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When two men emerge from a deep sleep in the middle of space, they discover that they have no memories of who they are and where they're going. But their memory loss pales in comparison to the problem of the murderous warriors on board their ship who don't want to leave anyone alive.
For more about Pandorum and the Pandorum Blu-ray release, see Pandorum Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 3, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Cam Gigandet, Antje Traue, Cung Le, Eddie Rouse
Director: Christian Alvart
» See full cast & crew
Pandorum Blu-ray Review
A strong lossless soundtrack pierces the silence of space.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 3, 2010
There is no rescue and there is no turning around.
Pandorum is a movie of decent ideas and sound execution, but at the same time a film that cannot escape something of a "been there, done that" sort of feel that always keeps it from achieving loftier heights and competing with some of the greats of the Science Fiction/Horror hybrid sub-genre. Indeed, Pandorum feels more like a compilation film, an effort to take the best ideas of the giants of years past and assemble the ultimate in deep space Horror filmmaking, but the result is an entertaining but never enlightening experience, a picture that's of relentless tone and pacing but short on originality and purpose. Director Christian Alvart infuses his picture with a darkened, dreary tone that itself is of common design, but it's almost something of a necessary addition to any picture of this sort where mind, body, and spirit are at odds with not only the environment and the unknown but with one another, where the deepest bowls of the human condition are forced to endure a hellacious trial in the midst of chaotic tumult at a level that combines the primal with the technologically advanced.
In the year 2174, Earth's population has reached critical mass. The planet's 24,000,000,000 inhabitants have drained her resources, and the long-range starship Elysium has been dispatched to the newly-discovered planet Tanis with the goal of colonization. Corporal Bower (Ben Foster, 3:10 to Yuma) has just awoken from cryo-sleep with no memory of who he is or what he's doing aboard the ship. Soon thereafter, he regains basic recognition skills and finds himself with a companion, the recently-awakened Lieutenant Payton (Dennis Quaid, Vantage Point), who himself has fallen victim to the memory loss associated with extended periods of cryo-sleep. Unable to enter the ship's bridge or communicate with the team they're meant to relieve, Bower traverses the ship with Payton's computer-aided guidance and slowly discovers the many secrets that have come to define the vessel's long and now-jeopardized journey.
Pandorum is a film of numerous thin layers covering a vast surface, but underneath many viewers may find a story of little originality and substance. Pandorum is consistently engaging and entertaining; it moves at a rapid-fire pace as quick, heart-racing action intermixes with dark, dreary, and unrelenting backdrops, the two forces working to engender a somewhat creepy and foreboding world that slowly unravels a myriad of secrets. Pandorum wastes precious little time on its backstory; it manages to make an otherwise cumbersome series of events that led up to the launch of the Elysium manageable, and the genius of at least this aspect of the picture lies in its ability to gradually unveil additional backstory as the film moves forward, ensuring that both action and plot continue full-speed ahead during the entire runtime, and rarely are the secrets telegraphed or otherwise easy to figure out at any time through the movie, even up to the point of revelation. Still, the explore-run-fight-reveal string of events does get a bit tiresome; Pandorum sticks to a very basic formula and rarely strays from its set course, but the film's strength lies in its ability to keep things mostly interesting in visual, aural, and thematic contexts from beginning to end.
In contrast, then, is the film's primary problem, the heavy borrowing from other, generally better, pictures, and doing so without much effort to try and mask the similarities. Pandorum, like Ridley Scott's genre-defining Alien, takes on a vision of the future of space travel that's the antithesis of Star Trek. There are no shiny corridors and perfectly-intergrated technologies; like the Nostromo in Alien, Pandorum's Elysium is dark and not particularly hospitable. It's a vessel that's designed for function and with little-to-no thought to comfort and aesthetics, and dangling tubes and rust-colored hallways and floor plates only add to the unsettling and dark tone that makes movies like Alien and, to a lesser extent Pandorum, effective. Additionally, Pandorum takes some of its cues from Event Horizon and The Descent, notably in the form of paranoia as it relates to the former and the appearance of some of its villains as to the latter. While not as truly frightening or deliberate as those pictures or Alien, Pandorum instead entertains with its quick pacing and nonstop action that's effective but not necessarily memorable.
Pandorum's characters also reflect the picture's harsh and unwelcoming visual tone and plethora of dark secrets. Practically all appear straight out of a Mad Max or Doomsday style movie where clothes are basic and functional for combat, skin is grimy, and appearances are unkempt. The characters are a reflection of the conditions, mysteries, and generally inhospitable and dark corners of the ship. It's another way the movie seems bent on duplicating rather than innovating, but like with the look of the ship and feel of the movie, for example, it blends well and works for what it is, and once again Pandorum escapes the clutches of the follies of receptiveness, the similarities glaring but not necessarily harmful to the picture. Additionally, Pandorum features a collection of rather nondescript characters that live in shadows and deal in subversive and otherwise harmful endeavors of various flavors, and the actors do well enough considering the film's dreary approach and little to do but run around the ship. The two leads -- Foster and Quaid -- are convincing enough, both taking seriously the dangers and confusion that permeate nearly every frame of the movie, each playing to the material splendidly and offering natural and invigorating performances that demonstrate genuine fear, shock, and uncertainty with every revelation.
