Smile Politely

Pandorum’s reach exceeds its grasp

There’s no doubt that director Christian Alvert is doing his level best to duplicate Alien with his outer space, creature feature Pandorum. From its setting (a vast spaceship adrift in the cosmos), characters (a rag tag crew of misfits) to its monster (a horrific, carnivorous creature), this is a rip-off of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic if there ever was one. Surely Alvert, if cornered, would refer to it as an homage, which would be stretching things, as the film does not honor its predecessor as much as become a pale imitation of it.

Payton (Dennis Quaid) and Bower (Ben Foster) awaken from a deep sleep to find that none of the protocols on the vast ship they are in charge of have been executed while they were under. To make matters worse, much of the crew from the previous shift is missing and their memories are a bit murky as to what’s going on. Trapped and running out of options, Bower sets out to find the crew and reboot the ship’s reactor, while Payton stays back to guide him via radio through a vast system of ventilation ducts.

It quickly becomes apparent who drew the short straw on this deal as Bower is attacked by heinous creatures that move at lightning speed to eviscerate and eat all that stand in their way. Alvert’s direction is erratic as he successfully creates a sense of dread while the film’s dark, dank sets add to the atmospheric doom and gloom. Too bad he doesn’t know how to shoot an action scene, as the monsters are nothing but blurs in his hands, which undercuts the film’s tension.

In the end, we end up feeling far more frustration than fright as well as a sense that a prime opportunity has been missed. Quaid and Foster do fine work and the premise, while borrowed is bolstered by the conceit that all may fall prey to the pandorum virus which is prone to attack those with nervous dispositions that have been worn down by extensive space travel. This is the one original idea in the script and it isn’t nearly unique enough to separate this film from the pack of sci-fi also-rans.


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