Pandorum

It could be worse.  It could be Jaws 3-D.

 

Insanity, according Merriam-Webster is a deranged state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder.  I’ve experienced this first hand.  I used to see things . . .  horrible, frightening things.  For example, I used to see messages on my television all the time; the messages would tell me lies, such as, “Go see The Love Guru.  Mike Myers is funny.”  My television told me that at least ten times an hour for about a month.  How did I know this was a lie?  Mike Myer hasn’t been funny in twenty years.  Another message that came through the television told  me to see Cameron Diaz and her box.  That seemed a rather odd thing for the television to tell me.  Even odder, it told me that about fifty times a day for what seemed like several months.

Eventually I was diagnosed with Rob Schneider’s Disorder, which is the belief that Hollywood would spend millions and millions of dollars to make you go see a movie that sucks, rather than spending it to promote or distribute a good movie. I mean, Hollywood would never do that.  It makes no sense.  I must be mad, right?  That would be as nonsensical as making 40 million dollar sci-fi/horror film and not telling people that it even came out.  That would never happen.  Madness.

 

Welcome to the space ship Elysium, an odd choice for a ship name as Elysium is a region of the land of the dead in Greek mythology.  I suppose it would have been too on the nose if they had named the ship something like USS Dark & Dreary.  Alas.

The Elysium is a large colonization ship on a one hundred and twenty-year voyage to an Earth-like planet discovered by a probe several years previously.  The ship contains 60,000 people, most of them in suspended animation, which is a good idea.  Who wants to spend a century and then some listening to sixty-thousand people asking “Are we there yet?”  To make sure everything is hunky-dory, there are several flight crews who take turns coming out of hyper-sleep to operate the ship.  That sounds like a good plan, eh?

The movie opens with one of these hyper-sleep chambers draining and waking Bower (Ben Foster), a crew member.  Bower is rather disoriented.   Prolonged hyper-sleep causes temporary memory loss.  Bower knows that he is a flight crew member and to which shift he belongs because it is helpfully tattooed on his arm.  While Bower may be disoriented, he is on the ball enough to realize that dark, gloomy and alone is not how this is supposed to go.  Realizing that something is wrong and he activates the hyper-sleep chamber belonging to Lt. Peyton (Dennis Quaid).

The shift changes are not going as planned and the ship’s systems have largely powered down.  Peyton and Bower are able to power up a local communications center housed in their team’s bay.  Unable to make their way to the bridge, Bower volunteers to travel via the ventilation ducts to the ship’s power core and reset it, bringing the ship back to life.  Peyton, using the communication center, guides Bower along.

Since waking, Bower has noticed tremors in his hands. That’s not good. These tremors are an early symptom of pandorum, a psychological disorder that can be a side effect of prolonged hyper-sleep. Bower asks Peyton if he has ever shown symptoms of pandorum. Peyton, asks him why he’d bring that up, then relates the chilling story of the Eaton, a ship which met with disaster at the hands of a crew member who developed a particularly nasty case of the malady.  Uh-oh.  And if the possibility of going all Jack Torrence in space wasn’t bad enough, Bower makes another horrible discovery– the crew isn’t alone on the ship.

I went into this thinking that it was gonna be something along the line of Aliens, or to paraphrase Private Hicks, that this was going to be a “bug hunt” on a space ship.  Though Pandorum certainly has those elements, but is not limited to being a derivative variation on the theme.  The plot gets twisty and a few times takes a turn for the weird.   It does drift a bit about three quarters of the way through, but Bowers meets Creepy Old Guy, who doles out a wonderful glob of exposition, accompanied by some inspired imagery, to get the movie back on track.  The pandorum (the disease) subplot line is a slow burn plot line that smolders menacingly in the background before emerging at the end.

Though there are a few little plot bones to pick; there is nothing that really elicits a groan.  I would have changed a few of the elements to make the story more disorienting and creepy, but then again I’m not contending with studio executives.  And also I’m not writing a screenplay for a general audience.  Yup, there are a lot of mouth breathers out there and they’re certainly not getting any smarter, but enough about the studio executives, let’s get back to Pandorum.

Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster are the actors that have the most screen time.   We get Dennis Quaid the actor, this time and not Dennis Quaid the human smirk, which is my way of saying that Quaid is good in this.  Ben Foster’s character gradually emerges as his memories come back.  While he’s the hero, he his character doesn’t go into Bruce Campbell mode against the creatures that have appeared on the ship, which is what I was expecting.

As I watched Foster, there was something about his performance that seemed really familiar to me. It nagged at me for a while then I realized who Foster’s Bower reminded me of – Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty in Blade Runner. It’s not that the characters  (or actors) are alike, but some of the tics and mannerisms that Foster brings to Bower are similar. I wonder if that was intentional. If so, it would be interesting to hear the story behind that. A few other characters pop up to help Bower along: Action Asian (Cung Le), Hot Love Interest (Antje Traue),  and Creepy Old Guy (Eddie Rouse).  None of these characters are developed much and the actors make due with what they are given.  I’m not carping, after all this Pandorum, not Hamlet.

The special effects are par-for-the-course Hollywood quality effects.  There is nothing too special or amazing here.  The creature effects, make-up effects and overall design are pretty good.  They spent some money here and it shows.  The creatures are scary,  not Alien scary, but scary enough to create a proper atmosphere of fear for Bower and his compatriots.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my hands are shaking a bit.  It’s worrisome.  So are the noises.  I’ve also been hearing noises in my attic all afternoon.  Mike Myers is funny.  That’s what my dog said! You can’t see my dog, but I bet that you can imagine what he looks like.  You can only win if you smash your television and run naked in the snow.  Thank God that I’m really Abraham Lincoln.  Now it’s bicycle time!

Starring:
Dennis Quaid
Ben Foster
Antje Traue
Cung Le
Eddie Rouse

Screenplay:
Travis Malloy
Christian Alvert

Director:
Christian Alvert

Three out of five Vincents

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