Pandorum Review

The planet Tanis looks beautiful, especially after Earth’s population explosion has rendered our former home uninhabitable. To escape, humans create the ridiculously bulky Elysium spaceship to transport humans to a new home.

Obviously, years of science fiction movies inspired the design of Elysium. Humans must be an impressionable bunch after all, even well into the future. Corridors are loaded with random piping, the steel walls and security doors reminiscent of countless genre classics. If you can imagine Alien without the twisted mind of H.R. Geiger, you have the visual design of Pandorum.

Pandorum is simply dull to look at. With $40 million behind its creation, much of the film is hidden beneath dimmed studio lights. Bower (Ben Foster) creeps through corridors with a flashlight after exiting a hyper-sleep, encountering survivors of an as-of-yet-unknown disaster on Elysium. Payton (Dennis Quaid) spends the entire film locked in a single room, isolated. His character seems bored (as is the audience), repeating the same general lines to Bower, “Where are you?” and “Are you okay?” being the favorites.

Creatures roam Elysium, pale-skinned flesh eaters that look like a cross between the monsters in The Descent and those from the video game Resistance. They can withstand a beating and seem to have some kind of pack mentality, but their appearance is wholly uninteresting. They scamper through vents seeking their next victim like all good movie critters do when trapped on a spaceship, although seem to exist for a minimal level of tension.

Pandorum is a title referring to a decreasing level of sanity when confined on a vessel for an extended period of time. As such, the film becomes a marginally interesting mental struggle, not a battle against the creatures. In fact, the convoluted ending makes it appear as if the monsters are a manifestation, further embracing the psychological aspects, but diluting what came before.

While a mild spoiler, Pandorum ends happily. What was previously a dreary, terrifying claustrophobic experience is suddenly open and free. It doesn’t feel right, nor does it seem to fit. It is about the only difference between Pandorum and the movies it takes its “inspiration” from, yet one that seals its fate in mediocrity.

Movie ★★★☆☆ 

Pandorum’s Blu-ray comes courtesy of Constantin Films and Anchor Bay. The AVC encode is generally strong, with the deep, inky blacks that are necessary for the film’s atmosphere. High fidelity detail, including pores and clothing textures, are surprisingly retained in the grim corridors.

Ben Foster’s face is typically covered with sweat and dirt, which is cleanly defined as he hides from the creatures roaming the ship. Dust covering the ship’s control panel is wonderfully textured. A brief flashback to Earth showing Foster as a child is superb, not only bright, but loaded with saturated colors. Other flashbacks intentionally blowout the contrast for a dream-like effect.

A fight sequence near the 40-minute is bathed in glowing red lights, and the encode performs admirably. No compression is evident, and noise is minimal. The same cannot be said for brief flashes of bright blues, where noise can lightly dominate, if not becoming a distraction. Flesh tones are generally driven by the lighting. In natural circumstances, they remain spot-on.

Video ★★★★☆ 

An uncompressed TrueHD effort is notable for its echoes and ambiance. All conversations carry a light reflection off the metal passageways, pinging from the front to the rears cleanly. As the ship begins to violently shutdown, power surges hum on the low-end while crackling electricity surrounds the viewer.

There are tons of little touches, from creatures calling out, metal clanging, to water dripping, all in the surrounds which sound only slightly elevated. Dialogue, even when down to a whisper, remains intelligible. Each channel is generally discreet, although at times the rears come together as one during the heaviest action. Stereo channels offer a minimal split to the sides.

Pandorum does not offer any explosions, so bass is left to support the fighting. Punches and weapon strikes are incredibly forceful, as are the shots to a hibernation chamber while Bower tries to wake someone up. It is a bit overcooked (anyone being hit or dropped hard enough to produce a thud like that is not getting back up), but sufficient in establishing the power behind the mutant’s aggression.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Extras are minimal for this release. The World of Elysium is a predictable, typical making-of, falling one second shy of 14-minutes. What Happened to Nadia’s Team is a short letting the viewer know what happened before Bower awoke.

Flight Team Training Video is not so much training as it is a history lesson on the film’s future timeline. Sixteen deleted scenes fall short of a half hour, followed by stills and trailers.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 

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