Sunday, October 7, 2012
Thirty One Days of Horror: Pandorum
Day Seven: Pandorum
If yesterday's spin-off theme from Resident Evil was Milla, today's spin-off theme is for her husband, Paul W.S. Anderson, for his work on Pandorum. Specifically, Paul was a producer on this movie, which was written by Travis Milloy and Christian Alvert. So the secret to a good story when Paul is around is to let him direct or produce or something....but leave the keyboard alone.
Here's the deal with Pandorum: every now and then I get to watch a film where I think to myself, "Boy, I wish I'd seen this when it first came out, in the theaters." Pandorum is that film for me.
Here's the plot in a nutshell, and you'll understand just why I'm so taken with this movie: Corporal Bower (Ben Foster) is the ship engineer on flight team five, assigned to wake up on a steady two-year rotation with a number of other flight teams who man the immense colony ship Pandorum, the last such ship to leave Earth before...something bad happens. He wakes up disoriented and with amnesia from the cold sleep process. He's sure of only one thing: something isn't right with the ship. It's power is fluctuating, and mostly out; the reactor's surging like its about to go critical, and an automated system tripped his awakening as a last ditch fix. Then his superior, Lt. Payton (Dennis Quaid) who is also suffering disorientation and amnesia, awakens. Together they try to figure out how to get out of the shut-down section of the ship they're in, figure out what's happened, where the last flight crew went, and why the engines are about to melt down.
So at this point, if you haven't seen the movie yet telling you any more would be very, very bad of me, so I'm not going to say any more than that. I will say this much: the trailers for this film did a good job of not selling the movie, because I don't remember this film looking all that exciting before. I was interested, but in the end I figured, "Eh, probably another Super Nova-style Alien rip-off." Oh could I have been any more wrong?
This movie reminds me of Brian Aldiss's Starship, or Eric Brown's Helix (for a more modern reference). It reminds me of a lot of grim world-ship adventures gone horribly, horribly wrong and despite being science fiction (and really, surprisingly good science fiction at that) it is also a great horror film.
If you want to see a movie that will inspire you to play Metamorphosis Alpha, or provide a wealth of visual inspiration for your next weird GURPS or BRP sci fi extravaganza, this movie has it in spades. It's got great sets, effects, and even acting. It's got very few holes that I could easily identify, though a few do pop up...but nothing so specific that I was left scratching my head in disbelief.
So how good was it? Well, I really want to see the hypothetical sequel (or prequel) now. It's good enough that when I read some other film critic snubbing it I want to point out that bashing a good film like this is why we don't get more..well...good films like this anymore.
Don't get me wrong, it's not perfect. This movie wallows in the deep pits of action, horror and suspense. Pandorum is not a film dramatizing the adventures of Priscilla Hutchins, to take a random example of a series I'd desperately love to see on film. But for Hollywood? This stuff is surprisingly good for the horror-sf genre. Straight A from the Death Bat!