Review: Pandorum

Posted on September 28, 2009


Pandorum is a science-fiction action/horror film that stars Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster. I was quite looking forward to it, hoping to be scared and thrilled the way I was by Alien, and again by Event Horizon.


In the future, Earth is over-populated and running out of resources, but still has the wherewithal for deep space exploration. A probe turns up evidence of a livable biosphere on a planet orbiting another star. Humanity is even selfless enough and farsighted enough that, despite the shortages, it builds an interstellar spacecraft and launches a colony to that planet. Now, if you can swallow all that, you can probably swallow the way the probe sends back streaming video from another star without mastering Faster-Than-Light travel.

“Pandorum” is a condition incurred by deep-space travelers. The isolation seems to remove inhibitions imposed by society. Oh, and prolonged cryogenic sleep damages memory. Got all that? Because two members of the colony ship’s flight crew (Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster) wake up for their two-year shift on the flight deck, only to find that the reactor is about to shut down permanently and hideous mutant cannibals have the run of the ship.

Cutting Room Floor

After the two crew members wake up, they separate. They can’t shift their locker room/cryo chamber to align with the bridge, due to the aforementioned problems with the reactor. So Bower (Ben Foster) crawls through the ventilation ducts to find a way to fix things. Payton (Dennis Quaid) stays at the computer terminal in their chamber, using the maps and diagrams he can call up to direct Bower via radio.

Effectively, Dennis Quaid stars in a one-room play reminiscent of his role in InnerSpace while Ben Foster (a terrific young actor) has an adventure, encountering cannibals, human survivors, recovered memory, and the truth about what happened to the colony ship. This is a terrific set up for exploring the “pandorum” syndrome and the way society constantly reinforces moral and ethical behavior (or not). The film makes no secret that both men have symptoms of pandorum. While Bower builds a society, forging an adventuring party out of the survivors he encounters, Payton is alone. Do Bower’s companions help him get past his symptoms? That whole story thread is left up to us.

An American Film

This cut was clearly meant for American audiences – it beats viewers over the head with plot points. Thanks to the Internet and Netflix, my wife and I get to watch a lot of European films, so the way American-focused films insult their audiences is apparent. DVDs may, in fact, be part of the problem. Watching films with kids yelling, pets running around, phones ringing, and all the other distractions of modern life may reward films that repeat key points. If you miss a point one time, you’ll catch it the next time around.


The film is well made and well acted. There aren’t too many huge logic flaws in it. It’s thrilling. I did jump in my seat several times during the movie. Overall, I’d give it three out of five stars. I liked it, but I wouldn’t say much more than that.

Geek Bonus Points

This film owes Jim Ward a bunch of money. It doesn’t adapt every idea from the 1976 RPG, Metamorphosis Alpha, but it clearly borrows a great deal from that game. If you figured that out from the commercials, you get geek bonus points.

Posted in: Movies