Overall Impression – While it doesn’t really tread any new territory, Pandorum boasts some genuinely creepy moments.


Who’s your main character? – Bower.

What’s he trying to accomplish? – Professional: reactivate the ship’s power core so they can reach a new Earth.  Personal: find his wife. Private: fend off the effects of ‘pandorum’ and accept that they’re all that’s left of humanity.

Who’s trying to stop him? – The mutants, and to an extent, Payton.

What happens if he fails? – Everybody on the ship will die, as will the human race’s last chance for survival.


Orphan – Bower awakens on a derelict ship adrift in deep space.  He brings another survivor out of hyper-sleep, (Payton) and they soon realize that they’re completely cut off from Earth, with no idea where they are or what happened to the ship.  They soon learn that if they don’t reactivate the ship’s power core, they’ll never reach the planet Titan.

Wanderer – Bower and Payton make a plan: Bower will move through the ship whilst Payton directs him to the core from a control room.  Whilst exploring the ship, Bower tries to figure out what happened, picks up an anti-riot gun, meets a couple of vicious survivors (Nadia and Manh), and soon learns that the ship is infested by terrifying humanoid mutants.

Warrior – Bower convinces Nadia and Manh to help him, and as a team they evade and fend off the mutants whilst heading for the core.  The stakes are upped as Bower realizes that the ship is essentially an ark, and that the future of Earth’s legacy is in his hands.  When they discover that Payton is behind everything, Bower must stop him in order to find a way off the ship.  All the while, Bower must combat the effects of ‘pandorum’.

Martyr – Bower is willing to crawl across a sea of mutants in order to reach the core, and is later again willing to sacrifice himself to stop Payton.


Why do architects of the future love designing terrifying space ships?  How about some carpet?  Even the odd recliner?  Obviously, the setting might be a little less scary if you took that approach, but isn’t that preferable to a setting that’s obviously trying to be scary?  In my mind it is.  In fact, it might’ve been creepier if Pandorum had been set on a plush ship that had decayed over the 900-odd years it was adrift.  Or not.  Anybody got any thoughts on this?  I personally find it hard to ignore a set that draws attention to itself in such a way, and so i start thinking of it as a set.  One horror flick’s setting that totally sucked me in was The Descent.  A cave’s a cave, and caves are creepy.  It’s hard for me to find holes in that.

ANYWAY.  There was a lot I loved about Pandorum.  I jumped, a lot, and the atmosphere was great at evoking panic and claustrophobia.  Even more noteworthy was the general feeling of abandon, for which the ORPHAN element is largely to thank.  Actually, this is one of the most extreme cases of movie orphaning that I’ve come across.  They’re adrift in deep space.  They’re the last of humanity (their home, Earth, has been destroyed).  They’re confused, and lost on a huge ship.  Bower has lost his wife.  The list goes on, and this orphan thread is continued and amplified throughout the duration of the film, which only makes Bower’s goals harder to achieve.  Pandorum might not be in theaters for very long, but I think it’s worth checking out to see that dynamic in action.

Dan Pilditch

4 Responses to “PANDORUM”

  1. David Goulet October 13, 2009 at 2:38 pm #

    Hmmm, interesting point about set designs. We always assume that dark sets are a must for creepy effect. But look at The Shining, set in a posh resort with lots of lights. A haunted house is creepiest when we can see it was once full of normal life — but now is full of paranormal life. Graveyards are creepy because they are lovely lawns and flowerbeds — interspersed with dead people. Juxtaposition, if executed right, can trump the more standard ‘make it look scary’ approach.

    In a similar way, the spookiest zombies, to me, are the ones that look the least gory. Perhaps it is the ‘uncanny valley’ effect?

  2. Brian B. October 19, 2009 at 5:07 pm #

    (Warning: contains spoilers)

    I just got back from seeing this movie and was happy that it was still in a theater nearby. I was thinking about all the elements that you mentioned (sets and being an orphan) and to be honest, I felt a little pandorum myself and not in a bad way. The movie succeeded in making me feel disoriented. I felt I knew what was coming but still didn’t know who, what, where and why. I was finding out as they were finding out. I think the set helped with the familiar territory feeling. I mean how many times have we been here before in previous movies. But, for some reason that kind of set still works for me. I agree about having carpet maybe some comfort items to be different. I think that would be kind of creepy and fun at the same time. Anyway, I need to utilize some of the orphan elements from this movie on my own script. This part they did very well.

    Having said all of this there were parts that I felt needed more fleshing out. Maybe fleshing out isn’t the word but the final act for me felt a little rushed (in my opinion). The 2nd act was strong but could have been a little shorter with a slightly longer 3rd act. I mean the mutant people was sort of explained which is fine but then before you know it everyone is saved off the ship and all the mutant people are believed to be left underwater. I guess I can go with that but it did leave me feeling like the end of one of the Halloween 80’s flicks where you are expecting one to live and there to be a sequel. Who knows maybe I am still feeling my own Pandorum. I liked the movie and it really had some scary moments but I felt just a tad unsatisfied with some of the story elements that were so great when they were introduced. Maybe they could use Contour next time? 🙂

  3. justin November 27, 2009 at 9:49 am #

    the reason they didn’t have carpet is because well hello their supposed to be in cryo stassis A.K.A asleep while frozen also they’ll need to rip up that carpet to monitor ship systems and well this isn’t a luxury ship it was meant to survive for the journey not house them forever DUH!!! why take somthing you’ll seee maybe a total of 6 years and ditch it in the end a total masterpiece?

  4. Fayez Samara March 18, 2010 at 5:35 am #

    Thank you for your very well considered review! Loved it.

    The set of Pandorum IS a fascinating one – and Justin, I think, did neatly answer the point, “Why is it so bleak?”. I presumed that the actual “living” areas for the crew who were awake was fairly limited (the main deck, the control rooms, the white laboratory next to the Arboretum where Earth’s DNA and plant species were being stored.) These areas actually had a look of sleek and efficient comfort, and elegant bright white lighting (emergency power?).

    Everything else we saw in the ship, where most of the action indeed was set, seemed to me to be the plumbing ducts, air ducts, maintenance access corridors, supposedly invisible and minimally accessible should the ship have worked well – think about the number of people being transported and the amount of tubing and liquid chemicals pumping into each individual, and the organic debris that each person was spilling and spewing as they came to, and the design would have necessitated a surgical environment. You don’t want body fluids flushing onto a well carpeted corridor. It should have looked like a surgically sterile hospital environment.

    I think, finally, there is an implication that Earth had collapsed into various military and neo-fascist tyrranies in the centuries prior to the voyage, as more and more billions of people were forced to live cheek by jowl and compete with each other for vanishing resources. The severe look of the Ship’s officers’ clothing, the militaristic simplicity of the Ship’s architecture and design, all reinforced this neo-militaristic dystopia for me in a very subtle way.

    Finally, I live in London – a very grey city with constant grey skies. Given the bleak weather, why didn’t they have bright colours (reds, caramels, hot yellows!) on more of the buildings and the public art? A warm golden stone makes the grey sky seems less bleak… But no, all the chic new designs here follow the same grey-on-steel / black-on-white colour pallette that makes the place so depressing on a rainy day. So people, even with a lot of culture and motivation, can make designs for things look REALLY bleak simply out of habit. I think, vis a vis “Pandorum”, that a militaristic culture on Earth seems the best explanation for the Ship’s menacing “functional” design.

    And I did love the film, by the way…

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