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Sunday, 8 September 2013

Missed It Reviews: Pandorum

Hello hello!

From time to time, I will post a quick review of movies and books I either a) miraculously missed, or b) just discovered, and c) definitely think you should not miss. Or, sometimes, d) think you need to miss as hard as possible, because it is e) embarassingly mediocre or f) soul-scarringly, chew-your-own-nuts-off-to-escape awful. Obviously, this means spoilers. 

Source. I wasn't afraid, just bored and mildly aggravated.

Tonight's feature is Pandorum (2009) featuring Dennis Quaid.


Two dudes wake up from hypersleep and phuquerie ensues. As scrolling text informed us, they are the last hope of humanity. They have lost their memories, and of course, as they go about figuring out why they've been woken up, hilarity ensues.

So, the in-depth version:  Just before we get action, we hear a message stating that Earth has blown up. Shortly after that, two blokes, Payton and Bower, wake up from hypersleep and wander around all confused-like. One of them goes down in the ship's innards and finds a dead body. He falls out headfirst onto the floor after unlatching a grate--miraculously managing to not break his neck--and finds a strange creature running around. I knew that would happen, and was equally unsurprised when he was then mugged by a standard Badass Female.

We soon discover that the creature--an orc-zombie thing in the requisite jagged armour--has friends. Knowing that Elysium was carrying 16 000 other passengers to Tanis, the Last Hope planet, I immediately figured out that it was some sort of mutated human. The characters, of course, did not. What ensued was depressingly derivative: people ran around, trying to get away from the ugly monsters. The female character--whose name escapes me--rasped and whispered in an unidentifiable accent. Clearly, having forgotten everything, she'd also forgotten where she was supposed to be from.

Wooden acting and the introduction of Dead Mea--I mean, other surviving crew members--occurs just as the characters decide they need to fire off the nuclear reactor at the core for...reasons. So we're treated to cannibalism by the orc-zombies, a mural sketched by the crazy cannibal chef (who was black...probably not the best casting choice, guys). While Our Heroes use the reactor core to kill the orc-zombies, the captain guy, Payton (hereafter known as 'Beardy') struggles with a random-ass attractive dude who shows up.

Of course, Beardy and Random Attractive Young Guy argue and we get hints that the voyage has been much longer than the advertised 3-hour tour. We learn that RAYG and his passengers may have had Pandorum, also known as a Magic Bullshit Virus, which makes you have nosebleeds and go on crazy powertrips. It's a result of deep space travel...I think? To be honest, I was doing dishes at this point, and leaving the TV to play in the backgrond. RAYG talks about pitting the crew members against each other in cannibal death-matches and convinces Beardy that he might have Pandorum, which Beardy, naturally, thinks that RAYG probably has. Of course, some idiot decided to inject all the passengers with an enzyme to make them evolve more quickly, so the death-matches resulted in the development of a cannibalistic, inhumane species and...*yawn* basically, Malthusian bullshit to justify having a bogeyman for the script. There were basic logic holes here that were depressing as phuque, and I remember yelling, "are you phuquing kidding me?" at the screen at least once.

Blah blah blah, RAYG is really Beardy, who has been alive for hundreds of years and practicing stuff on his crew. Also, somehow EVERYONE HAS BEEN ON TANIS THE WHOLE PHUQUING time. Someone finally turned on a light, and boom, we see pretty alien jellyfish outside. Also, apparently shooting a gun at a bulkhead designed to go into DEEP SPACE is enough to rupture it. I'm no engineer, but apparently the ones who worked on this ship--as well as the biologists--were all complete morons. I'll be right back. I think I need a drink to finish this review.


Okay, I'm back, and I have whiskey. I don't usually drink whiskey, but tonight, I'm making an exception. So, they rupture the bulkhead, and Bower and the BF with the mutating accent get all cozy in an escape pod. The water is pouring in, and they seal the coffin in and shoot to the surface. Of course, the confused Asian guy and the cannibal chef are both dead--no comment on whether it is because they are both ethnic characters, or because the writers were so lazy, we knew they were Redshirts from minute one. So Bower, who is conveniently divorced, and the BF shoot to the surface. We see an island Eden and a bunch of other pods shooting up in a slightly hilarious way. The closing screen tells us that it is 'Tanis, Year One', and we get end credits.

