Pandorum DVD review

Dennis Quaid. Science fiction. Dave Adamson mixes the two on DVD and comes up with a bit of a treat: it's Pandorum...

In the 22nd Century, Earth’s population has swelled immensely, with food and water shortages leading to fights for the dwindling resources of a planet stretched to breaking point. Left with very few choices, Earth sends out the Elysium, a massive vessel the size of a country, to seek out a new home in the form of distant planet Tanis.

Sadly, something goes wrong, leaving two crew members, Bower (Ben Foster) and Payton (Dennis Quaid) alone, suffering from memory loss, piecing together their own identities as well as what happened to the Elysium. Bower needs to reactivate the engine core, leading to a journey through the ship that brings him in contact with the few surviving crew members and the creatures (who appear to have no origin) that have been unleashed. It looks like, somewhere along the way, the chain of command broke down and things went bad rather quickly.

Through flashbacks we find out what led the crew to be aboard Elysium, what their mission really is and the circumstances that led to the current state of affairs. We also learn that some deep space crews suffered from a form of psychosis called Pandorum, that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses in moments of crisis and that memory loss has the benefit of not reminding you whether you’re a good or a bad guy until the right moment.

The script may not be the most original, but it is interesting and Foster is, as always, intense in his portrayal of Bower. Quaid, too, is an impressive presence on screen as the commanding officer who must single-handedly sort out many problems from the confines of the command centre. Even Cam Gigandet (Twilight) manages to turn in a good performance as Gallo, who holds many pieces to this puzzle and is a bit unhinged. The small supporting cast is equally effective as strong willed survivors.

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Visually, Pandorum is a very dark film, adding to the sense of claustrophobia that Bower suffers and, much later, the depths of this dangerous world. The audio is exceptionally well executed, with surround sound giving a real feeling of immersion as Bower makes his way through the ship.

It’s a stylish looking film, with nods to Event Horizon (Paul W S Anderson produced Pandorum), Creep and The Descent. It’s deeply science-fiction, a bit baggy in places, but overall worth watching as a rare sci-fi character piece.


The commentary from director Christian Alvart and producer Jeremy Bolt explores, in considerable depth, the whole process of the making of Pandorum, covering many aspects of the plot that don’t get explained in the film itself. There are spoilers throughout the commentary, though you have to listen out for these as the whole commentary has a very conversational feel.

‘The World of Elysium’ is a behind the scenes featurette that runs for just over thirteen minutes and explores the writer’s desire to make a science fiction survival story. It’s interesting to hear the number of European voices involved, hear the cast speak about their enthusiasm for the project (even this amounts to how they loved the script and couldn’t stop reading it), as well as seeing some of the footage of filming. Again, as with so many of this type of featurette, it’s too short! Why do under fifteen minutes when you have so much to talk about – SFX, CGI, casting, production, scripting… the list goes on.

Sixteen Deleted and Alternate Scenes take up 26 minutes and are mostly film quality (so why didn’t they just branch them in?) The deleted scenes offer some quite interesting moments that would have been worth incorporating as an ‘Extended Version’ of the film, particularly the scenes with Gallo, Payton and Leland, including a slightly extended ending.

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There’s also a stills gallery showing the model and miniature work and designs at various stages, along with an on set gallery and a storyboard gallery for the turbine sequence. Some of these pictures, especially the miniatures, are really impressive as you get a feeling, though somewhat disjointedly, of the progress of the design from beginning to end. It would have been nice to have some commentary or onscreen notes, though.

As extras go, the only weak spot is the too short (how many times do I have to say this in my reviews) ‘making of’ featurette. The rest of the features do make up for it, though, and they’re definitely worth exploring once you’ve watched the feature.


4 stars
4 stars

Pandorum will be released on February 1 and can be pre-ordered from the Den Of Geek Store.


4 out of 5