Pandorum Blu-ray, Video Quality
Pandorum arrives on Blu-ray with a true-to-the-source 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer. As noted above, Pandorum is a predominantly dark film with only a few splashes of bright color coming mostly in white-drenched backdrops that sharply offset the generally murky and disquieting mood established through the bulk of the picture. This Blu-ray disc handles the darkened material well; blacks are suitably dark and deep but not abundantly absorbing of surrounding details. Faint light sources -- flashlights or glow sticks -- produce nary a hint of banding. Fine detail is strong where applicable; while the blacks don't tend to swallow detail, the film's drab appearance does mask the finest nuances and textures, but appropriately lit and up-close shots of faces, bulkheads, metallic floor plates, and other assorted objects reveal lifelike subtleties that prove the worth of the 1080p transfer. As expected, the color palette is muted in most cases; only the blue luminescence of electronic readouts or the dim light emitted from green and yellow glow sticks permeate the darkness and lend a hint of color to the proceedings. Insofar as they are visible underneath the blackness and influenced by monotone color sources, flesh tones appear naturally rendered throughout. Additionally, Pandorum retains a fine layer of grain that lends to the image a handsome cinematic texture. For a movie primed to be troublesome, Pandorum instead looks great on Blu-ray.
Pandorum Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Pandorum is a film that's highly dependent on its sound design, and this Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack gets the job done in every frame. This track is incredibly aggressive, with nary a reprieve from the constant bombardment of shaking, rattling, and rolling that permeates every action scene. The track makes full use of the entire 5.1 spectrum; surrounds are continuously utilized in the creation of a practically seamless Horror environment with heavy industrial overtones, and the subwoofer kicks in with some prodigious but not overpowering bass that adds to the dynamics of the story and atmosphere. Indeed, whether the slow rumbling of the Elysium through space, the echoing of voices through the cavernous and metallic walls of the ship's pedestrian interior, or the clanking of metal-on-metal during some of the more pronounced action sequences, Pandorum's lossless soundtrack proves engaging and fun, with crystal-clear highs and a strong midrange supporting the many powerful lows. Most every action scene is nothing short of a symphony of sonic terror where pounding metal, screams, and music converge to greatly enhance the film's visual and thematic tones. With strong dialogue reproduction that only suffers on a few occasions as it competes with ambient effects and music, Pandorum makes for a near-reference quality listen on Blu-ray.
Pandorum Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Blu-ray release of Pandorum offers several extras. First is a commentary track with Director Christian Alvart and Producer Jeremy Bolt. The commentary is neither engaging nor bland, a middle-of-the-road effort that offers plenty of fascinating information that's both technical and historical in nature. The conversation begins by dissecting the different ideas that went into Pandorum and the marriage of many themes that made it into the film. They discuss the effort to lend realism to the picture, character arcs and the performances of the actors, the film's pacing, set design, and much more. Genre fans and admirers of the film will want to give this one a listen. Next are three featurettes. The World of 'Elysium:' Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (1080p, 13:59) is a basic but well-produced glimpse into the making of the film, featuring the obligatory cast and crew interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and clips from the movie. The piece focuses on the gritty realism of the picture; the ideas behind the film; allegorical undertones; character traits; special effects; makeup, costume, and prop design; and more. What Happened to Nadia's Team (1080p, 4:30) is a post-production piece that attempts to expand on the universe as depicted in the film. Flight Team Training Video (1080i, 2:45) provides a brief overview of the make-believe future history that plays crucial to the film. Also included is a collection of 16 deleted and extended scenes (1080p, 27:57), four 1080p still galleries (Models & Monsters, Designs & Drawings, On Set, and Turbine Pit Sequence Storyboard), the Pandorum theatrical trailer (1080p, 2:19), and additional 1080p trailers for Law Abiding Citizen, The Men Who Stare at Goats, Capitalism: A Love Story, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, and Party Down. Disc two of this set features a Windows-only Digital copy of Pandorum.
Pandorum Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
By picture's end and despite a series of interesting revelations that culminate in a conclusion that arrives expectedly but not within a wholly generic and predictable context, Pandorum comes across as a good all-around movie but not one that's destined to live on as anything more than a slightly better-than-average genre fright-fest. From its look to its themes and everything in between, there's nary a shred of originality in Pandorum, but it's still strongly realized and well-acted, making it worth a watch as mindless and transparent fun that, if nothing else, will engender a desire to go back and re-watch the better films from which it borrows so heavily. This Starz Blu-ray release does right by the film, delivering a 1080p picture quality that's reflective of the deliberately drab tone, a pulse-pounding Dolby TrueHD lossless soundtrack, and a few extras of note. Pandorum, and its Blu-ray release, are worth checking out, but the disc comes strongly recommended only as a rental until it sees a drop in price to where it would make a nice addition to the collection of any Science Fiction/Horror fan.
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