WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers, when noted.
It feels like genuine sci-fi, humans vs. aliens films are few and far between these days. Which is why, after seeing the trailer for Pandorum, I was so excited. Fortunately, Pandorum won’t disappoint any die-hard fans of sci-fi, especially if you’re also a lover of the blend of sci-fi and horror.
Pandorum centers around Bower (played quite convincingly by Ben Foster), who wakes up from extended hypersleep on a spacecraft, with no idea who he is or why he’s on the ship. Soon after, Payton (Dennis Quaid), wakes up too, and they join forces to try to figure out where they are and why in the world they’re awake. As they gain back their memories, they realize they’re not the only humans on board…and that humans aren’t the only things on board.
What this film does well (and I was a bit skeptical about this at first) is it puts the viewer right into the action and horror, with little to no backstory or introduction into the world of the film. Other sci-fi/horror films, like Event Horizon or Sunshine, work to make you feel safe and secure in your surroundings before they start scaring you.
With Pandorum, we’re clueless and freaked out from the moment Bower wakes up, and we experience with him the same fear, anxiety, and confusion that he goes through as he explores the ship and learns about the horrors within. We’re on the same page as our main character throughout the whole film, and it makes his journey and discoveries ours as well.
The “horrors”, for lack of a less spoiler-ific word, are a bit disappointing. *Begin Spoilers* They’re mutated humans, who after taking an enzyme during hypersleep to adapt to life on a new planet, adapt to the ship instead and start feeding on the humans being transported. They’re far more terrifying, though, when they’re zooming past the camera or jumping just out of sight, like the monster in Cloverfield or the aliens in Alien. *End Spoilers*
What ends up being more terrifying is the idea of “pandorum”, a sort of space madness and paranoia that results from hypersleep problems in space, and the way it effects Bower, Payton, and eventually the fate of the human race itself.
This film, like other sci-fi films before it, borrows a ton from other works in the genre. The ship feels a little bit like a cross between Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, while the plot reflects a bit of Event Horizon and Alien. But even with this, it never hinders the film to reflect so many other works. I think that might be what I love about sci-fi… each film couldn’t exist without the others before it. Pandorum certainly wouldn’t.
Go into this film with an open mind, and prepare to jump in your seat a little. Pandorum does what other sci-fi/horror films do right, with a plot and twists of its own.