Monday, 1 March 2010

Pandorum



PANDORUM (2009)

Directed by: Christian Alvart
Screenplay: Travis Malloy
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Cam Gigandet, Antje Traue, Norman Reedus

Gory action horror set in the far reaches of space, Pandorum sees German director Christian Alvart (Antibodies) let loose with space madness, lost ships, mutants and a style of sheer ferocity. Sharing similar themes with the criminally underrated Event Horizon, Pandorum sees two crew members, Bower (Foster) and Payton (Quaid), awake suddenly from cryogenic sleep on board the massive hulk, Elysium. Suffering memory loss and the rest of the crew seemingly vanished, the two disorientated space travelers set about exploring the ship looking for answers. What they find is beyond their worst fears, the ship now infested with hordes of mutant cannibals and the search for answers becomes an ever increasing battle for survival.



While it’s not always startlingly original in set up, Pandorum has a surfeit of twists, turns and concepts that set it apart from many other lone survivors stranded on a spaceship sci-fi flicks. In fact, it may just twist and turn and be a little over plotted for its own good, as it can get a little confusing as to what is going on to who and why. But then this is all part of the “gone-mad-in-space” vibe Pandorum has going for it and warrants viewing the film at least a couple of times to truly appreciate how it all fits together. Alvart certainly injects his film with a ferocious momentum, the descent into madness and constant escapes from the marauding mutants never letting up. This is not slow, thoughtful sci-fi; this is full on horror in space. That’s not to say Pandorum doesn’t have any smarts going for it. The characters, despite some often clunky dialogue, are rather well defined with personalities and for a refreshing change actually run away and attempt to hide when danger threatens them: as opposed to always walking right into it when they should be blatantly running for their lives.



The concept and design of Pandorum is especially impressive, creating a sort of high tech, futuristic, Goth, horror world. This adds oodles of atmosphere to the flick and the design of the nasty beasties aboard the massive spaceship is genuinely disturbing, making them a particularly vicious foe. In fact, the scenes involving the mutated atrocities are arguably when Pandorum is at its best. Alvart piles on the tension and threat, and even the gore, as the humans fight for their lives, not least in one scene where a very nasty beastie throws everyone around like they are rag dolls. Pandorum works best when it is in full horror mode and Alvart creates several intense set pieces of gore soaked, action packed and terrifying mutant horror. In addition, the film keeps the viewer guessing to what is actually going on and takes some unique u-turns just when you think you have it sussed out.



On the downside, Alvart can’t stay away from the dreaded over editing. It’s not too bad here but rears its ugly head more than not and while it helps to build the intensity of the action scenes, it could have been eased up elsewhere. The film seems to rush a little too much, some scenes just desperate to get exposition out (hence, the clunky dialogue) whereas the film could have slowed down just a bit. The objective seems to be to create a non-stop, intense ride and Pandorum certainly works on that level but some easing up on the character and dialogue scenes (i.e. don’t rush them) would have made Pandorum a much more satisfying experience.

Having said that, if horror in space is what you want then Pandorum delivers. With an impressive and committed performance by lead Ben Foster, some excellent visual effects and intense action, Pandorum is a serious slice of outer space madness: props to Alvart for sticking to his full throttle guns. Just don’t go in expecting something akin to the recent Moon and Star Trek reboot as this is a very different kettle of sci-fi fish. And there's nothing wrong with that.


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