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My Review of Pandorum (2009)

I was first introduced to the movie Pandorum about a year ago. My friend Juan had told me that it was a great film and that I should check it out. Of course I said, “For sure dude, whenever I get sci-fi suggestions from you I know it will be good!” So I procrastinated for a while, started drinking more, called up ex-girlfriends in the middle of the night, started listening to The Smiths, just really bad stuff. However, I am glad to say that I finally got around to seeing Pandorum.

Pandorum follows the story of Corporal Bower (Ben Foster) as he awakes from hypersleep. Struck with amnesia, he slowly begins to remember what has happened to him and what is going on. During his relapse in memory he wakes up Lieutenant Payton (Dennis Quaid) from his slumber. Neither is able to access the ship’s bridge or communicate with any other officer on the ship. Bower comes to the conclusion that he must be the ship’s technician who was to be awakened if the ship ever needed to be fixed. It’s now up to Bower to start the reactor and save everyone on board the Elysium.

When I started to watch the film the first thing that I thought about was the Alien series, and I have to admit that I thought it was going to be a rehash of the same story we’ve seen plenty of times before. Aliens stalk unsuspecting victims on a ship and one by one take them down until there is one lone survivor who will miraculously kill off any threat. Now, Pandorum does follow some of these steps, but where it differs is quite important.

The film is named after a mental illness that is mentioned during the movie. Pandorum causes people to be paranoid, suffer from hallucinations and homicidal tendencies. This changes Pandorum from being your average run of the mill science fiction horror movie. Instead the film keeps you second guessing what’s going on through the majority of the film. It helps that the movie does a great job of giving off this sense of isolation. Even when there is more than one character on screen, you can’t help but feel trapped.

Both Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster do a terrific job of keeping you in suspense throughout the movie. Though they both face completely different challenges in the film, their acting makes it feel as if every second that they’re alone might be their last. Actors Cung Le and Antje Traue also do a wonderful job in the film. Le’s character, Manh, is a stone cold bad ass who doesn’t speak any English and Traue’s character, Nadia, is some sort of ninja who is also a genetic engineer. (I’m guessing she had time to learn be a ninja.) I also liked that director Christian Alvart decided to make the Manh character not know any English. Not just that, but there are no subtitles in the film, so you’re going through the exact frustration that Bower is going through when he tries to communicate with Manh.

I was surprised to see that a lot of critics bashed this film when it came out. Beside some weak CGI in the film, there really isn’t anything wrong with Pandorum. It has a great story, a great cast, and it’s also scary when it needs to be. I think that many critics may have gone into the film thinking it was another Alien clone and prejudged it before they could even see the film. This is too bad, since it may have scared off a lot of potential fans. Pandorum is a smart and suspenseful science fiction film that should be watched by fans of the genre. If you haven’t seen the movie yet do yourself a favor and give it a chance. You may like what you see.