In her first re-view for 10YA, actor Aimee Filippi walks us through the schlocky but still-relevant sci-fi eco-thriller Pandorum, a nifty B-movie mostly lost to time.
What I remember: Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid wake up in tubes from hyper sleep with memory loss. They assume the name and rank on the pod is their own and act accordingly but it’s wrong. They are in deep space and there’s a monster on the spaceship trying to get them. The word Pandorum is a sickness that happens from bad hyper-sleep.
Back in 2009 I was in college; the Earth was experiencing the end of the hottest decade to date with 2009 being the second hottest year on record. No wonder a film about escaping a dying earth comes out. Their Earth is overpopulated, there’s a dire food shortage, water is nearly nonexistent, and war is never-ending. They set “sail” in 2174 which for some reason made me laugh because of the climate crisis we are in now. It’s a very different experience seeing it now with all the hullabaloo happening in the global consciousness at the moment. Enjoy some NASA facts and try not to cry.
The Elysium: I had completely forgot the reason they were on a ship in the first place. In the first minute we learn the earth has been experiencing horrible climate change and by 2174 the earth is boiling (I googled it, it wouldn’t happen that way; more vaporizing). They build the biggest fucking ship, I honestly didn’t remember that is was essentially a floating skyscraper, and name it Elysium. The use of that word has always intrigued me in sci-fi. It could mean a place or state of perfect happiness, but I prefer its meaning from Greek Mythology: It’s the place in Hades where only the best and most favored heroes go after death. The key part being after death. You named your ship, bearing the last 60,000 survivors of Earth (Earth explodes soon after they leave), after a place you maybe go to when you die. It surely is the best place to be after the Earth explodes but also major floating coffin potential.
Hyper-Sleep: So violent. Most film and television show hyper-sleep as a lovely peaceful lie down and you wake up refreshed, but here, there are tubes coming out of you all over, a thin second skin on your body, and the wake to consciousness seems extremely sudden instead of gradual. It’s traumatizing coupled with the memory loss, like a second birth. Also, if you’re one of the unlucky you go through all that to be EATEN! Primo hunting grounds.
People: Our main man Bower (Foster), who seems to have a never-ending supply of glow sticks, runs into only five living people on his odyssey: Lieutenant Payton (liar!), who he desperately tries to get back to; Shepard, a “red shirt” (shout out to Norman Reedus); Nadia, the German scientist genius in charge of the impossibly large room of specimen meant to terraform the new planet; Leland, our cyclopsian old man who wants to eat them; and Manh, his battle ally who speaks only Vietnamese. But wait there’s the monster(s!).
Monsters: I remembered there being a horrible monster trying to kill them but Oh It’s So Much Worse. It’s an entire race of Reaver-like alien-looking cannibals! I really did not remember how many there were and how creepy and scary they were, our very own human evolution/mutation if we were stuck in a [giant] metal box with little to no light and loved to sleep below radiation. Their skin is sickly white/translucent, stretched too tightly on the skeleton, teeth have adapted to being carnivores, and sense of smell is heightened. They breed!! The creepy child is my favorite, just slitting a guy’s throat and chowing down. The absolute worst part was when our buddy Bower put on a human skin suit to crawl among them. All this because he only remembers his job and has to save the ship! Reset the core! Prevent the radiation from blowing up! On the plus side it murdered most of the new cannibal species all in one fell swoop!
Time: The passage of time is a great factor in this film. Without memory how do you get your bearings? The journey to the habitable planet Tanis is supposed to take 123 years, the workers hyper-sleep for a few years at a time in between shifts. The guess at the top is that they’ve slept eight years based on the system breakdowns. If you think about who they’d want to send on a mission to a new planet to become its inhabitants you’d probably assume they’d be young able-bodied humans, so seeing someone who’s past middle age, when hyper-sleep apparently suspends aging, might raise a red flag. One such man, Leland, professes to having been awake for a long time, his mind wandered to the point past sanity, prone to talking to himself and drawing hieroglyphs on the wall. Eddie Rouse’s performance reminds me of the lovely nuance of Uzo Aduba’s Suzanne Warren, a.k.a. “Crazy Eyes,” on Orange is the New Black. Those hieroglyphs have mythologized the story of the Eden Mission where a man succumbs to the paranoia and mental break of Pandorum, ultimately killing his flight crew then launching the entire population of his spaceship, asleep in their sleep pods, into the vacuum of space to slowly die (dun dun duuuuun foreshadow!). Taking him into account we can deduce maybe 30ish years have gone by. A walkway breaks when they attempt to cross it; it takes a hundred plus years for steel to break down. Of course, once you understand that the deadly creatures have evolved and bred, generations had to have gone by. It’s still a shock when we find out it’s been 923 years.
In the end: I began either remembering or guessing (I’m weirdly good at guessing plot twists, it’s a problem) about them being on the new planet submerged under water. All this trauma and shit because Payton a.k.a. Corporal Gallo suffered pandorum and killed his flight crew causing NO ONE to pilot the skyscraper spaceship, letting it crash land in the ocean and create an environment lush for human mutation. Also, he was in his 20s when we first see him, he stays awake for ~30 years then puts himself back to sleep. What did he do during that time? We’ll never know. Follows suit that old white men ruin everything.
– Starting population 60,000, final population 1,213
– They have hand cranks to power systems when the powers out! So cool and weird.
– There was a spider freely crawling around on the spaceship
– They have living pods made out of shipping containers
– Tanis in raiders of the lost ark held the ark of the covenant, a German expedition found Tanis. Our lady Nadia is German and she deduces we were on Tanis just at the bottom of the ocean. Also, they filmed Pandorum in Germany. Coincidence? I think conspiracy.
– 2 of our 6 friendos were POC men. They both died but both made it almost to the movie’s very end. In horror/thriller land that’s pretty far. 1 of 6 was a woman. *not counting the monsters
— Aimee Filippi