And now for the Special Guest commentary!

The Disarcade Version

Andrey figures that the Earth was subject to a population glut of engineers. Everyone became an engineer, with the exception of the 16,000 people on Elysium. They fired off the misfits into space, but because everyone still on Earth was an engineer, they soon blew the place up. Of course, the ship was also built only by engineers, so it was rife with problems and couldn't possibly detect that it had landed on Tanis. Therefore, engineers are to blame for everything that went wrong in the movie.

Source. I am still not sure whether this was supposed to be a small person or a child, but either way, what happened next was depressingly predictable.


Well, I'll give it this--it's mockable  and it's a good 'how not to' lesson. The biggest problem is that the movie is too dark in some places and...wait, I'm supposed to say something good about it here. Fine: it wasn't as bad as The Adventures of Pluto Nash, the worst and most unpleasant sci fi movie in history.


Normally, I would try to do some kind of analysis, but there's nothing to chew on. There's nothing intellectually challenging about the movie. I was hoping for a terse psychological horror where the two surviving crew members spend the whole movie figuring out what's going on and whether they can trust each other. That's how the movie is advertised. Instead, I got what was left over after Dead Space had evacuated its waste collection pouch. It's advertised as 'Lovecraftian horror'. I scare pretty easily, and I love B-movies, but this failed on both counts. It's not really self-aware enough to be fun, and it's almost mockable, but not quite.

Final Verdict

This was bad. This was...I don't even have words for how bad it was. It failed at basic fridge logic, it had a painfully predictable plot, the characters were boring and wooden, and it failed both basic racism and Beschdel tests. It's not quite Uwe Boll bad, and it did have some interesting ideas, but I'd skip this one if you value your sanity. A resounding 3 out of 10 for being bollocks.


As always, I hope you enjoyed today's batch o' fresh thoughts. There will be more feminism, more funny, more writing updates, some missed-it reviews. Keep an eye on new releases by following on Twitter, Facebook, and on Tumblr. This is your SciFiMagpie, over and out!


  1. Here is pretty good analysis on the film's themes I did not too long ago. If you're interested in reading.


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Btw, a few things you got things incorrect.

    1. He wasn't a Captain but a Corporal posing as a lieutenant.

    2. The glass broke due to the water pressure.

    3. And it was never explained how Earth vanished.

    4. There is somewhat of a paradox in this blog. First you said that you knew they were mutated humans. Then you said they were an inhuman species that evolved from humans. Its either one or the other.

    1. See above: "To be honest, I was doing dishes at this point, and leaving the TV to play in the background." The fact that I was unclear about this, honestly, I blame on the movie. I did see your review, and that you found some interesting layers, but it just didn't engage me.

      I was hoping for a different film, and I know my way around Lovecraftian horror to a decent extent--but this just didn't give me that atmosphere. I got too bogged down in the scientific issues and wooden acting and crap screenwriting to enjoy it.

  4. Nice to see you do another review. I enjoyed reading it. I was actually starting to miss them.

  5. I enjoy your writing style Michelle...:-)

    I think the main problem of this film for you (imo)...is that "I was hoping for a different film." Often when we go into a film with expectations...we rate it on what it is not, instead of simply indulging it what it is. I have done this many times...and try very hard to watch films with an empty cup because it's just not fair to me, the filmmakers, the film...and anyone reading my reviews to stack the deck with preconceived expectations.

    My review: http://dkidiscussion.blogspot.com/2012/06/movie-review-pandorum.html

    Also...my blog for reviews exclusively for sci-fi films: http://theboxedoffice.blogspot.com

    1. Thanks!

      I can sort of understand how other people could enjoy this movie a lot, but I am just not one of those people, alas, and I feel pretty stubborn about it because of those betrayed expectations. I really try to avoid expecting things from movies, apart from absolute basics. When expectations backfire, they really do. I'm always happy to have something go in an interesting direction that was not expected, but the movie's clinging to superficial tropes really bugged me.
      Maybe if I give an example of a film I liked--such as Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, or The Orphanage--that would help. I like my creeping horror to, well, creep a lot more. Gore alone often makes me giggle. However, I also like zombie movies for this reason--they often make use of both gore and creeping psychological tension.

      Feel free to throw film recommendations at me, as well! Glad you enjoyed the style.


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