Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Ben Foster, Dennis Quaid, Antje Traue, Cung Le, Cam Gigandet, Eddie Rouse, Norman Reedus
Directed by Christian Alvart
Distributed by Starz / Anchor Bay
In a cinema sea mired with flaccid sci-fi/horror hybrids, we really needed a good old fashioned monster movie in space to come out and set things straight. With its crazy-ass marketing campaign that featured some of the best damned one-sheets we’ve seen in a long time, Christian Alvart’s Pandorum looked to be the exact film we had been waiting for, and while certainly not perfect, it did manage to get a lot more stuff right than it did wrong. Hey, that’s more than we can say for those godawful AVP movies!
Pandorum begins with space crew member Corporal Bower (Ben Foster) waking up violently from his hyper-sleep to find his memory gone, his ship abandoned, and lots of people missing. Luckily for him, soon after he’s brought back into this world, one other person ends up falling out of the wrong side of the cryo chamber — Lieutenant Payton (Dennis Quaid). Together our duo must piece together the events that led up to their increasingly creepy situation.
After a while it all starts coming back to them. The year is 2174 and Earth’s population has reached critical mass. Our two protagonists were part of a team sent out to the newly discovered life sustaining planet Tanis to ready it for colonization. Unfortunately something has gone horribly wrong, and everything remembered just leads to more and more questions. What happened to everyone? Where is the team that was supposed to manually wake them? And more importantly … what the hell is with all these nasty creatures running around on the ship?
Pandorum hits a lot of familiar beats, and that ultimately ends up being its downfall. While interesting and entertaining enough, the experience on the whole winds up feeling more like a compilation piece of other better films and less like the original work it was intended to be. Director Alvart does an admirable job of keeping things interesting by making the world of the Spaceship Elysium a memorable one to behold. The decision to go with some truly cool practical sets and monsters instead of the now standard barely there CGI approach definitely goes a long way in the film’s favor, but even that cannot prevent that nasty cut & paste feeling that keeps smacking you in the chops.
In terms of which package is worth your cash — DVD or Blu-ray, yes, the Blu-ray looks and sounds amazing. Much better than its standard definition cousin; yet, with the exception of a digital copy included with the Blu-ray, both share the same exact set of special features.
Things kick off with a middle-of-the road audio commentary with director Christian Alvart and producer Jeremy Bolt. The duo share lots of technical information as well as some semi-engaging on-set stories and behind-the-scenes tidbits, but there’s just nothing there to grab you. Next up we get your basic nearly fifteen-minute long making-of featurette called World of Elysium, which more or less is exactly what you’d expect it to be. From there we get two neat video featurettes that lend themselves to creating a bit of a back story for the world of Pandorum – a flight team training video and a five-minute look at what happened to the ship’s agricultural team. These, much like the film itself, aren’t great but are totally worth a look. Add in a whopping sixteen deleted and alternate scenes and a stills gallery, and we’re out the door.
I know it sounds as if I’m being really harsh on this flick. Plainly speaking, it is a just above average experience that promises a pretty bright future for director Alvart. Make no mistake; Pandorum hits more marks than it misses, but it does so in a way that fills you with the urge to go watch other movies. Not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.
3 out of 5
3 out of 5
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