Strong start, disappointing end for Pandorum'
Set in 2174, an opening scroll explains the plight of the human race. Earth's resources are nearly depleted, and the crew of the spaceship Elysium has been tasked with finding another planet that can sustain life.
Director Christian Alvart ("Case 39") sets the movie up in typical format in the sci-fi genre with a wide, panning shot of a spaceship, but quickly establishes that this isn't the latest installment of "Star Wars" or "Star Trek" once he goes inside the ship, conveying the claustrophobic nature of the situation with a tight interior shot.
Bower (Ben Foster, "Blink") is harshly awakened from suspended animation in his hypersleep chamber. He has little memory as to why he was in the chamber, how long he's been asleep, or even what his mission is supposed to be. Alvart illustrates Bower's uncertainty through editing moving things along in quick clips and by keeping the set nearly pitch black, save for Bower's flashlight, which illuminates the ship in a sickly green glow.
Bower frees Payton (Dennis Quaid, "G.I. Joe"), another member of the ship's crew, from his hypersleep and he is similarly disoriented, but capable enough to guide Bower via radio through the ship in hope of finding some clue to their whereabouts and mission.
Soon, Bower discovers he's not the only one traveling through the ship and encounters an alien lifeform with pale white skin, distorted features and clad in armor.
The creature design is appropriately frightening from the more exaggerated roundness of their heads to their dagger-like teeth and their quick, savage demeanor makes them more menacing and formidable then say zombies in outer space.
Bower's journey through the ship is reminiscent of Ridley Scott's "Alien," and if Alvart is going to rip off someone, it might as well be the Oscar-nominated director who understood the secret to keeping the audience on edge was letting their imagination and fears run wild and showing the antagonist as rarely as possible.
Through "Pandorum's" first half, Alvart follows that philosophy perfectly, resulting in an intense, unpredictable outing. But he stumbles when trying to make a more action-oriented film, more like the very well-received "Alien" sequel, "Aliens."
Once Bower teams up with two other survivors the film goes from thriller in a spaceship to an average action flick with Bower fighting them from one set to the next. Foster isn't asked to be a super-macho action hero, instead just portray a man struggling to survive, but he's not given much character development to make Bower a memorable character.
Alvart doesn't prove as adept at maintaining the intensity needed to make the action work. There are only three characters all of whom must survive for some length of time, or there's no action. The fight scenes don't vary much between punching, kicking and occasionally stabbing the creatures.
Payton's subplot is more intriguing as he meets another survivor, Gallo (Cam Gigandet, "Twilight"), who is slightly unhinged and appears ready to go after Payton next.
Quaid gets to play to his strengths as a focused actor who can deliver dialogue with such passion that it adds to his character's credibility.
Screenwriter Travis Milloy ("Just Like Mona") tries to add some spark to the plot with a couple of twists but neither give the film that much needed boost to make getting to those twists worthwhile. It's a disappointment, because the first half was really setting "Pandorum" up to be a truly enjoyable sci-fi film.
R; Sci-Fi; 108 minutes
Director: Christian Alvart
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Cam Gigandet, Antje Traue and Cung Le
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars