The early buzz on "Pandorum" has centered around its resemblance to "Alien," drawing on some references to the film as a knockoff of the classic Ridley Scott film.
I'm happy to report those comparisons are superficial at best. It's better to describe it as "Star Trek" meets "The Descent" with maybe just a sprinkling of "Alien."
The film opens on Corporal Bower (Ben Foster) just as he wakes from an extended hypersleep, meaning he's lost most of his memory. He doesn't know where he is, what he's doing, or even his name and personal past, and he's trapped in a dark room by himself.
His memories slowly fade back in, and he remembers that he's on the Elysium, a massive space ship designed to truck what's left of humanity (60,000 people and countless flora and fauna) to a new planet for recivilization.
Soon, Lt. Payton (Dennis Quaid) wakes as well, and together they try to piece together what's going on and who they are. The problem is they're locked in.
Bower is an engineer, it turns out, and the ship's power is malfunctioning. He escapes through the ventilation system to find the reactor and repair the malfunction.
As Bower combs the bowels of the ship, he soon finds he's not alone: there are creatures roaming the ship.
"Pandorum" takes place on an enormous ship, but still manages to feel intimate and claustrophobic. The creatures are evocative of the cave-dwelling beasts from "The Descent," with slightly more intelligence but an equal ferocity.
Foster ("3:10 to Yuma) is a fantastic actor who is still relatively unknown. Hopefully this star turn will get him a little attention. He plays Bower as a frightened man rather than an action hero.
The intense horror sequences are effective, scary and intense, but are not the most interesting aspect of the film. This role is filled by the elaborate backstory that includes a touch of how they're going to repopulate this new planet, and the struggle for survival on an Earth that didn't have enough resources to support its population.
The ship is enormous, and one gets the feeling an entire franchise worth of films could be made on the goings-on whether the ship ever got to its destination or not.
"Pandorum" refers to a sort of space madness that has been known to take over humans in prolonged space travel, and it rather predictably pops up here. But to whom, and to what extent, is part of the film's mystery.
The introduction of a character (Cam Gigandet) about half way through the film introduces Pandorum to the narrative, and is the film's lone misstep. It's jarring and stalls the intensity of the rest of the film, and the subplot's resolution, while intended to be metaphorical, is somewhat silly.
But the rest of this layered, complex sci fi story delivers, including an ending open-ended enough to spawn a franchise of films that could be entirely original from the monsters-on-a-ship main story of this film.
Here's hoping the film is successful enough to warrant a sequel.
Rating: 4 Yaps
Read Nick Rogers' review of "Pandorum" here.