10.01.2009

Pandorum (2009): It’s been a while and it was worth the wait.



 This movie has had my excitement meter pulsing for quite some time, especially after being impressed by director Christian Alvart’s Antibodies. Despite very different subject matters, Alvart’s films do share common themes through the exploration of philosophy involving religion, human nature, and psychology. Alvart succeeds in offering a philosophical context without coming across heavy-handed and without sacrificing story.


My favorite screen cap. Intense, no?

A lot of people have complained that Pandorum is too similar to Aliens, Resident Evil, and Event Horizon. I don’t think this criticism is entirely fair. Check out this atrocious article from Box Office Mojo,  where the author  mistakenly cites Resident Evil and Quarantine as films with a “terror-on-a-spaceship premise.” Pandorum isn’t all that similar to those films except that it shares the same subgenre (sci-fi-action-horror) and will undoubtedly have some parallels because of that fact. Just because we rarely see this subgenre (aside from crappy Sci-Fi Channel pictures), it doesn’t mean that every theatrically-released movie that combines horror with sci-fi creatures is unoriginal. How many slashers do we see that repeat the same scenario again and again? Hatchet didn’t rip off The Burning. Vacancy wasn’t trying to be Psycho. At some point, we just accept a familiar setup and atmosphere as part of the subgenre.


That asian warrior dude was pretty awesome.

Even though Pandorum was not as financially successful as some of the aforementioned movies, it is an excellent film. Feelings of claustrophobia and the distortion of reality create an environment of dread. Blending the physical threat of the creatures on board with the constant risk of mental deterioration, the world of Pandorum is one where no one can be trusted and nothing can be certain. Thematically, the filmmakers put forward an interesting mixture of realism and the fantastical, making for a film that actually deserves a spot in the science fiction section. Too many sci-fi films are only deemed sci-fi because they simply involve space, the future, or technology. Pandorum succeeds by capturing the real purpose of sci-fi: the exploration of humanity.

Thank you for futuristic weapons, even if they do look like those from Dead Space. 
Sorry, but I'm tired of pulse rifles.

Alvart proves himself as a fine technical and creative director. His direction for the two leads works well, even though they both spend a good portion of the film alone or with people they can hardly talk to.  I’ve always loved Ben Foster, especially in Bang, Bang You’re Dead and 3:10 to Yuma, and he’s great here. The loveable Dennis Quaid’s not too shabby either and he is surprisingly funny in the film’s comedic moments (there were more than I was expecting).  Despite the black hole that these characters are in, the film doesn’t get boring. Alvart expertly devises interesting shots without turning a moving camera into distracting eye candy. The use of stylistic elements, such as fisheye lenses and fast-paced tracking shots, are never overused. Cinematographer Wedigo von Schultzendorff  (I’m glad this isn’t an oral reading) brings a wide range of vibrant colors to the screen that perfectly contrast with the sterility of the interior of the spaceship. The production designer also deserves an applause. At times, it looks as if the guts of the ship are alive, with hydraulic tubing that wiggles like large snakes. From the tiniest clever details to the sheer immensity of work put into fabricating the design, I wouldn’t be surprised if at least half of the film’s budget went entirely to set design. We should also be thrilled at the use of practicals. Not only were very large rooms in the spaceship created without excessive digital enhancement, the creatures themselves are not CG abominations. This is surprising because the film actually features quite a few of them performing complicated stuntwork. Although the creatures could have looked scarier for me, the filmmakers still did a great job of rendering the scenarios with intensity and fear.



Finally, a female character that kicks ass without being obnoxious.
Yes, I'm talking to you Charlize and Mila.

Some of my complaints? The editing had me confused at times, especially in the beginning. I’m not sure if this is because scenes were cut out. It wouldn’t be shocking to learn that this film had another 20-30 minutes on it. As I mentioned before, I wasn’t thrilled by the creature design. I also think we are shown the creature far too much far too early. It couldn’t have been much more than 15 or 20 minutes in before we see most of the creature. Less is always more, right?

I loved Pandorum. It looks like most people weren’t too impressed. Oh well. You should at least give it a shot. Imagine you are in the 70’s or 80’s, when people went nuts for this type of film. Have fun with it.

4 comments:

  1. I plan on seeing this one on Saturday. People didnlt like it, huh? Well, I will continue to avoid spoilers and kepp an open mind. Thanks for the write up.

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  2. Wow, I didn't realize this was out yet. Guess I now have plans for this weekend.

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  3. Yeah this was an amazing film. I liked the creatures. And the explanation of them fit the evolutionary steps. The ending was pretty amazing too. I am glad to have a film makers like Alvart making amazing flicks. I just wish people would GO SEE IT! lol

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  4. Gotta admit that "Pandorum" is one of those movies I'm not sure if I anticipate or dread.

    Because as much as I love to watch a well done Sci-Fi (heck a Sci-Fi that deserves that name at all, there's not enough of em) both the poster ad campaign and the trailer look, to me, ranging from pretty shite to meh.

    The trailer always gives me the feeling that I'm gonna see a rehash of "Eden Log" which I wasn't that amazed of, and the posters simply range from non-descript to terrible for me.

    I'm surprised that there is a creature in that movie, the trailer suggests this to be a pure mind trip, I wonder if they fear comparision to "Alien".

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