Zombies in spaaaaace! ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Zombies in spaaaaace!

My rating:

I haven't been keeping to the promise I made in my Drag Me to Hell review - I said "no more horror movies", but I've since watched and reviewed a couple of them. Granted, they were lame-ass local films, but I've also come to suspect that Sam Raimi really went overboard with the jump scares, and that most horror movies are generally pretty bearable. Still, I have unfond memories of Event Horizon, through which I suffered just as badly as DMtH. So I went into Pandorum with trepidation, since it looks similar to EH (and was produced by EH's director Paul W.S. Anderson to boot).

I needn't have worried. It isn't as scary, and it isn't as good.

Bower (Ben Foster) and Payton (Dennis Quaid) wake up from cryogenic sleep on board the gigantic spaceship Elysium. Although they both suffer from memory loss, they remember that they're a flight crew that's supposed to relieve the previous shift - but the ship is deserted, the power is failing, and the door to the bridge won't open. While Payton stays behind to guide him, Bower sets out to restart the ship's reactor. He meets other survivors (Antje Traue, Cung Le, Eddie Rouse) both friendly and hostile - but he also encounters a pack of vicious cannibalistic mutants. And there is the ever-present danger of "pandorum", the mental condition that affects long-term space travelers and turns them paranoid and murderously insane.

Did I say "vicious cannibalistic mutants"? Sorry, I meant "zombies". Yes, it's a zombie movie in space, and it just didn't need to be one. I was a lot more interested in the mystery of the deserted spaceship; this is what's unique about the film, and it's the only thing that kept my attention from flagging. It's revealed early on that the Elysium is a sleeper ship that's transporting thousands of colonists to an Earth-like paradise planet, in a future where Earth itself is overpopulated and resource-depleted. Standard sci-fi tropes, but clearly something went wrong along the way, and the fun is in finding out what.

But instead of giving us that, we just get standard zombie flick conventions. Zombies show up, everyone runs. A luckless extra or two gets eaten. Sometimes zombies show up and there's a fight scene, and the zombie is always stronger and faster. The survivors mistrust each other, and some of them prove to be worse than the zombies. Seriously, we've reached zombie saturation in our pop culture already. You can't do a straight zombie flick anymore - you need to find a fresh twist on it, or you'll just prove how boring the genre has become. And director Christian Alvart can't even deliver competent zombie action. All the shaky-cam and spastic editing don't fool no one - it can't hide the fact that the fight choreography and stuntwork is just lame.

Also, Bower has flashbacks of his wife, which becomes additional motivation to fix the ship and save her; whatever potential this had for interesting characterization is unrealized, and as a subplot it just fizzles out. The other survivors don't even have names - or at least, the movie forgets to mention their names, something that bloody annoys me - and are little more than extra bodies to fill the cast list. Payton also encounters another survivor, a Corporal Gallo (Cam Gigandet) who appears to be suffering from pandorum - this leads to a late-stage plot twist I saw coming a mile away. The whole film is a waste of an intriguing premise; instead of exploring it, thematically and plot-wise, it settles for space zombies.

There's not much to say about the acting. Foster has been impressive in supporting character roles, but this won't be the one that makes him a bankable leading man. Quaid is usually reliable, but he's miscast here. Only Gigandet is effectively creepy; the rest are kinda just there. Neither the script nor the direction offer much for the actors to work with. Even the production design is dull, especially in comparison to Event Horizon, which had some nightmarishly cool sets and art direction - Pandorum is mostly lots of boring dimly-lit corridors. And our Lembaga Penapisan Filem do their usual bang-up job, snipping out the F-bombs (while still letting a few through) and the bloodier bits. I wonder if I would've liked the film more if that hadn't been censored - zombie movies are nothing without the gore, after all.

This is the second film I've seen this month that squandered a great sci-fi idea on tired old genre action. It should've been more Alien and less Aliens, more The Shining and less Resident Evil. It should've been a smarter, more deliberate, more quietly terrifying horror film. The notion of being trapped on board a lost spaceship, with no destination and no hope of rescue, is horrific enough. If you dig that, I recommend catching this movie on DVD. For the cost of a cinema ticket, you really ought to get more than just a lame zombie flick.

NEXT REVIEW: Law Abiding Citizen
Anticipation level: low


Deimos Tel`Arin said...

ah. event horizon.
morpheous ftw! :D

event horizon scared me, much, much more than this pandorom did.

and i watched event horizon in my house, astro.

btw did you watch 1408 before? try watching that and review it if u can :D

TMBF said...

Event Horizon was pure torture to sit through at the time, but I've been feeling more kindly toward it since. Great premise.

Yes, I've seen 1408. Didn't think it was very scary. Don't remember much about it, other than that I thought it was okay.