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When Cpl. Bower wakes from his cryogenic sleep deep in space, it’s hardly like waking up from a pleasant nap. After writhing in pain, retching on an empty stomach and shakily peeling off some kind of oozy outer layer of … skin? … he’s ready to get down to business. Thanks to that lovely hypersleep hangover, however, he can’t recall much about what his job actually is. What he does know is that the now powerless ship he’s on was going somewhere important.
So when Lt. Payton, another member of the crew, comes out of his own space slumber, the two men start piecing together their mission: something about the survival of mankind.
The first thing they have to do is find a way out of the stasis room they’re trapped in and get the ship’s reactor back online. Bower soon remembers that he’s an engineer, so he seems best suited to scrape and squirm his way through the ship’s claustrophobic air ducts to get things moving again.
Unfortunately, the gigantic, decaying ship they’re on is crawling with ghoulish, white-skinned predators that look like a cross between a corpse and a rabid jackal. These fiends want to trap Bower and feast on his flesh. Bower, of course, isn’t in favor of that.
But they’re not his only problem.
While Bower seeks to evade hungry aliens and tries to rally a few other living crew members, Payton—who’s guiding him via radio transmission—is slowly falling into a kind of cosmic madness known as pandorum.
Even though he can’t remember what he’s supposed to be doing, Bower is determined to follow through on what he’s sure is a vital mission. His resolve redoubles as his memory gradually returns. Bower also puts his own safety on the line to help the other members of the crew he encounters. In one case, a guy is being swarmed by deadly creatures, and Bower has to be physically pulled away from running to the man’s rescue (and what would surely have been his own demise).
A crew member says of the spaceship, "This truly is Noah’s Ark." A final message from a dying Earth ends with, "God bless. And Godspeed." When someone says "oh my god!" another person responds, "God? You think God survived? He’s dead just like the rest of humanity."
[Spoiler Warning] At the end of the film, about 1,200 people find their way to a planet known as Tanis. Bower and another crewmate named Nadia clearly symbolize Adam and Eve when they reach the new world.
When Bower, and later Payton, emerge from their hypersleep units, they’re dressed in only underpants. Another crew member named Gallo is found naked. (His upper torso is shown.) Nadia wears formfitting clothes that reveal some cleavage.
Near the film’s finale, hundreds of the predatory alien creatures are shown lying together and on top of each other, unclothed, on the floor of the reactor room. The tangle of their bodies seems to imply a kind of mass sexual satiation.
Weapons aboard the ship include clubs, pipes, makeshift blades and an anti-riot weapon that Bower discovers. That seemingly limited, mostly low-tech arsenal ends up actually accentuating the pummeling, ripping, stabbing, slashing, biting and gore splashing that goes on in this film.
Some of the more intensely violent moments include a fierce battle between three human crewmates and a large, gruesome predator. The humans get slashed, beaten and tossed about like rag dolls by the faster, stronger creature. Eventually the three humans get the advantage, and they all stab repeatedly at the prone creature’s head and torso in a maddened frenzy. The monster’s fluids spray everywhere, and the humans are left drenched in gore. In a separate melee, Bower shoots a predator’s head, to equally blood-splattering effect.
Another creature-vs.-human fight is similar in tone, but this time the creature rips into a man’s waist with his teeth—with predictably gory results. The human survives by stabbing the creature in the neck with a spike. But his victory is short-lived because he’s soon dispatched by an innocent-looking, childlike little alien who viciously slashes the man’s throat.
The humans fight each other in several violent battles as well. Nadia is one of the more capable battlers. When she and Bower fight, he gets the worst of it. On another occasion, Payton punches her several times in the face.
Bower and his crew also come upon an unbalanced cook who incapacitates them with knockout gas. After the cook subdues them, he strings them up by their feet and moves in to kill them. (Nadia gets stabbed in the abdomen.) His intent, it’s implied, is to leave them hanging as a food supply for himself. Bower eventually talks the cook out of his grisly plan.
Elsewhere, we see a hanging and a near drowning.
Crude or Profane Language
About 35 f-words and a handful of s-words pepper the dialogue. Milder profanities include "h‑‑‑," "a‑‑," "d‑‑n" and "b‑‑tard." Jesus’ and God’s names are both misused, the latter combined with "d‑‑n" three times.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
From Hollywood’s perspective, space travel is almost always a bummer.
Every time a stalwart, spacefaring crew slips into their fancy, freeze-dried sleep tubes, it seems like they wake up with some kind of nasty alien monstrosity drooling on their control panels. Either that, or they go stark raving mad and try to kill each other. Or both, as is the case in Pandorum, the latest in a long line of sci-fi/horror flicks to revisit the same general template established by Ridley Scott’s Alien in 1979.
Director Christian Alvart evokes a tense, believable atmosphere that is alternately queasy and cramped, vast and creepy. The story unfolds at a measured pace, with twists and turns that keep you guessing until the final five minutes.
That said, the attention devoted to horrific details also make it difficult to sit through. Slavering monsters screech out of the darkness to devour—literally—victims trapped in absolute dread. Chase and jump scenes gnaw at your nerve endings like a frothing, mutated hamster … or worse. Almost three dozen f-words pummel you, as if the visceral violence on offer here wasn’t problematic enough.
An unexpectedly happy ending eventually plays out. But getting to it is the equivalent of a two-hour fever dream accompanied by a soundtrack (figuratively speaking) of alien talons raking a titanium chalkboard.
In an interview with bloody-disgusting.com, producer Paul W.S. Anderson was asked if the DVD version would slop on more gore for fans. "I am very pleased with the version that is going into theaters, and it doesn’t need any more blood, there’s plenty in there already!" Anderson replied. "Antje [the movie’s monster-bashing actress] spent the entire movie covered in s‑‑‑ and blood!"
That foul quote tells us everything (in fact, more than) we need to know about this movie … and the attitudes of those who created it.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Dennis Quaid as Payton; Ben Foster as Bower; Cam Gigandet as Gallo; Antje Traue as Nadia
Christian Alvart ( Case 39)
September 25, 2009
January 19, 2010