Hopefully you all had a chance to see Christian Alvart's Pandorum over the weekend and are ready to discuss what you liked and didn't like about this ambitious, yet flawed, sci-fi/horror hybrid. This marked my second viewing of the film (the first was when it played in theaters), and my initial response hasn't really changed much. I want to like Pandorum, but there are a lot of little issues that hold it back from being truly good.

This isn't to say that Pandorum is a bad film -- it's just one that had a lot of unrealized potential. It makes for a good time-waster on a rainy Saturday afternoon, but isn't quite ready for prime-time in its current state. That's unfortunate, because it definitely shows potential.

Click past the break and I'll share some of my thoughts about Pandorum -- then you can agree or disagree with me in the comment section.
If you saw the previews for Pandorum back when they aired and thought "hey, this kinda looks like Event Horizon", you earn a brownie point from me. Pandorum does look like Event Horizon --and I think it might suffer the same sort of cinematic fate as that film: disappointing box office performance, but it finds an appreciative audience in the home video market. I don't think, however, that Pandorum will ever reach the same level of cult status as Event Horizon -- but it's not for a lack of trying. What the trailers fail to show the audience is that Pandorum isn't content to merely ape the style of EH, but that it likes to mimic a lot of other recent horror and sci-fi films as well (including Alien, Predator, and Anderson's Resident Evil). I've long been an advocate of the idea that if you're going to borrow, borrow from something good -- and Pandorum definitely aims high in the inspiration department.

Sadly, this makes it all the more unfortunate when the film never manages to live up to the expectations set by its influences. Pandorum isn't a swing and a miss film, but more of a foul tip. Either way, that still counts as a strike.

Basically, the story of the film is this: Bower (Ben Foster) and Payton (Dennis Quaid) wake up from deep hyperspace sleep to discover that their spaceship is empty. One of the effects of this hyperspace sleep thing is that it can take some time for memory to return. Neither guy knows what, exactly, is going on, where they are, or why they're awake. They begin to work together to try and solve the puzzle of what's going on around them. Soon, they discover that they're not the only people on their vessel -- and that there are some other unwanted guests onboard as well.

One of the things Pandorum does well is thrust its audience right into the unpleasant proceedings. Unlike most horror flicks, there's no moment in the normal world to contrast with the strange events to come. Pandorum dumps us right in the mystery alongside Bower. As he learns things, so do we -- we rarely know anything before he does, which makes viewing this film a much more visceral experience. Audiences will be engaged by the storyline from the early moments until the climax.

This sense of discovery is a wonderful thing in a cinematic world where screenwriters and directors spoonfeed audiences every detail of symbolism and thematic meaning. The only problem with Pandorum is that the payoff of this journey was a bit of a letdown for me. There are moments when things are revealed that are genuinely disappointing. It occasionally feels like the screenwriter just wasn't sure how to finish the story -- so he came up with an idea that sort of works and called it a day. With a better ending, I'd be way more effusive in my praise of Pandorum. Instead, I have to cite it as exhibit A in why this film doesn't quite succeed.

The shame of this is that Pandorum does a lot of other things that made me happy. Foster is a very good actor and I suspect we'll be seeing more of him going forward. Dennis Quaid continues his odd later career trajectory by being in yet another genre flick, but this one is way better than Horsemen. Actress Antje Trau practically steals the film as the butt-kicking Nadia...but none of that makes up for the relatively lackluster ending. Maybe I'm just getting picky as I get older. I know people who liked Pandorum's climax -- but it just never clicked for me.

I've seen a few people complain that Pandorum is too slow, that the film is ponderous in its narrative progression. It is definitely slower than your typical summer blockbuster, but I'm at a bit of a loss as to how anyone could call it ponderous and mean that in a negative way. Pandorum is what we used to call a "slow burn" flick, but that's a positive as far as I'm concerned. There's nothing wrong with a film taking its time to set the mood and tone. There's especially nothing wrong with a film asking its audience to experience the narrative in the way the lead character is -- thinking at the movies is not only okay, it's something more films should require of their audiences.

Despite the problems, I still like Pandorum. Foster and Quaid give performances that make up for a lot of the film's perceived shortcomings and I like the atmosphere and the Event Horizon vibe. It's sad that it didn't find an audience theatrically, but I do think now that it's on DVD that fans will eventually discover it for themselves. But, enough blathering from me. What did you guys think? Did you like the ending more than I did? Do you think the payoffs were worth it? Did you hate it? Share your thoughts below.
categories Features, Sci-Fi