In the year 2174, planet Earth was in the grip of a population crisis where the amount of people there could not be sustained by the resources available, and it seemed as though the human race were doomed. Then the world's scientists discovered Tannis, a far off planet which had an environment very similar to Earth's, so similar that it would be possible for people to live there. So it was that the starship Elysium was sent out, with thousands of inhabitants in suspended animation, to begin to populate the new world. However, some time into journey one of the crew Corporal Bower (Ben Foster), awakens with little memory of where he is...
Pandorum didn't make much of a splash at the cinemas, but it did pick up a small yet loyal following from some of those who did see it and appreciated its consistency of style. That style being an industrial and grimy look which sustained it through an hour and three quarters of unpretentious space monster mayhem, although it frequently threatened to abandon its plot for a series of encounters with cannibalistic creatures and possible hallucinations. So if coherence was not its strong point, then at least there was a rich atmosphere to drink in and director Christian Alvart proved himself able to take care of the visuals if the script by Travis Milloy was too wrapped up in itself to truly connect.
Bower wakes up to find himself in apparently a well worn tribute to Event Horizon, no surprise then that Paul W.S. Anderson was among the producers. But of course that film was itself an homage to a bunch of others too, leaving Pandorum like a photocopy of a photocopy, although what it more resembled was one of those rip-offs of Alien which arrived in the early eighties, stuff like Forbidden World, Creature or Inseminoid. All of which relied on murky lighting (or lack of it) and claustrophobic sets to build up their threatening moods, which is present and correct here as apart from a handful of scenes the characters here are hounded through cramped corridors and darkened rooms aplenty.
Bower is not alone, well obviously there are a lot of passengers in suspended animation, but there's the matter of the crew to contend with, or the lack of them. They were meant to be suspended too, but the only supervising officer that he can find is Lieutnenant Payton (Dennis Quaid, receiving top billing in spite of Foster doing most of the heavy lifting), who despatches him to the reactor core which is about to stop working mere hours from now. If this is starting to sound like the Golgafrincham B Ark from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, then it does not play that way, mainly because all of the humour has been drained out of the perilous situation that Bower and company are in.
Who are the company? Apart from Payton, the further the Corporal ventures into the enormous ship, the more people he encounters, most of whom treat him like a potential enemy until he can persuade them he has their best interests at heart. They include Nadia (Antje Traue), a Sigourney Weaver-like woman of action who takes a lot of convincing, and Manh (Cung Le), a bruiser who becomes a strong ally when it comes to tackling the hordes of flesheaters who are overrunning the interior. After a while, it looks as if what you're watching is not so much indebted to the old Alien rip-offs, but more the newer computer games where your character has to go exploring and fend off the various nasties that they meet, and it's true the subsequent action in that vein makes for a more engaging experience than trying to work out what the hell is going on. Overall, nothing to write home about but nicely arranged for all that. Music by Michl Britsch.