Director    Christian Alvart
Starring    Ben Foster, Dennis Quaid, Cam Gigandet, Antje Traue, Cung Lee
Release    25 SEP (US) 2 OCT (UK)    Certificate 15
2 stars


1st October 2009

Earth has depleted its resources and become over populated. The answer to this problem? Neuter the world's idiots? Nope - in Pandorum, the solution is to send a large group of cryogenically-frozen men and women into space, hurtling towards a newly found plant that can sustain life. Far less exciting an option, if you ask me.

We open with young hero Bower (Foster) waking up from his slumber, disorientated and suffering from memory loss. As he slowly begins to piece things together, he stumbles around trying to figure out why it is there are little signs of life on the ship. When commanding officer Payton (Quaid) wakes up suffering from the same problem, the two of them resolve to figure out where they are, what the mission is and where the rest of the crew have gone.

So far so good, but this is where Pandorum's interesting questions end and its problems begin. Anyone expecting a sci-fi think-piece about two men playing off each other (a la Moon) will be sorely disappointed. What you get instead is a group of rag-tag survivors looming in the shadows trying to scavenge for food, defending themselves against the mutant monsters that are on board, a la Event Horizon. And Sunshine. And every other intergalactic sci-fi since 1908.

The action element is a huge let down: it's over-edited (confusingly so) and given a soundtrack so loud that it'll annoy more often that it will frighten. The filmmakers seem to think that space is more frightening if you can hear people scream. Worse, the beasties themselves are far too similar to the cave-dwellers from The Descent, even if they do brandish weapons (seriously).

[gallery]The supporting cast are given very little time to impress, leaving the meat and potatoes to Foster and Quaid. Uncle Dennis gets the easier gig, being trapped in a room for the best part of the film, while Foster lumbers around air ducts and gloomy corridors. If you've seen him in movies like Hostage, 3:10 To Yuma and 30 Days Of Night, you'll appreciate that Foster likes to process intensity through all means possible. He's one of the few actors that can express themselves physically without appearing to over-act, so it is nice to see him share the bill with warhorse Quaid.

Sadly for both of them, Pandorum wastes time trying to combine the action/horror elements with the psychological. If they had stripped the two apart they might have had a decent film on their hands with the latter - giving it more time to develop and connect. Ridley Scott's Alien was nothing if not a psychological thriller; here the emphasis is always on the next 'up-to-11' shock shot.

To its credit, the film is slick enough in that MTV attention-span kind of way and the ship itself seems impressive in design, even if it is (like a lot of the script) highly illogical. Unfortunately, Pandorum asks plenty more questions it can't answer and trips over its science-fiction shoelaces in a race to be faster, louder and MORE INTENSE.

To be fair, it does come with one huge warning sign in the opening credits: "Produced by Paul WS Anderson."

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