Pandorum Christian Alvart

Pandorum Christian Alvart
For sheer discrepancy between dismissive critical ire and actual quality, Pandorum is the most underrated film of 2009. Audiences had already been spoiled, in multiplexes and art house theatres, by one of the most fertile periods in sci-fi film history. Yet there's still little appreciation for pulpy, hardboiled genre work. Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid play members of a spaceship flight crew who awaken alone, lacking memories beyond their specialized training. Director Alvart establishes a tense and claustrophobic atmosphere immediately with a brutal take on waking from cryogenic slumber. Think tequila bender hangover mixed with ice cream headache, coated in a shrink-wrap skin to shuck. As the two men explore the confines of their quarters, memory fragments return, but they're soon distracted by a ship-wide energy pulse that Foster's character, Bower, identifies as a sign that the reactor core is dying. Bower is forced to crawl through narrow, cable filled ducts, which are almost as creepy and unsettling as anything else the movie throws at you, evoking the strengths of The Descent. The story is quite linear from here, but the plot unfolds like a series of curtains pulled back to reveal ever more of a complex mosaic. Bower has to make his way to the reactor, guided by Quaid's Payton from the safety of a communications bay, both men displaying signs of the form of space dementia the movie is named after. Clever mind-fuck reveals pepper the script, taking up more screen time than the vicious and jarring action sequences. Pandorum's not the most polished visual accomplishment, but it's got a gritty weight and haunting style that's assured to keep pace with the story's needs. Ben Foster is a tremendous leading man, and Alvart wisely fought to have him, as mentioned in the director's feature commentary. A "Behind the Scenes" feature focuses on the genesis of the script, the massive undertaking of set construction and Alvart's meticulous storyboarding. "What Happened To Nadia's Team?" is unnecessary; it's poorly shot and acted, with no worth as a set up or addition to Pandorum's mythology (Alvart neither wrote nor directed). "Flight Team Training Video," on the other hand, is a perfect way to get acquainted with the back-story, explaining the original purpose of the spaceship Elysium, and the conditions of the Earth it left. "Deleted & Alternate Scenes" are mostly extended, but what was cut ads a lot more quiet detail to the world Alvart created, though their excision for pacing was wise. Ignore the jaded critics; Pandorum is a must-see for fans of hard science fiction. (Alliance)