary to unfold the mystery.  It’s like a big-budget dime-store horror cum mystery cum sci-fi potboiler—filmed by a crew suffering from indigestion and a run of really bad relationships.

For those who like their sci-fi rough and grotesque, I’ve probably already said too much; for those who don’t, I need say no more.  Caveat emptor.

Pandorum is rated R for “strong horror violence and language.”  That’s all?  Yes, I guess it was.  But boy was there plenty of it.

Courtesy of a national publicist, Greg screened a promotional DVD of Pandorum.