Pandorum - Blu-ray Review

'as the tension and atmosphere slowly disintegrate so does the plot, to the point where I actually felt like I was watching a video game'

I'm not a big fan of Ben Foster. I don't think it's really his fault, more so the fault of people who keep casting him as sniveling, lowest-common-denominator, weirdos. Take 30 Days Of Night for example, a film I have a lot of time for. Foster shows up, snivels a little bit and then departs. Or, if further proof were needed, take a closer look at his character's name in the Thomas Jane version of The Punisher. Yes you are reading that right and no, I'm not making this up, his character's name really is 'Spacker Dave'.

So it was with trepidation that I stepped into the world of Pandorum, one of two Foster-led films from last year (the other being The Messenger). Foster is front and centre here as Bower, one of two men (the other being Dennis Quaid's Payton) who wake up on a deserted space ship where some Really Bad Things have obviously been happening. It doesn't take long for the duo to decide (in true horror cliche style) that separating is the best way forwards and so while Payton tries to open the doors to the ship's bridge, Bower is forced to explore the rest of the craft, trying to unravel its mysteries.

It's nice to report as a starting point that Foster carries the film well and indeed Pandorum's best moments are during its setup where Foster and Quaid are alone on the darkened ship with only strange clanking noises and occasional electricity for company. At this point, Pandorum has more than a few similarities with Duncan Jones' Moon and while, unlike Jones, it isn't quite director Christian Alvart's first film, it is his first real blockbuster-type one. Like Jones then, Alvart is sensible to keep at least the opening low-key and combined with Foster's intelligent and scared (not sniveling) Corporal, they manage to craft a tense and claustrophobic opening quarter or so. Foster reminded me a lot here of Ralph Fiennes and his patient and measured performance, well not ground-breaking, did at least keep me interested in what he was doing, why he was doing it and where Alvart was taking him.

Unfortunately, that is more than can be said for the final two thirds of Pandorum's run time. Firstly, Alvart makes the mistake of so many monster/horror movies by revealing Foster's adversary far too quickly. As soon as he does a lot of the tension which otherwise surrounds the film begins to drain out and we're reduced to watching Foster run away from some gnarly looking beings that haven't had enough money spent on them to allow the camera to do anything but jump quickly and jarringly around the screen. As the tension and atmosphere slowly disintegrate so does the plot, to the point where I actually felt like I was watching a video game; Bower must get this item, to go to this place, to fix this crucial thing, to run away from scary things, to get past a boss-like character to face the final conflict, to live happily-ever-after.

is notable then as marking Foster as a potential force to be reckoned with in the future but not for much else. By the time we get to the conclusion, which, if nothing else, is at least relatively satisfying, Alvart has shown that his script, particularly the central conceit of what 'pandorum' is, really had nowhere to go apart from to ape a variety of films which have done that sort of thing much better. For Alvart the conclusion is must try harder and imitate less, for Foster, avoid roles playing 'Spacker Dave'.

Look further...

'Overall, Pandorum is a nice surprise. On the surface it may not seem like it has much going for it, but the nonstop barrage of tension, action, and pure eye candy makes for an enjoyable ride' - Movie Cynics (The Vocabulariast), 7/10


  1. I thought the first 3rd was great. Moody and mysterious, a great "okay what the heck is going on in here" vibe.

    Then the whispering german girl shows up, who I can barely understand, and then there's kung fu and Predators and GWAR concert rejects and 9 twist endings and...

    Yeah, it fell apart as it went along. Loved how the film looked though. Awesome set design.

  2. The more I watch Foster act the more I want to like him, but also the more his roles meld together for me. I keep wishing he tried something a bit more non-aggressive (though I do still need to see The Messenger). As well I do agree as the story behind this unfolded and more characters got introduces this more just got worse and worse.

  3. Chuck - absolutely agree. It quickly descended into a classic case of 'well hell, this worked in [insert classic film here] I'm sure it'll work for us!'

    Univarn - again, completely agree. I've not seen The Messenger either but I am looking forward to it and yes, it would be nice to see Foster in something that doesn't eventually boil down to someone shooting someone else.

  4. I don't understand how anyone would see that as a happy ending. Btw, it was Pandorum that made the crew cannibals, a lot of people tend to overlook a scene which show it. Wasn't just there for a twist, which was actually just there for red herring.