A pair of crew members aboard a spaceship wake up with no knowledge of their mission or their identities.
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If I was hired to pitch Pandorum in a studio meeting I would start by saying that this is a Sci-Fi/Horror movie that is able to cross into two very popular fanboy sanctions. The Horror fans will call it a horror and the Sci-Fi fans will call it sci-fi. And if they wonder what the tone was I would do the classic Hollywood pitch and say it's the original Alien meets I am Legend with the classic Horror/Suspense plot twists of today's world and a little Star Trek idealistic lesson thrown in. Put it all together and you have yourself a film that the studios couldn't resist to make. A film that will sell itself and no stars are really needed.
This is really an interesting idea and setting a film in a claustrophobic situation keeps the audiences hearts beating fast throughout. You're with the main character all the way as you see what he sees in this bizarre and original world because he's just awakened after apparently 8 years in an isolation box and have no idea what the heck is going on. It's classic sci-fi because the creative makers can come up with any world they desire with any character they desire. And the more creative they are, the more interested we are.
With this setting we're really in a mystery genre but don't tell the fanboys that. As an audience member, we have no idea what's going on as does our main character and we must figure it out piece by piece. That's what keeps us interested because we need to know what's going to happen and how they're going to end this thing. And if we've been paying attention to past stories as this, we know things are never what they seem.
But there are problems with Pandorum. This is a plot heavy story and because of this we really don't get to know any of the characters at all. There really isn't any emotional stakes happening. The art of great screenwriting in this genre (and it's a mystery) is to keep the plot moving fast but whenever the characters jump into another conflict and situation, we also get to know them a bit better too by not only how they react but WHY they react to certain things. If the journey has a personal stake to it, then the characters actions are motivated by that. So when our main character opens a door for example, we understand why he's doing it. He just doesn't open the door because it's there. And it's simple things like that that make movies stand the test of time and memorable.
Another problem was the directing. At times we're lost in the situation and have no idea where we are. The audience always needs to know their surroundings. And the art in a film like this is to keep the claustrophobic tone but also let us into the world we're in so we don't get confused. And it also makes us think about what the character should do and where they should go. If you keep us always in close-ups, then we feel too closed in. See ALIEN as an example of how to use one setting and opening it up to us while also making us feel uncomfortable. The balance of the direction is key and I don't think they really pulled it off like they should of.
Pandorum is an interesting film, but it's not a great film. There is something very interesting happening though because it's such a great idea. I just wished it was executed better.
Of course it's easy to say that and very hard to execute. A movie like Pandorum is extremely hard to direct because you must keep the plot moving while also presenting some kind of theme. And you're directing a world that doesn't exist and it's really only one location. Even the great directors of our day will have a hard time pulling off a film like this.
So I hope you go see it because it's a great example of what could of been a great film.