Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Pandorum comes packed with intriguing sci-fi ideas. It gazes upon such concepts as madness in space, how generations of people survive on a spaceship, how humanity will try to colonize planets in the future and make them livable, and what it would mean to among the last of the human race still and what that knowledge would do to you. Unfortunately, despite the richness of the material, the movie's execution leaves much to be desired, getting bogged down in the tired run-and-hide-from-the monsters instead of exploring its ideas.
The spaceship Elysium is on a mission to colonize the planet to help ease the dangerous overcrowding and resource depletion on Earth when the crew receives a startling message from home: "You're all that's left of us. Good luck, God bless, and godspeed." And then, silence.
Sometime later, Corporal Bower (Ben Foster) and Lt. Payton (Dennis Quaid) are woken out of cryo-sleep to discover most of the power on the Elysium is down. Because of how long they were out, they're suffering some amnesia, unable to remember their mission and some other details. Bower, with Payton guiding him by radio, maneuvers through the ship to reach the reactor to get everything back up and running. But there's a problem; a tribe of cannibalistic humanoid hunters have infested the ship, and Bower also has to worry Pandorum, a space-induced form of insanity that can drive a person to panic, irrationality, and even violence.
The production design of the film is also splendidly realized: dark corridors, vast chambers, and murky waste pits, very lived in and in parts decrepit. The characters are filthy, often covered in blood, slime, and grime. Even the props are cool, such as the anti-riot gun Bower wears on his wrist (shades of Samus Arun), and the various methods more normal survivors have adapted to life on this derelict ship is interesting, especially the one who balances protecting biological specimens and her own survival, which means eating an occasional grasshopper.
Ghosts of Mars in how they attack.
I didn't particularly care about any of the characters, although Foster is solid in a rare non-psycho role, but his characterization is limited to being the hero and convenient flashbacks. Other characters are limited to mostly espousing exposition or acting bug-eyed weird. My beef is with the amnesia business. For the record, I hate amnesia as a storytelling device because the amnesic always is able to remember exactly what he or she needs to whenever it's needed; it always feels contrived, and Pandorum is no exception.
The insanity angle feels contrived, too. The notion of a spaceship full of people going insane is an interesting concept for a story, especially because they realize they have no outside authority to answer to anymore, but like the amnesia, it's only apparent when it's convenient, and like the creature scenes, it's filmed in a glaringly distracting style, all rapid cuts, awkward closeups, and sped-up action to underline the point.