Directed by: Christian Alvart
Starring: Dennis Quad, Ben Foster
Pandorum was one of those films that came out last year, along with The Surrogates, that I really wanted to be great. The closer it came to release the more deflating the buzz became. Now looking at it on blu-ray I can see where there was so much potential for something great but it just never quite reached that potential. There are a few things that make this film worth a look though.
Pandorum is unfortunately an extremely derivative film. Taking elements from other stories to make something innovative is a good thing but stitching elements from other stories together to make a beginning middle and end of a barely existent story is a bad thing. Basically there’s a giant ship traveling a long distance through space to a new planet Earth. The ships inhabitants are in suspended animation to make the trip easier for the crew and settlers of the new planet. The word “pandorum” refers to the space crazies. The dark isolation of space can play tricks on the mind so the suspended animation packaging everyone is in is supposed to help avoid Pandorum. How many times has this exact set up been used before? Too many to count.
Two of the ship’s crew wake up in a fairly messy, gelatinous, and painful way. This leads to what’s good about the film, Ben Foster. This guy makes nearly everything he’s in better than it would have been without him. He awakes, as does another character played by Dennis Quad. The tow of them struggle to remember who they are while they meet. Quad takes control of the ship while Foster heads deep into the bowels of the ship to try and figure out what has happened.
There are shades of everything from Alien to Dark City here with this extremely over designed ship. The art design is so harsh that many set pieces feel more like “sets” than interiors of a space ship. The ship is haunted by someone, or something, or both, and Quad’s character is haunted by his past. The film first appears to be a dark space drama/thriller and then there’s a big kung fu fight. That’s right, you read that correctly, a kung fu fight.
Some of the creature desing is really good and Quad and Foster are both good in the film. The biggest problem is that the movie doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it a space action flick or a slow paced mesmerizing drama/thriller? Also, the film doesn’t appear to have one original idea. Every element of this movie was taken from some other movie. Overall Pandorum was fun to look at and there are a few good character moments but this one won’t be remembered as a classic sci-fi film or even a fan obsessed guilty pleasure. Pandorum is a few steps above a SyFy movie of the week and a potential distraction on a Saturday night.
Most of Pandorum is presented in complete or near darkness and overall the HD transfer keeps control of all of the shadows and low light situations quite well. Even with all of the darkness there’s a good amount of detail and minimal grain. Black levels are inky and skin tones are realistic. This is a surpsi9ngly a solid presentation considering the film wasn’t the biggest of successes in the theater.
We get a Dolby TrueHD lossless audio presentation here and it sounds quite good. From the hollow sounds of the ships to the chase scenes and other special fx this audio presentation brings the noise in a fully realized surround sound environment. Ambient sounds, bolder special fx, score, and dialogue are all well mixed and clean. Dialogue is in the center channel and crisp and loud. The audio presentation here makes the film a very immersive experience.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The two discs, one blu-ray and one digital copy, are presented in a standard slim blue amaray case. The artwork is a bit on the bland side unfortunately. Another disappointment is that the bonus features on the blu-ray and the DVD are identical.
First up is a commentary from the producer and director, sans cast. This commentary is a real snooze fest because these two are as dry and uninteresting as it gets. There are very few nuggets of information but if you’re a fan of the film these nuggets may make the commentary worth a look.
The World of Elysiun: Behind the Scenes Featurette is brief but it offers some comments from the cast and crew and a bit of a look at the film from behind the scenes. The way the cast and crew discuss the film it appears that the story at some point early on was supposed to be much deeper than it inevitably became. It’s short but surprisingly informative.
What Happened to Nadia’s Team is a short film running less than five minutes that tells the story of another character’s adventures on the ship previous to the characters in the main film. It’s short, poorly acted, and a very low budget showt on video situation that was probably meant for a web promotion. It is fun to see now but don’t expect any deepening of the larger story.
Flight Team Training Video is a two and a half minute video that sets the stage for the film sharing some information about the world of Pandorum. This one feels like another viral video tool. It’s sort of fun to watch. The more you liked the actual movie the more entertaining you’re likely to appreciate this short and the previous one.
Finalyy, there are some deleted scenes, a still gallery, and a trailer. The selection of bonus features is quite full considering the success of the film itself. The star here is obviously the behind the scenes featurette.
Pandorum made me think of another film that was almost great but just never lived up to it’s potential: Event Horizon. If you were ok with that film you’ll probably like this one too.
Overall (Not an average) 5.5/10
The Movie 5/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 8.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 5/10
Overall (Not an average) 8.8/10