Guilty Pleasure No. 12: Pandorum (dir. Christian Alvart)

pandorum_posterSometimes a really bad film just does enough to push my buttons to actually make me like it. One such film was 2009’s scifi=thriller Pandorum.

The film was one of those that had some hype behind it prior to the film’s release. It had a nice marketing angle which included some very disturbing biomechanical imagery that harkened back to classic H.R. Giger artwork from both Alien and Dune. The film even had an interesting premise which was about a mental affliction caused by long exposure to space travel called “Pandorum”.

When the film finally came out to say that it bombed would be quite an understatement. While the ideas behind the film were interesting enough the overall execution of said ideas were haphazard at best and unimaginative at it’s worst. There’s nothing worst than a B-movie trying to stand out from the dregs and failing because it’s dull and boring. Yet, despite all that I’ve been fascinated by Pandorum ever since I’ve caught it on video.

German director Christian Alvart might be lacking some style in his direction of the film, but the cast itself manages to work their damnedest to make the film work. Ben Foster does his usual twitching performance where we don’t know if he’s about to go psycho on everyone around him or just curl up in the corner and start sobbing like a newborn. Dennis Quaid chews the scenery so much in every scene he’s in that his work in the film almost comes off as performance art.

Even the idea that people who were gentically-enhanced to adapt and evolve to their surroundings was a new one. The film even goes further by making the foundation of rapid evolution come from the ship itself. All the cannibalism involved just added that grindhouse touch to the proceedings.

The one thing that really brings me back to watching this film as one of my many guilty pleasure’s was this was the first film that introduced the world to Antje Traue. She’s better known as one of the few good things to come out of Man of Steel. Even in this first feature film for Antje Traue we already see examples of how much a badass she can be. It’s a shame that the film around her wasn’t better.

Pandorum never improves with each repeat viewing, but it doesn’t get worst either. It just straddles that fine line where one or two things changed for the better would’ve made it a good film. But for the life of me I have no idea why I like it and continue to watch it. Sometimes even bad films will push enough of the requisite buttons for people to like it and this film certainly pushed the right ones from me.

57 responses to “Guilty Pleasure No. 12: Pandorum (dir. Christian Alvart)

  1. This film is also a guilty pleasure of mine. I appreciate its production design but cringe at the overwrought and frankly illogical attempt at crafting a sustained culture for the creatures.
    If Dennis Quaid’s performance is considered chewing the scenery then Cam Gigandet’s swallows it whole. (I wonder if the director ever stepped in and asked him to tone it down, or whether he was in fact satisfied with the campy and altogether grating performance.)


    • I don’t think Alvart even noticed how Quaid and Gigandet were acting. I have to admit it that I don’t mind it when Quaid tries to channel his inner-Nicolas Cage. It’s better than when he sleepwalks through a scene the way he does in the first G.I. Joe.


      • I actually enjoyed Quaid in this movie, bordering just shy of camp and with the necessary gruff and aloof quality required of his character. Now that you mention it, though, I’d completely forgotten Quaid was even in the first G.I. Joe film, and I must admit I’ve fallen asleep every time I’ve ever tried to watch that movie.


        • G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra is actually quite good when one sees it in the context that Stephen Sommers filmed it in. It’s suppose to literally adapt the cartoon it was based on instead of trying to take the realistic route. That final fight beneath the Arctic ice with all those sub-fighters on both sides could’ve come straight out of any of the G.I. Joe episodes.

          As for Pandorum, I still think that a very good film exists somewhere inside the mess it ended up being. At least, if Paul W.S. Anderson had directed it instead of just producing he could’ve given it the Even Horizon treatment.


  2. I like Sci-fi. not so much horror, but this wasn´t horror, certainly not when the “genetically-engineered things which adapted to the ship” were revealed (space zombies), when there is not enough money or idea to make them scary, they should just imply without actually showing;anyway, I watched it sometime ago on DVD and thought it was entertaining enough, though I think this is one of those movies that probably seemed better on the script than how it actually came out.
    As you pointed out, the cast did the best with what they had, except for Cam Gigandet who was just cringe worthy and embarrassing every time he was on the screen. The best were Ben Foster (solid work as usual) and Antje Traue!!…like in MoS, one of the few good things, badass and very charismatic: the character may or not do something, but she is someone that catches attention in a scene.
    Anyway, Pandorum… guilty pleasure too


    • There were some genuine tense moments in the film. Sneaking through the creatures’ den was nicely shot and paced. Eddie Rouse as the loony survivor who recounts just what had happened to the ship was also good addition. The film’s creature design was creepy enough but the jump-cutting and staccato-style of filming the shot detracted more than added to the creatures’ menace. I know that Marcus nispel gets a lot of bad press for being a hack director, but I think he would’ve added some genuine style to Pandorum if he had directed it instead of Alvart.


      • Yes, I agree there were genuine tense moments, not necessarily good enough to scare, but there was a lot of moments that were enough to make the viewer watch hang in there to the seat, many of those you mentioned.
        The concept behind why they went out for that ship and the final twist was sort of unexpected enough to make the viewer wonder if the creatures were real or they were just cannibalizing each other because of the Pandorum sickness… personally I would have preferred them going more for the psychological/mind play.
        And yes with some director more experience in the genre, it could had been even better, maybe all the things that didn´t work, would had worked.


        • You know going for the psychological angle instead of actually the genetic and evolutionary one that the film took would’ve made for an interesting film. It could’ve explained why certain scenes moved in such a jarring manner. The film already played with some aspect of Pandorum with Quaid and Foster’s characters, why not go all-out and just show a ship’s complement of crew and passengers all going through it.

          After reading the backstory on the film’s production I wonder how much story from the two screenplays that were combined (Travis Milloy’s original and ALvart’s own that had a similar premise) were dropped to make Pandorum’s. My gut tells me that something trimmed from those two scripts took the psychological angle you’re talking about.


  3. Not really sure if “introducing the world to Antje Traue” is something to brag about. I watch a lot of German cinema (i.e. more than anybody else I know who doesn’t claim German as a prime language). Germany has so many great actresses who deserve to be seen by a larger audience in quality dramatic roles as opposed to just action films and romantic comedies. Traue seems to have done precious little in her native country and has somehow fluked her way into “Man of Steel”, a film bound to be forgotten in a few years.

    As for Christian Alvert, he’s basically an unknown on the German film landscape. I did read about his film “Antibodies” several years ago, the promotional shot told me it might be a rather disturbing film, but I never found out because it never even made it onto the local festival circuit. Apparently, Alvert grew up in a strict religious home. Sight unseen, his films seem to reveal the mind of a rather disturbed individual.


    • No one denies there are good actors/actresses to be seen in Germany, just like in any other country with good National film entertaining industry, but it is HW and their movies that make some actors or directors, known worldwide because of their distribution… fluke or not, it isn´t bad to have someone from the country doing well in other markets, I know I´m happy for anyone from my country that makes it in HW or UK, and many didn´t even try to have a career here but dedicated their time and effort to be seen outside.

      I don´t know nothing about Alverts, just what he did with this film, and I´m not interested in his private background, as if it explained his work.


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