Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Review: Pandorum

Filed under: Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:38 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous


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I saw Pandorum Sunday morning.

It was okay, but nothing fantastic, frankly, or overly surprising.
The premise is simple enough; a flight crew wakes up from an extended hypersleep on an enormous spacecraft that seems to be either abandoned or damaged, but they don’t know what or why and no one is there to tell them what’s going on.

But, of course, it’s more complicated than just firing up the computer and reading the ship’s log.  The power is out, mostly, except for power surges that are almost more trouble than the lack of power that seems to be the rule.  The flight crew is missing one person and suffering from a kind of temporary amnesia caused by the extended hypersleep, but things start to come back to them quickly.  The officer of the team, a Leutenant played by Dennis Quaid, gets enough emergency power routed to the local workstation to discover that the ship’s reactor is going to overload, or rather, it’s going into emergency shutdown before it does actually overload.  The Corporal, played by Ben Foster, just happens to have remembered that he knows how to restart the reactor and save the ship and everyone on it.  All he needs to do is get to it, which means getting past a whole lot of bulkhead doors effectively locked due to the power fluctuations.  Naturally, that means he’s going to have to crawl through a whole lot of very strange, ooky ducts that lead to a lot of eerie, drippy, abandoned corridors.

The thing is, as huge as the ship is, most of the crew and passengers aren’t there or awake.  And, while wandering the corridors, looking for a way to the reactor, the Corporal remembers that they’re a colony ship, sent to create a new Earth on a very distant planet.  A one-way trip meant to off-load a significant portion of the population of an over-stressed, worn-out, abused Earth and give humanity a new start.  Which makes it even more confusing that they seem to be all alone.
Only, it turns out, they’re not alone.  Something else is there.  Something human-like, but more animal.  Something that hunts in packs and seems to know the ship quite well.  Something that’s hunted the other flight crews down for food.  And, at least some of the colonists, too, as it turns out.
The Corporal runs into two colonists, each involved in life-sciences of one kind or another, who have learned to live in the dark, corroded ship, hiding from the alien things who have made it their hunting ground.

Well, that’s the basics of the movie.
It’s not a bad premise for a story, actually.  In fact, in one form or another, it’s been used in science-fiction for many years.  It was even the basis of at least one sci-fi role-playing game.  This movie handles the topic quite well, I think.  It produces a fairly realistic set of circumstances, if it’s possible to create a “realistic” setting in a science-fiction setting.  Then, it puts reasonable people in that setting and applies pressure.  I think that is the essence of a good story, whether in a movie or a book.  People are at their most interesting when they’re under significant pressure, when they’re given a chance to show their true character.
The sets are very much like the sets we saw in Alien, and many, many times since.  It’s nothing particularly new anymore, but I think Pandorum does it better than I’ve seen since the Alien movies, so it was fine and not over-done at all.  It is a dark movie, in both the cinematography and the theme are dark.  The sets are mostly in shadow and odd emergency lighting, reinforcing the idea that no one knows what’s going on and what dangers might be lurking just off screen.  And, of course, the idea that an entire ship of people, an entire colony, might be lost at any moment and the possibility that something sinister already has happened to them are themes that are ever-present and weigh heavily on both the characters and the audience.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a good science-fiction horror movie, but I have to say, Pandorum was that.  It wasn’t great, but it was good.  It’s hard not to compare it to Alien, since that was the first true sci-fi horror movie I ever saw.  But, it’s no where near as good as Alien.  Still, Pandorum is worth seeing on the big screen if you like scary, tense science-fiction films.  And, I did enjoy it.

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