Mini-Review: “Pandorum”

Welcome to what will surely be the first of many smaller reviews designed just for readers of the Film Sack site. The movies covered in these small reviews are films that are fresh in theaters, other stuff we find online, and movies that will probably never be covered on the Film Sack podcast.

I’m always looking for science fiction, even the crappy stuff. It seems like more and more, we have less and less coming to theaters every year, so I tend to savor whatever I can get my hands on.

Enter 2009’s, “Pandorum”. Being a huge fan of both Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster (especially Foster…that guy does great work in everything he’s hired on), I figured this movie might just be what my sad little ScFi missing heart could use.

Did it work out? Sort of. It’s kind of garbage on a bunch of levels, but also sports a pretty sweet look and tone. The acting is earnest, with the notable exception of Antje Traue, who does her best to imitate Jean Claude Van Damme for most of the 1 hour and 48 minute running time.

You know what? These reviews will never be about all the traditional elements such as plot, acting, and all that poop. These Film Sack reviews will be about the things we as Film Sackers want in our movies. Great deaths, cheesy lines, crummy special effects, and weird connections to other films and people. With that in mind, lets see how it held up to our admittedly loose standards.

GENRE FACTOR:
There is no doubt, this is a science fiction film. The ship is as much a character as anyone else. What kind of ship? The kind that shares a rich heritage with stuff like Alien, Event Horizon, Dead Space, etc. Gritty, yet futuristic, I think it’s one of the strong points of the film. It’s home to some harrowing chases, doors shutting before they should, hidden corridors, even a garbage level. (4.5 / 5)

CHEESY SPEAK:
What’s a good SciFi film without some good crappy dialogue between friends? This movie has its fair share, but could have benefited from a lest earnest approach to the material by the screenwriters. (2 / 5)

SPECIAL EFFECTS:
Seems like just about any movie made in the last decade or so can look good in this department without all that much effort. The alien costumes and effects were good, the weapon stuff was alright, and the sense of scale and depth on the ship was surely helped along from some solid CGI work. That being said, the strength of the effects was found mostly in the practical stuff. (Blood, makeup, costumes, etc.) Overall, a good looking film. That last moments of the movie are a bit too video game looking for my taste, but hey, sometimes that works. (See 300 for example.) (3.5 / 5)

DEATHS:
Some pretty grizzly stuff here. Not to spoil too much, but the ship is basically overrun with a sort of space vampire race that rips you to shreds on sight. They are a bit reminiscent of the Reavers in Firefly / Serenity, which means some sped up film, violent editing, and an all around visceral treatment. Best death though? Hypodermic needle to the eyeball. Boom. (3.5 / 5)

CAMP:
A movie like this is trying to hard to be taken seriously, and coming up short to any serious scrutiny. As a result, the camp is hard to find. How will it hold up in that department 50 years from now? Hard to say, but I don’t think anyone will remember it much. (2.5 / 5)

THE LITTLE THINGS:
The following touches were appreciated: Claustrophobia inducing escape pods. Bad guys what look like the zombie aliens in the Resistance games on the PS3. (Spiked backs and all.) Ben Foster getting the wind knocked out of him 6 or more times, I lost count. Creepy alien babies. Cool future tech that gets dirty and grimy. (3 / 5)

SUMMARY:
While this is no District 9 by any stretch, there is some fun to be had here. Get it streaming on Netflix while it lasts, and see for yourself. Overall Rating: 3.5 / 5

– Reviewed by Scott Johnson

7 thoughts on “Mini-Review: “Pandorum”

  1. Nice little review, Scott

    I quite enjoyed this little scifi horror flick. Especially, I think, because I had absolutely NO idea what I was in for when seeing it for the first time.

    Too well-made for a proper filmsacking, and worth watching for people who liked stuff like Event Horizon and Dead Space and other dark scifi movies like them.

    Didn’t score very high on the checklist, which kind of confirms its status as being fit for this kind of treatment rather than the full podcast treatment. As for the most gruesome death, I really, really, really wouldn’t like to be the guy who woke up from stasis (which we see in the beginning is pretty scary in itself) only to be instantly feasted upon by ravenous monsters.

    Love the podcast, good to see more ‘sacking taking place with these reviews, looking forward to more.

    Jannik from Denmark

  2. I was really hoping you guys would do something like this for the movies that are not quite “bad” enough to be reviewed on regular Filmsack. I personally liked this movie quite a bit, just as I liked Sunshine, Event Horizon, Alien(s), etc. Not a new concept for this kind of movie, but still looked great with some decent acting. Ben Foster is all that, and a bag of chips.

    What I’d like, if you’re going to do these “mini” reviews on halfway decent films, is input from the other guys too. Doesn’t have to be much, just like yours written above, Scott. But just a little bit about what they thought, liked, disliked, and what not.

    Otherwise, awesome. Please, keep ’em coming. Thanks!

  3. I like this mini review idea. Really hope we the community run with it.

    The whole time watching the movie knew it was bad but for some reason I wanted to watch it; not because it was bad but because it was going to surprise me. I won’t say I was surprised (or proven wrong about it being bad-esque). I do like the reveal at the end. I have to give that concept some points. Event Horizon edges Alien out of my favorite survival-horror-in-space movie; this movie had that same quality, compelling me to keep watching. Luckily few acquaintances had watched it so it wasn’t ruined for me (again, the reveal at the end made it worth watching). I agree the creatures had the personality of Reavers but they looked suspiciously like the cave dwellers in The Descent. Pandorum was a better use of Dennis Quaid than most of his latest movies.

    Good claustrophobia, ambiance, concept. Not one I’ll dwell on as time goes by but I wasn’t disappointed with my viewing. I have to respectfully disagree with Jansen… I WOULD want to be the guy killed off before the movie started. He got out lucky.

  4. Super fast mini reviews are a great idea, and this movie really lends itself to the concept.
    I saw this one in the theatre a while back, just to pass the time, not expecting much. However, the first scenes in which Ben foster (such an under appreciated actor…he should make a movie with Shawn Bean, Jeff goldblumm, paul Giomatti, and Steve buscemi!) is crawling through that compressed, black tunnel is still vivid in my mind. The ending was pretty underwhelming, and defeated the dark tone of the movie, but otherwise, it’s on par with a lot of pretty heavy hitting films of it’s genre
    Anyway, keep up the great work and thanks for making the long hours pass just a bit more quickly!

  5. I saw this on Netflix awhile back. It’s funny you mentioned the creatures looking like the Resistance aliens; ITS SO TRUE lol… I’m loving the mini reviews, keep up the good work. Keep on Sackin!!!

  6. Not a bad romp for horror/sci-fi… more “The Descent” in space or “Sunshine” than “Aliens”. It helped that I knew little about this other than it’s starring Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster and I’m not one to try and sort out the twist of movies as early as possible. Creepy little moments make this worth putting on after dark, especially in the beginning 30 minutes when I had no idea which direction this would turn.

    Eventually there are a lot more action! type sequences with meandering fight scenes that feel like filler. Why bother when nothing comes from these bits other than dragging this out to a 1hr 49m film to a more economic 90m? And it’s these Hollywood fights where average-sized people suddenly throw punches like cyborgs and can sustain having their skulls smashed against metal walls with a quick, breathy shake o’ the head.

    Glad I watched it. Never saw “Event Horizon” and just put that at the top of my queue. Heard it’s a wicked pisser.

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